New England Young Professionals celebrates year one
AIF offshoot raises $10K, looks to add members
New England Young Professionals, a group of recent college graduates and working professionals, evolved under the umbrella of the American India Foundation late last year and the group is already beginning to make a name for itself by following the prescription for what makes other area career-oriented groups work — and by honing in on AIF’s deep philanthropic commitment to people in India.
Part fundraising machine and part social networking organization the group has poured its energy into balancing social consciousness with a few social engagements.
Twenty-seven-year-old Probhod Sunkara joined AIF’s Boston chapter two years ago as a fairly newly minted college graduate. He signed on board to help Young Professionals get off the ground at the suggestion of one of AIF’s longtime members.
An accomplished group of nine members make up the Young Professionals so far. Among them are two doctoral students at Ivy League schools, a Wellesley College graduate, a nurse and a William Jefferson Clinton Fellowship recipient, according to Sunkara. All of its members are from Massachusetts except for a single Connecticut resident.
Although few in number, the group continues to find its legs and expand, and Sunkara believes that the small size does not detract from what it is able to accomplish because of the concentrated effort each member puts into fundraising and spreading awareness of AIF causes.
He also believes that the close-knit group prompts all members to take an equal share of responsibilities of building out the Young Professionals and event planning.
Filled now by a hand-picked group of close friends, the Young Professionals is looking to invite new members from across New England and, to this end, is working at creating alliances with groups such as Brown University’s South Asia Club, according to Sunkara.
Developing the Young Professionals into an organization that can successfully differentiate itself from the non-profit landscape has been challenging, but Sunkara believes that in time its blend of social and philanthropic aims will set it apart from the rest of the nonprofit pack.
Sunkara says that what sets Young Professionals apart from other New England-based professional associations for young adults is its focus on philanthropy.
Currently employed by local startup Rage Frameworks Inc., Sunkara previously worked as an operations and finance manager for Boston-based The Indus Entrepreneurs, which gave him experience in the professional organization sector.
Sunkara said he greatly enjoyed his time with TiE and would have stayed with the group if not for the great opportunity with Rage Frameworks, so he jumped at the chance to become involved with another professional organization in starting the Young Professionals.
The chance to do so was sparked by AIF Boston Leadership Council chair and longtime trustee Raj Sharma and his wife, fellow trustee Nalini, who proposed an AIF offshoot geared toward recent college grads and young professionals.
Since its launch, the Young Professionals has held three major events. The 2008/2009 William Jefferson Clinton Fellowship fellows helped the Young Professionals kick off their launch as the group’s guests for what will be an annual fellowship meeting held in recognition of the work they do to support Indian nonprofit organizations. Three fellows “who have been in India and have dirtied their hands” in support of the fellowship, joined between 60 and 70 people at the launch, Sunkara said.
Members of Young Professionals raised $10,000 during a 25-mile bike ride through scenic Concord in support of another AIF signature program, Rickshaw Sangh, which helps rickshaw drivers in India purchase their own rickshaw through low-interest micro loans. “We were riding two-wheelers for the three-wheelers,” said Sunkara.
Another event, a half day of kite-flying called “Reach for the Sky,” on Boston Harbor’s Spectacle Island drew a crowd of 100, many of them couples with young children, said Sunkara.
Money collected from participants went toward supporting AIF charity Learning and Migration Program, which helps kids of migrant workers in India access education as they move from region to region.
There are currently plans to build on the Clinton Fellowship event by adding a live feed to India so that attendees of next year’s event, scheduled at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, can “chat” with folks in India.
The group is also lending support to AIF’s upcoming “Bow Ties and Bangles” event on Nov. 13 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel in Boston. At $500 per plate, Sunkara admits that it is a steep ticket price for attendees in their 20s.
Tickets are available at a discounted rate to anyone affiliated with Young Professionals in order to incorporate a younger crowd into an event that raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. INDIA New England newspaper reported last year’s fundraising at nearly $350,000.
The group will also be flexing both its community-service muscle, as well as concentrating on tightening member bonds, through regularly scheduled happy hours.
In the works is a summer camp for middle- and high- school students and continued collaborations and recruiting efforts with Harvard University and MIT.
The Young Professionals have set a fund-raising goal of $15,000 for next year, hopping to better the $10,000 the group has raised so far in 2010, according to Sunkara.
By JEN RICHMAN
Issue Date: November 1-15, 2010, Posted On: 11/1/2010
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