By Ben Deighton
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - With many charities, donors have little idea about the recipients of their money. A Belgium-based laptop charity offers an alternative by linking the two using Facebook.
YouBridge, which has a sponsorship deal with Intel and has received support from European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, wants people to donate towards a laptop and allow them to contact the developing world recipient online.
YouBridge already has projects in Uganda, Nepal, and Bangladesh where it has so far supplied more than 200 laptops to teachers, health workers and other professionals.
The idea is that donors and recipients contact each other not simply out of curiosity, but to share expertise and advice.
"The power of the network is huge," said Jonas De Cooman, the 31-year-old founder of YouBridge. "Doctors tend to link up with doctors," he said. "While teachers link up with other teachers... and entrepreneurs with other entrepreneurs."
Geertrui Van Rompuy-Windels, the wife of Herman Van Rompuy, is the chairwoman of YouBridge's advisory board. Her husband donated the first laptop.
De Cooman says YouBridge's spread has been driven by Facebook's "like" function. Some of those who chose to "like" YouBridge would also contribute towards laptops.
"All people, and certainly youngsters, are very much aware of how they are perceived in their own social network," he said. "People can donate money to a good cause, and they can share with their social network afterwards which project they have supported."
YouBridge officially launched its Facebook site on May 14, and it has over 700 "likes" so far.
De Cooman and his team are all volunteers, and their policy has been to cover the overheads through sponsorship deals, meaning donations go directly to projects.
(Reporting By Ben Deighton, editing by Paul Casciato)