According to the Central Statistical Institute of India, there are a staggering 33 lakh registered NGOs in India.
However, in 2022, India ranked among the lowest countries in the Giving Index developed by the Charities Aid Foundation.
This index takes into account factors like volunteering time, donating money, and helping strangers, and the results highlight the existing gaps in the country’s NGO sector.
Challenges in finding the right fit
One major issue is that individuals interested in contributing beyond mere aspirations may encounter challenges in identifying a suitable NGO.
Not all NGOs possess the resources to effectively promote themselves, making the task of finding volunteers with relevant skills difficult.
Chennai too, like many other cities, has long faced the challenge of effectively connecting willing volunteers with social causes.
The Chennai Hub of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative by the World Economic Forum, has responded to this challenge by introducing the Chennai Volunteer Guide, a web app designed to facilitate volunteerism.
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Connecting willing volunteers
This app aims to help Chennai residents discover and actively participate in impactful volunteering opportunities.
The digital display within the app provides a comprehensive list of over 80 NGOs operating across eight sectors, including environment, animal welfare, LGBTQIA+, health, housing and development, women’s empowerment, education, and sports.
Sharath Balasubramanian, the project head, began his volunteering journey in 2016. The journey highlighted a common issue among his peers: many had the skills and enthusiasm to volunteer but faced roadblocks in finding NGOs that matched their abilities.
He explains, “Through the Volunteer Guide, our goal was to bridge this awareness gap regarding the existence of these NGOs and their missions,” when speaking with South First.
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Impact and growth
Since its launch in May 2023, the guide has garnered over 2,000 users and over 27,000 views.
Notably, the majority of users are college students who need to fulfil community service requirements.
The website has empowered them to discover NGOs that align with their interests.
“Our goal was to offer a platform where individuals could make an informed choice and choose from a variety of non-profit organisations rather than just following their peers to the same ones,” he shares.
The guide offers crucial details, including the location of NGOs, the potential impact of volunteering, the weekly time commitment required, specific volunteer days, and essential contact information.
Additionally, it highlights organisations that provide certificates for individuals.
Catalyst for change
The core team responsible for this project includes Smruthi Swaminathan, Lakshman Rohith Maradapa, Sai Shruthi, Krithika Subramanian, Ramandeep Singh, and Ashwin Sunderraj.
The Chennai Hub comprises a diverse mix of individuals, including data scientists, IT professionals, public policy experts, entrepreneurs, climate change activists, and social work enthusiasts.
The impact of this app extends beyond merely connecting volunteers with NGOs; it is a catalyst for change within the non-profit sector itself.
For instance, NGOs are incentivised to maintain an active online presence and respond promptly to inquiries, fostering transparency and accountability.
Towards a brighter future
As Sharath reflects on his experience, he believes that the non-profit sector is on the cusp of significant growth.
With the right focus on impact and the dedication of individuals, the sector can welcome a new wave of passionate changemakers.
“Building a network through volunteering plays a significant role in higher education and future career prospects. It has been invaluable for me,” he reveals.
The goal, Sharath says, is to make a lasting impact on the lives of children attending low-income schools, providing them with valuable educational opportunities.
The long-term vision is even more ambitious: it’s the aspiration to focus on curriculum development for subjects often overlooked in traditional educational systems.
“From data sciences to practical skills such as Excel and basic SQL, the idea is to equip students with knowledge directly applicable to the workforce,” he adds.
Here’s hoping that technology and collective dedication can transform volunteering and the non-profit sector.