Swoovy is flipping the script on first dates. 

By Alexis Green

Sara Ferniza is not your typical dating-app user. In a world of swipes and hookups, the 57-year-old empty nester is looking to build genuine connections with people who share her love of giving back to the community.

Tired of boring coffee dates with meaningless chatter, Ferniza turned to Swoovy, a dating app based on volunteering.

“I’m very fit for my age, so I want to match with someone who doesn’t want to sit around and watch TV all day,” Ferniza says. “I want to be active. I want to be doing things and I want to be volunteering. That is why this app works well for me.”

Similar to other apps, users build profiles and can see potential matches based on their set preferences. But Swoovy takes swiping a step further by allowing users to make matches based on shared philanthropic interests. The app provides a calendar of volunteer events on which people can see other users and plan dates based on those events.

Although the app does not require users to go on volunteer dates, creator and CEO Brooke Waupsh feels volunteering is an authentic way for potential couples to bond while helping struggling nonprofits.

“[Users] love that you are connecting through something that is not just about you or about the other person,” Waupsh says. “From the beginning, you’re connecting through giving back and doing something good for others.”

Waupsh met her husband before the age of dating apps, when she claims it was much easier to build connections. With an endless number of potential partners at the fingertips of current daters, singles can begin to feel less special and stress about needing to prove they are more than a swipe.

“The goal is to take dating and exploring relationships back to the way it used to be a little bit where you’re truly getting to know a real person versus being just an image and something that someone is going to swipe right by,” Waupsh says.

The app helps daters get past first-date jitters that can sometimes ruin a good date. By skipping awkward icebreakers, volunteering allows users to go straight to discussing personal values and for daters to see each other’s true personalities outside of a well-crafted bio.

Since the dates take place in volunteer settings, often within a group, users don’t have to worry about being stuck with an incompatible date.

“Going into it and knowing you’re doing something positive, fun and fulfilling sets the tone for a good first date,” Ferniza says. “Say you don’t hit it off. You can still have fun volunteering. You can still build bonds, relationships and friendships, even if there is no spark.”

There’s also no need to have an excuse to leave an awful date because it naturally ends when the event ends, giving individuals the power to decide what happens next in the relationship without the added pressure.

“This is a really great way for single people to meet single people and good for the community,” Ferniza says. “It’s a win-win for everyone.” 


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