Virtual Volunteers Building a Future on the Web

Two years ago, Sun Microsystems software developer Nipun Mehta decided he wanted to use his knowledge and technical skills to help others. With a group of mostly Indian American friends who offered to volunteer their services, Mehta, now 25, started CharityFocus, Inc., an online organization that builds Web sites for low-budget nonprofit organizations.

"It seemed like a good fit," Mehta told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Nonprofits often don't have the financial resources to afford a good Web site, and we have these special skills that could really help."

Since then, Mehta's army of volunteers, working largely through the Internet, have provided services worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to 450 nonprofits in the Bay Area and beyond. One recipient of the organization's services was Airline Ambassadors International , a San Francisco-based nonprofit that arranges for airline personnel and frequent travelers to deliver clothing, medical supplies, and other humanitarian aid to children around the world.

"We didn't have the skills or money for a professionally designed Web site." said AAI founder Nancy Burlingame. "But what Nipun and his team created was not only beautiful, but became an essential ingredient to our success as an organization."

While CharityFocus operates on a miniscule budget of roughly $5,000 a year, the number of volunteers from the dot-com world willing to donate their time to the organization continues to climb.

For Mehta, who recently resigned his position at Sun to focus on his venture, the reason is simple. CharityFocus is not just about helping others, he says, it's about" inspiring a spirit of service in ourselves...."

Bill Workman. "Volunteers in the Virtual World" San Francisco Chronicle 03/02/2001.