Jithin, cofounder of Make A Difference, is a huge inspiration. From starting up and establishing a nonprofit to making a huge impact with it; every aspect of his journey with MAD has been truly inspirational. 9 years since inception, MAD today reaches to the needs of over 5000 children in 23 cities through a 2000+ volunteer network. MAD is also one of the few NGOs supported by Mitchell Obama’s International Youth Development Program!
For those who ask yourself.. “I am an investment banker alright; but how am I impacting the community I live in?” Jithin is the bout of inspiration you need!
In this interview we spoke about MAD’s philosophy, its vision and the various challenges around running a nonprofit.
On MAD’s Mantra
MAD’s philosophy is that to treat a shelter home kid as your own. Your ideal society is one where underprivileged kids get to be treated the same way as any other kid. How do you see this working out with MAD?
At MAD, we strive to provide the best attention possible for a kid in shelter home. An average MAD kid will have 5-7 volunteers working with him/ her. 4 volunteers would be responsible for the education of the kid, one would ensure the kid leaves out of the shelter home at least once a month (experience the world outside) etc.
The idea is, in MAD we have identified the roles a fulltime parent would provide and divide that into various activities volunteers could perform under the banner of MAD. Thus trying best to imitate the life the child would have got under the parents.
Volunteering network and the challenge of mobilizing it
How is the volunteering system setup and how does it work as a coherent unit?
MAD is run centrally by a fulltime working National Team which coordinates with multiple City Teams – which are mostly run by volunteers.
The National Team, constituted by 17 fulltime employees, has a central vision which it carries out with the help of City Teams. The national team interacts directly with a group of people called “Strategists” in the City Teams who are responsible for 4-6 cities. Strategists further have a link with “Fellows” who are individually responsible for all volunteer activities within a city. All ground level volunteers interact with the Fellows to carryout daily volunteering activities.
We have made the volunteering model truly inspirational and flat by encouraging them to move around and take-up diverse profiles.
How do you plan to mobilize and get the best of your volunteer network? What are the challenges which come with it?
We have a separate unit called “Mobilization Team” which strategizes to enable the volunteering community to be motivated throughout.
Inspire the Volunteers: We constantly organize events to engage the volunteers. Here we tell them about success stories and about how children are impacted because of their efforts. This way we intend to keep the inspiration going.
Provide Support: We are always there to hear them about to solve any genuine problems they are facing. We train them on how to deal with children and sort out any issues they face being on the job. Basically, if you are supported the chances of you continuing is even more!
Challenge Them: People think, easier the assignment, more floundering your volunteer network. This is actually wrong. We have the volunteers want to be challenged! We provide them tasks which take them to their edge of capabilities. That way, we see volunteers continuing with us.
Collectivize: Make them feel part of a common identity. Everybody feels part of MAD and they feel they’re strongly connected to each other etc. A MAD volunteer never does anything alone. The relationships they develop also play a big role.
Other than this, we’ve also made a point to not make it work only. We go for treks together and other activities which all has a combined effect to ensure this is a cohesive unit.
Managing an nonprofit – Getting your hands dirty
Management of an NGO:
- How do you get the funding?
We look at our self as a product company. Our product is one which promises 25 years from now there will not be even a single child in the street. And there is a separate class of people who would like to buy this product – for example Mr Azim Premji just said he is planning to put in INR 1250 Crore to make India a better place for children. 1250 Crore is just money; and he needs somebody to deliver. So basically, his foundation Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives need to find people to get this job done and that’s where we fit in.
- Challenges in fund raising.
You can’t rely on one type of fund raising. For example, we get funded INR xyz Crore from a fund for a 3 year period; you don’t really know if they will fund us again (after 3 years)! So diversification of funding is a major challenge.
Another issue is that you need to reach to a particular stage to get into the purview of such funds. These funds will be interested in you only if you’ve made it some level on your own.
- How are salaries of full time employees decided?
Planning on salaries of our 17 member National team is pretty straight forward – we hired a consulting company which performed a market research of salaries among all NGO space. The salary we get are decided based on the report.
About MAD’s vision
Your vision statement, to ensure no kid is in street/ trafficked 25 years from now. Can you explain how plan to achieve this?
There are 20 million children in India supported by shelter homes. Currently we have a volunteer based mechanism of delivery which we can extend to cover up to 1 million children.
In parallel we plan to convert ourselves into a hub system where we also act as a training institution with focus on training other large NGOs who intend to deliver support to children. Through this kind of growth we intend to touch 5 million children.
We are also targeting revision of “Juvenile Justice Act” which as of now is very straight forward and doesn’t cater to all needs of a child. Government is the largest provider of shelter homes in the country and the idea is to make a course correction by making the Act more wholesome – we see this kind of influence from MAD happening in next 10-15 years. We see our self to work with the Government to implement it – in terms of training the staff to implement in a phased manner across the country.
We travel quite a lot actually; mostly to keep MAD going as a well groomed network. Every weekend, the national teams travel to the 23 cities and hear the volunteers’ say; we hear their journey and keep them engaged. In this time we try our best to make them feel part of MAD family as they truly are!
There you go folks! That’s Jithin making a difference, a significant difference! Do write your thoughts in the comments section.
Hope to keep this blog going with more interesting personalities! Cyall till next time J