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Featured NGO
Based out of the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Manav Sadhna carries Gandhi's work to the present. The ashram was surrounded by children who spent their days out of school, sorting through trash in order to survive. Manav Sadhna took direct action, providing the children with creative ways to learn and thrive while still earning the same amount of money. Find out how they are doing it!


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History

No pitches, no hierarchies, and the only aspiration: to be the agent of positive change in the lives of its volunteers. To the average business tycoon, this model of CharityFocus would simply not result in measurable progress. So imagine the skepticism when Jayesh Parekh, founder of Sony Entertainment Television and ProPoor, first found out that CharityFocus was creating enduring social change with a completely volunteer run infrastructure. He followed the activities of CharityFocus and within a year, he had become convinced that the only way for ProPoor to become sustainable was to adopt the volunteer model.

ProPoor, a nonprofit based in Kolkata, India, began with Parekh and two of his closest friends in 1998. Their vision was to establish a portal linking Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) across South Asia in meaningful ways and facilitating easy access and exchange of valuable information between NGOs and donors. With a small but fiercely dedicated staff, in less than five years ProPoor built up a site that today showcases details of close to 13,000 nonprofits across South Asia that can be located by name, region or area of focus. In addition, the site hosts sections on developmental news, appeals by NGOs, project reports, and inspiring stories of service.

An inspiring story of service itself, CharityFocus began almost four years ago with a handful of young techies in Silicon Valley. Today it involves thousands of volunteers across the globe who help build high quality websites for nonprofits free of charge. Although designing websites and providing various forms of technical and non-technical assistance is its forte, CharityFocus's primary purpose is to invite people everywhere to participate in the joy of service, and to that end, it constantly looks for ways to expand its circle of giving.

So when CharityFocus founder Nipun Mehta chanced to run into Parekh, it wasn't long before the two were discussing possible synergies. It was a meeting that eventually led to a pivotal decision. In a gesture reflecting the genuine commitment of its founder to the cause of service, ProPoor decided to hand over its operations to CharityFocus, trading in salaried support for sheer volunteer power. Describing the circumstances that prompted the decision, Parekh called it "a meeting of 'hearts' in the spirit of service."

The meeting between Parekh and Mehta came at a time when CharityFocus was actively expanding its programs in India, where it has a large volunteer base. With the establishment of local chapters in several key cities, including Hyderabad, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, CharityFocus is now gearing up to strengthen ties between volunteers, nonprofits in the community, and various other service-oriented initiatives. ProPoor's experience within the regional NGO sector and its power-packed database of relevant information augment CharityFocus activities in India. CharityFocus has the considerable strengths of its extensive infrastructure and numerous corporate and community ties. Furthermore, CharityFocus's large volunteer base would drastically reduce the overhead of running the ProPoor site while dramatically increasing opportunities to serve.
All nighters on April Fools Day!

After extensive discussions and a degree of soul-searching on both sides, Mehta and Parekh agreed that taking ProPoor in a completely volunteer-run direction was the best way to carry forth its mission. "By this transfer of responsibility CharityFocus will help further a shared goal," explains Yoo-Mi Lee, CF volunteer and one of the driving forces behind the India chapters. "It means we will be able to reach more people more effectively."

Discussing the potential of this new venture, Mehta points out that, "Both CharityFocus and ProPoor address multiple audiences -- information seekers, volunteers, donors and so on -- that all share an interest in service. Merging our audience will energize all their activities."

As CharityFocus volunteers rush to complete the technology migration, along with plans for a new user-interface and enhanced user experience before its target deadline, March 31st 2003, they are simultaneously exploring various other ways in which it can carry forward the shared vision of both organizations. "We hope to build on the existing ProPoor platform to provide wide-spread capacity building and direct services to people doing charitable work in South Asia and also to create rich opportunities for volunteers, " says Mark Jacobs of CharityFocus who with Lee, is currently volunteering in India.

Today, CharityFocus has a growing list of significant achievements to its name. Functioning as an 'incubator of compassionate action', it has been responsible for piloting a series of unique projects and ideas. Pledgepage, an online donation site, recently made headlines as a dotcom being taken over by a dotorg. A second project, CommunityShops, provides rural artisans with a global platform with the use of the internet. "Initiatives like these are a very exciting step in the evolution of service on the web," says Mehta, " and we are honored and humbled to be continuing the excellent work they started."


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