Launch Of a website that serves as a link between NGOs and those who want serve society

When childhood friends Sajid Shariff and Revathy Muralidharan went to college in different Indian cities, they wanted to start a voluntary organisation and serve the underprivileged. Distance and lack of time conspired against them and their noble intention fizzled out. They still live in different cities — Sajid pursues management studies at Stanford University in California and Revathy, who is a lawyer, practices at the Madras High Court — but, thinking out-of-the-box, they have circumvented this problem and turned their long-time wish into a reality.

Teaming with two others — Palak Dalak, a software engineer working for Microsoft, USA, and Luigi Wewege, a partner at Nikau Global, a New Zealand-based international trade company — Sajid and Revathy have launched doinggoodfellows.org (a virtual launch is happening today) that serves as a link between a broad spectrum of Indian NGOs and professionals from diverse fields that are filled with the spirit of volunteering. With his skill set, an expert who has come on board serves one or more voluntary organisations that may be looking for someone like him.

The most significant feature of the arrangement is that experts work for the NGOs virtually — for example, a pamphlet writer in New York can ‘donate’ his word skills online to a voluntary organisation that serves street children in New Delhi.

To illustrate the effectiveness of this model, Sajid cites a study on the sense of social responsibility carried out for a project at Stanford University. Seventy-two per cent of the young urban professionals quizzed in the survey wanted to do good, but only 12 per cent of them ended up being of any practical use to society. Sajid gives the main reasons for this discrepancy — unwillingness to donate money but an eagerness to help in kind thwarted by a lack of system to have the things delivered to NGOs and personal commitments leaving them with little time for field work.

By inviting professionals to just share their expertise and networks and by creating a system that reaches things donated to NGOs, doinggoodfellows.org tackles these barriers to doing good, says Sajid and adds that similar models function successfully in the West.

The team at doinggoodfellows.org matches NGOs with registered individuals, based on commonality of interests. Among this online NGO’s strengths is the fact that registration is not automatic. The team gets acquainted with everyone that wants to help out, says Revathy. Fellow cultivation — whereby the experts are groomed and sensitised to various societal needs — is another feature that facilitates a closer walk.

Doinggoodfellows.org is a not-profit organisation and, at present, is sustained by the resources of its founding members. Sajid explains: It will always remain not-for-profit, but when a fulltime team is in place the option of collecting a small fee from the NGOs may be chosen just to meet running costs and keep the initiative going.