A free launch into cyberspace
Nipun Mehta and some friends would pool their money and every month give a few hundred dollars to various small non-profits.
It was a way for the young and busy to share their Silicon Valley prosperity. But there had to be more.
Why not, he wondered, build Web sites for small non-profits that would never find it in their budgets to stake a claim in cyberspace?
In late February, a half dozen formed CharityFocus. More volunteers joined.
Some had favorite charities. Others researched small operations. They made cold calls, offering something for nothing.
``There are no tricks,'' says Trishna Shah, 20, a CharityFocus volunteer. ``There are no secrets. It's exactly as you see it.''
And it's exactly what Shah, a University of California-Berkeley business major, was looking for.
``I was like jumping up and down because I was so excited that people were doing something like this,'' she says.
It is a way to put her UC-Berkeley training to work for others.
Which, Mehta says, is the point. It's too easy in Silicon Valley to focus only on winning.
``It's easy to get sucked in,'' he says. ``It's my ambition. It's my promotion. I want a bigger salary. I'm going to take this company public. I'm going to get a bigger car.''
CharityFocus is a way to take a step back. Or for charities, a way to take a step forward.
The group has built sites for a dozen organizations. They allow non-profits to recruit volunteers, collect donations, explain their missions, post newsletters.
``I'm amazed that young men would want to do this for a non-profit for nothing,'' says Janyce Holland, the administrator at ACT for Mental Health, a San Jose non-profit.
Holland couldn't believe it when volunteer Guri Grewal called and told her what CharityFocus could do for the agency. It's not that she's suspicious. Well, OK, yes she is.
``Every time they were here, I said, `This costs nothing, right?' '' The site (www.charityfocus.org/act) has been up about three months. It hasn't drawn volunteers, yet, but Holland says it's only a matter of time.
Measuring immediate results is not the point.
``It is not a race to get anywhere,'' Mehta says. ``Then it would be like any other organization.''