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DP Video gets an inside look at Hack4Impact, a service-centric programming group. Video by Gianni Mascioli and Dani Blum.

Photo: Dani Blum , Gianni Mascioli

Two seniors are vying to save nonprofits thousands of dollars.

Co-founded by Wharton and Engineering senior Dhruv Maheshwari and Engineering senior Ali Altaf, Hack4Impact connects student developer talent with nonprofit organizations at a price 10 times cheaper than the industry standard. It works closely with groups in and outside of Philadelphia, and has a model that may be applied beyond Penn.

For College sophomore Sarah Simon Hack4Impact was the place to go to develop an app central to her nonprofit, the Interactive College Access Network.

“We talked for probably three or four weeks about what we wanted and worked through drafts of the app,” Simon said. “We were looking at app developers that would’ve cost us $25,000, and that’s just not money that we have, and it’s not money that a lot of nonprofits have, particularly in their nascent stages,” Simon added.

In addition, Hack4Impact has worked on a much more local scale, developing a mapping app for the Food Policy Advisory Council of the Mayor’s Office, in coordination with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.

“The process was just so clean and easy between the developers and the organizers,” Food Policy Advisory Council Coordinator at the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Hannah Chatterjee said. “We’ve never seen a tool like this before, and it’s just really exciting for us that all of these community resources can be consolidated into one location.”

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Photo By Gianni Mascioli

Members of Hack4Impact met during a weekly work session at the Weiss Tech House in the Levine Building.

All of the students in the club volunteer their time and spend about 60 hours per semester working on their projects. The group currently has a membership of 22 developers and project managers that work on semester-long projects and coordinates closely with local and national clients. Already, Hack4Impact has worked on a project with Kiva, a large social impact organization.

“We have some incredible people in the club, and it seems like everyone who is part of it is very intrinsically motivated to do good with their time,” Altaf said.

Maheshwari first conceived of the idea while working with Social Impact Consulting at Penn during his first years at Penn. “There was this big need for nonprofits and social impact organizations for technical help,” he said.

Then, last April, he met Altaf, and they began brainstorming concepts for the new group.

“When I came to Penn and I switched over to computer science, one of the things that I thought was missing was the idea of promoting social impact through tech,” Altaf said. With initiative on their part and support from the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, the group launched early last fall.

Looking forward, Hack4Impact is focused on its own establishment and growth at Penn, but also has ambitions beyond the ivory tower. Altaf and Maheshwari, who plan to move to San Francisco this year, hope to move Hack4Impact into other schools around the nation and build a professional network on top of their existing infrastructure. Most recently, the pair applied for one of the President’s Engagement Prizes created by President Amy Gutmann to secure additional financial support.

Though they recognize their own limits, they see the potential for Hack4Impact to grow beyond what it currently is and serve a much larger set of clients and aims.

“Tech is not always a solution to every problem,” Maheshwari said. “[But] if we can help get this wave to be even bigger and shape it in the way we think it should be, I think we could make a huge impact, and level the playing field across a lot of different types of issues.”

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