A Nashua woman has created a nonprofit that aims to connect college students willing to volunteer to organizations in need of technical support during the pandemic.
Stanford University senior Mary Zhu co-founded Develop for Good last April when many students were being sent home from college or pushed out of internships or job offers because of COVID-19.
“We first started blasting across mailing lists at Stanford to see if design students or computer science students would be willing to volunteer,” said Zhu, a 2017 Nashua High School South graduate. “At the same time we were also reaching out to hundreds of nonprofits every day to see if they were in need.”
With assistance from fellow Stanford classmate and co-founder Amay Aggarwal, Develop for Good piloted its concept and began assisting nonprofits with their websites, mobile apps and other design projects.
Although the volunteers were initially all from Stanford, by September the program had expanded and students from universities across the country began participating, according to Zhu.
It started with three projects in April. By the summer, an additional 15 tech projects were developed; 45 more were taken on in the fall.
Develop for Good is currently working on 35 projects with various nonprofits. Some of the organizations that have benefited from its volunteer hours include UNICEF, World Health Organization, Smithsonian Institution, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Environmental Defense Fund and World Bank.
“Develop for Good has been such a meaningful experience,” Aggarwal said. “It’s touching knowing that the beneficiaries of our initiative extend beyond just the nonprofits we’re serving and include the student volunteers looking for impactful projects to contribute to, our employee mentors and advisors, and essentially any other stakeholders who want to be a part of the program.
Develop for Good helped Easterseals develop its first app, and assisted AARP with creative ideas on how to design its own app experience.
“In just a couple of months, they helped 1Day Sooner redesign our website, visualize data from two research projects and develop an interactive volunteer map for our front page,” Abie Rohrig, communications director for 1Day Sooner, said in an online testimonial. “All of the content that Develop for Good produced was specifically tailored to our needs and of incredibly high-quality.”
According to Zhu, more than 25,000 volunteer hours have been accumulated since last spring, which helped about 50 nonprofit partners save a cumulative $2 million for tech services.
In addition, more than 400 college students from nearly every part of the country have volunteered, she said. That prompted an official sponsorship by Amazon Web Services to help compensate some of the students.
“Some of these smaller nonprofits were on the brink of shutting down,” said Zhu. “Now, they are appreciating the cost savings and innovation. We think that college students and younger people can bring them an unparalleled amount of creativity.”