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Did you know that many NGOs are unaware of grants and corporate social responsibility (CSR) opportunities beyond their network? Well, Jaclyn does, and she actually spent six months talking to NGOs and corporations.

And not only that, corporations themselves often lack exposure to a diverse range of underserved NGOs that could significantly benefit from their funds.

Learning about this, Jaclyn, who is 25 years old, ended up manually matching NGOs with corporate opportunities.

To ease this process, she founded Volunti Connect, designed to bridge the gap between NGOs and corporate funders.

Essentially, it’s a single platform for digital updates and credibility. Instead of updating multiple platforms like websites, Facebook, and Instagram, NGOs can update just one trusted platform, which is verified by corporates.

The app also notifies NGOs to upload any new updates, ensuring their materials are always current.

Here’s how it works, and the story of how it even came to be.

Matchmaking corps with NGOs

Volunti Connect’s platform utilises AI matchmaking to connect the right NGOs with corporations and vice versa. Additionally, AI generates CSR programme ideas for NGOs, aligning them with corporate demands.

This helps NGOs deploy high-demand CSR projects, increasing their chances of securing funding, while corporations can implement CSR initiatives that align with their core values and enhance their brand image.

Image Credit: Volunti Connect

“Although it may seem like a simple matchmaking platform, it involves a robust verification system and a manual process to onboard credible and underserved NGOs, which requires significant effort,” Jaclyn said.

The founder said that digitalising CSR is a relatively unexplored space. Thankfully, this effort is bolstered by their advisor Zikry, who is the co-founder of The Incitement.

Hong Leong Foundation has become Volunti Connect’s first client, having given them the opportunity to facilitate their annual group volunteering CSR event scheduled for August 2024.

“We are also exploring the deployment of Volunti’s employee volunteering platform with Hong Leong Bank,” Jaclyn added. “This platform matches employees’ interests, values, and availability with volunteering and donation opportunities from a pool of verified NGOs.”

The goal is to boost employee participation in CSR activities and extend their reach to various underserved NGOs. Their solution can also track employees’ philanthropic efforts and generate comprehensive CSR reports.

Kindness shouldn’t be punished

Jaclyn’s background is actually in marketing and quantitative analytics. So, how did she end up being a founder?

“The inspiration for this startup came from an experience where I felt punished for doing good,” she shared.

The story begins with Jaclyn visiting a temple in Bangi with family for their monthly prayers. One day, while having lunch at the temple, an injured dog walked in front of her. It had a large hole in its neck, exposing its insides. It was a shocking sight.

The next day, she called an animal taxi and brought the dog to a vet. The fee for the first three days of care was RM2,500, which she paid without hesitation.

But then, the doctor informed her that the dog needed 30 days of hospitalisation to recover from the severe injury. The total cost would be RM20,000.  

Volunti Connect was selected as Artem Ventures’ Entrepreneur in Residence / Image Credit: Volunti Connect

As a recent graduate with only three years of work experience, she didn’t have the financial means to cover the expenses. She tried fundraising from the temple but was told it wasn’t possible unless an animal shelter endorsed it.

“I called every animal shelter in Malaysia; 90% didn’t answer, and the one that did was too busy and scolded me for my request,” she said.

Eventually, she had to transfer the dog to another clinic, and her parents helped cover the medical fees.

Talking to NGO founders, Jaclyn learnt that many faced similar situations. They want to help the needy, but would end up in financial crises.

“It’s not the founders’ fault for being kind and helping those in need; kindness is human nature. The more pain you see, the more you want to help,” she pointed out.  

Inspired to alleviate the difficulties they face, Jaclyn founded Volunti Connect so these kind individuals can instead focus on serving the community.

Breaking into the world of startups

Jaclyn is now pursuing Volunti almost full-time. She also runs a digital marketing agency as a side hustle, providing ecommerce and social media operation services. She also leads the marketing team virtually for Yakin Sedap.

After graduating and returning from Sydney, she had joined Yakin Sedap as a marketing intern and launched their first social media influencer campaign. Sales surged, and she was soon appointed to lead the department.

The Artem team / Image Credit: Volunti Connect

This experience of building the department and driving sales growth was something Jaclyn enjoyed.

“I realised that building a business would involve similar challenges but on a larger scale,” she pointed out. “If I could reach that milestone through learning and hard work, I am confident I can replicate that success with a startup as well.”

She also joined Antler Malaysia’s first cohort, which marked the beginning of her startup journey.

She’s now an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) at Artem Ventures, where she receives mentorship for her startup while supporting their digital marketing efforts and organising their annual ESGIgnite event.

“I was scouted by Tunku Omar, the principal at Artem Ventures, after we met at an event,” she said. “He was moved by my passion and determination to serve the community.”

Jaclyn is joined by Bryan, the CTO, to run Volunti Connect. Looking ahead, the two aim to partner with Yayasan Hasanah, which boasts the largest network of NGOs in Malaysia.

“This partnership would enable us to access a broader range of underserved NGOs and enhance our impact,” she pointed out.

The duo also hopes to expand their reach by engaging international non-profit organisations, diversifying the CSR programmes available to corporates.

Navigating the scene as a young woman

At just 25, Jaclyn has already accomplished quite a lot. However, it hasn’t been an easy journey at all, especially for a young female founder.

Like many new founders, she had been eager to learn and network with mentors and advisors.

Jaclyn and Bryan / Image Credit: Volunti Connect

“Unfortunately, some significantly older individuals may seek your attention under the guise of providing valuable information, but their intentions may be personal rather than professional,” she shared. “Trust your instincts and prepare to flee whenever possible!”

To navigate this space, Jaclyn said she makes sure to do her homework, familiarising herself with key ecosystem players.

As an introvert, she’s also learnt the importance of staying mentally strong and proactive at networking events.

“A helpful tip is not to let negative conversations affect you emotionally,” she said. “Even if you’re feeling low, act confident—this helps you radiate positive energy and navigate the space more smoothly.”

She pointed out that women often more emotionally sensitive, so it’s doubly important to detach from the problem and approach it logically and rationally instead.

Networking events aside, she’s also participated in accelerators. While applying for these accelerators aren’t challenging, actually plucking up the courage to participate is another thing.

She advised, “Don’t be afraid—always persevere and do whatever you need to do. If something scares you, it’s a sign you should do it. If you’re growing, life is supposed to be uncomfortable. Accept and invite it.”

  • Learn more about Volunti Connect here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Volunti Connect

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)