Ron Weiner loves animals. The 28-year-old Israeli computer programmer and data scientist is a regular volunteer at Rishon Loves Animals, a pet adoption service for stray dogs and cats in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon LeZion.
When the animal shelter needed monetary support as well, Weiner wasn’t in a position to help financially.
So, he did the next best thing and started a venture that allows those in the high-tech industry to help nonprofit organizations by doing what they do best: sharing knowledge about their professions.
Give&Tech organizes topics taught by industry experts, topics ranging from user interface design, to neural networks, AI, data mining, and product management. All fees are then donated to Israeli nonprofits.
Six organizations are among the recipients so far: Gesher el HaNoar and Social Space TLV, which support at-risk populations; Tnufa l’Chaim and Maslan, which aid victims of trauma and sexual abuse; Mechubarim Plus, an organization dedicated to assisting young people diagnosed with cancer; and, of course, Rishon Loves Animals.
Give&Tech, which was formally registered in June 2019, has facilitated the transfer of more than ₪250,000 ($76,300).
Give&Tech’s entire team, including Weiner, are volunteers. The only overhead expenses are for technical services for third parties, and legal and financial issues.
As a result, Weiner is continuing with his day job as an AI and machine learning consultant.
Give&Tech’s courses don’t come cheap – they range from the equivalent of $275 to $460. However, students can choose the price they’re most comfortable with.
“A significant amount of people – some 30 percent – choose the higher price,” Weiner tells ISRAEL21c. “We were very surprised.”
Give&Tech’s courses– which run from six to 10 weeks and include teachers’ assistants and homework – are taught in Hebrew. If there’s enough demand, English courses could be added.
Right now everything’s on Zoom, but Weiner hopes they can soon get back to the in-person meet-ups they used to run pre-Covid.
Zoom has been a blessing for Give&Tech’s students.
Shani Wolf Dagary is Give&Tech’s volunteer marketing director. She’s also participated in some of the organization’s tech workshops.
“I’m a mother and I work full time, but because the courses are on Zoom, I was able to participate,” she tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s opened up and expanded our audience.”
That includes geographically: Students have joined in from Kiryat Shemona in the north to Dimona in the south of Israel, not just the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
It’s also been a boon for teachers and volunteers. At the beginning of the pandemic, Give&Tech had eight volunteers and 50 lecturers. That’s jumped to 30 volunteers and 100 teachers participating from home.
Give&Tech’s volunteers help less experienced teachers. “We help them plan their agenda. We’ll do some simulations with them to make sure they feel comfortable. In some cases, we might put a shadow lecturer together with them in case they need help during the live session,” Weiner says.
Dagary was looking for a course in user interface design. “I looked in a lot of places. But I chose Give&Tech because of the added value, of donating to society and organizations I believe in, while still getting something for myself,” she says.
“The fact that Give&Tech will do good with the money was my nudge to take the course.”
Mentoring on the menu
In addition to classes and workshops, Give&Tech will soon add mentoring to its menu.
“The focus will be similar,” Weiner says. “Mentors donate their time and experience, and mentees donate their money.”
Give&Tech aims to expand the number of nonprofits it works with – after proper due diligence by Weiner and his team.
“We read their financial reports. If something is unclear, we make sure we understand what an expense is for. If the CEO is earning a salary of $15,000 a month, then that’s probably not what we’re looking for.”
Weiner established Give&Tech with cofounder Ido Parnas and volunteers Eden Modiano, Erez Shilon and Erez Ram Lev.
Most of the teachers come to Give&Tech through word of mouth. “Israel is a small place,” Weiner notes. “Our community is very strong on Facebook and LinkedIn.”
Students also find Give&Tech courses organically online. The company doesn’t invest in advertising.
So, what are Give&Tech’s most popular courses? In addition to the user interface course Dagary took, the top classes are in product management and data science. Other classes have covered topics such as neural networks, deep learning, computer vision, introduction to artificial intelligence, data mining and something called “Karmic Management” – described as “principles for business and personal success according to the wisdom of the East.”
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