There are many people who want to volunteer and work for the good of society but don’t know how to go about it. Finding a worthy cause is not easy. That is why a team of dedicated young people tried to use technology to help people identify social causes they want to contribute to.
VolunteerNow is founded by childhood friends Abhishek Marla and Utkarsh Gupta. Though the two were always friends, they had completely polar skill sets, which turned out to be perfect for VolunteerNow. The two friends started with a team of five and manually matched people to awesome volunteering opportunities. The team consists of ambassadors and managers connected to VolunteerNow in over six cities in India; they moderate the website and scout opportunities.
VolunteerNow is a volunteer marketplace for all kinds of volunteering opportunities for students, professionals and just about anyone else. They bridge the gap between organisations and people who want to volunteer by matching people’s skills, interests, time schedules, locale to suitable NGOs, campaigns, events and organizations.
Utkarsh Gupta tells YourStory, “India’s new mandate on CSR that compels companies to spend two per cent of their profits on social initiatives is complementary to the mission of our organization. The spirit of the nation looks promising and the government’s initiatives also need skilled volunteers,” he adds. Their targets are CSR initiatives, employee engagement programs, student volunteering in schools and colleges.
No aha moment
Utkarsh says it wasn’t a particular incident that prompted him to start up, but a brewing urge from as far back as he can remember. “Also, learning how to program was a major factor which allowed creative problem solving. We wanted to volunteer during college, but we had no clue how to go about it. It was about having fun in a productive way” he adds.
Utkarsh is happy to share that they now have partners joining them from many South East Asian countries too. “Abhishek is currently setting up VolunteerNow in Singapore as part of the IMPACT HUB program with DBS Bank whereas the platform has gone live in Jakarta and Seoul.”
Learnings in the journey
Utkarsh has travelled to various cities and villages to manage volunteers and understand social issues. For him, volunteering is a very rewarding and self-actualizing activity. He says, “Every experience left us enriched. At events, the thank you note for volunteers in the end is always a cherished moment. We did sway from the big goal sometimes and digressed from the path, which was a heavy price to pay in terms of time lost. However, a key learning was – it’s like sleep, there has to be an uninterrupted flow for maximum growth. We’ve made mistakes, but we’ve always had an experimental approach.”
Near term plans
Utkarsh says, “In the coming months we’re launching our mobile apps and our recommendation engine that maps volunteers to opportunities based on parameters like location, time schedule, skills, interests and causes they’re concerned about. We are also creating impact reporting tools and subscription packs for social data. We’re collaborating with different non-profits and social initiative organisations to create custom micro-volunteering opportunities for corporations aligned with specific causes.”
What’s the big drive they are going after? “Several – the quest for knowledge via experience, wealth creation, positive social impact; to create something that significantly improves the world and people’s lives,” explains Utkarsh.
According to a survey by LinkedIn, that also connects volunteers with nonprofits, 82 per cent of surveyed professionals want to volunteer their time and skills. Organizations like VolunteerNow, Catchafire, Taproot, npower and Common Impact help people who are passionate about contributing to a cause
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