Monday 19 March 2018

Looking for a cool and transparent way of giving to charity? This entrepreneur from Dublin's tech hub has it sorted

Alain Buffing
Alain Buffing
Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

A young man working in Dublin's tech hub has created an innovative, transparent way of giving to charity - that also aims gives something back to the donor.

Alain Buffing has transformed his disappointment following a volunteering trip abroad into a globally connected non-profit organisation underpinned by his office's leading technology.

"In previous roles in the tech space, firms offered employees time off to go volunteering," he told

"I really loved to travel so I went to Guatemala and Nicaragua to help build schools and provide water to the local communities. I really felt like I was giving something back until I realised how the funds were distributed."

For Alain's first trip, he fundraised over €2,000 beforehand, some of which was to go towards covering travel, accomodation and food expenses.

"The places we stayed in were quite basic and expenses were kept to a minimum but I found out that only €700 of that total went to the charity work. A large portion went towards the charity's administration costs and that sparked a little bit of shame."

Alain decided to organise his own project in Kenya with his friend Joy Reiche who he met in Munich ten years ago.

Joy's father established the organisation Forum for Development Malindi (FDM) in 2003 to support the orphaned and vulnerable children in and around Malindi. This inspired Joy to establish the non-profit organisation Pendo Kenia in 2011.

"Pendo Kenia, has helped children from poor background get access to primary education and proper nutrition. So far they have build over twenty schools where more than 2,500 children have found refuge.

In the spring of 2016, Alain visited the project with four of his colleagues at Salesforce where they constructed hygenic toilets for the community and renovated some of the schools.

A self-confessed social media addict, it was the feedback Alain received from this volunteer trip - that saw all funds raised injected directly into the community - that prompted him to step his own charity idea up a notch.

"I moved to a new technology company in the summer and management allow every employee to use the technology of the company and have your own project in the background. I thought 'why can't I do that for my charity?," he said.

Initially starting out as a one-man band, Alain said he had a lot of support internally before he established his form as a proper NGO with a board of trustees and over 500 partners and contributors worldwide.

"We're all about full transparency so that donors can see exactly where their funds are going," he said.

"We do everything - including strategy meetings and talks with sponsors - in the clouds so there are no operational costs except for when we are organising a fundraising event. We are essentially creating a community tool for our followers and our sponsors and partners so that everyone can offer something."

At the moment, Tuk Tuk are expanding this community three fold: developing innovative and educational projects in Kenya, Ghana, Colombia and South Africa; partnering with corporates and start-ups who want to support the charity; and establishing a strong crowd funding platform where volunteers are triggered to be entrepreneurial and creative with fundraising.

Some of Tuk Tuk's current partners include Salesforce, Google, Slack, Causevox, Microsoft, KLM, Lollapalooza, and Binbao.

Initiatives that are taking place at the moment include a ‘Charity Run during the Pyongyang Marathon’ in North Korea, a ‘Stand-Up for Charity Night’ in Amsterdam, and the ‘Tattoo for Charity Event’ in Dublin that is scheduled for Saturday January 21.

Dublin's Iconic Offices has gifted their office space for the Dublin event which promises to be more than you would expect from a charity event.

Iconic Offices' head office is based on Merrion Square but the event will be held at their SOBO works location on Windmill.

"I'm a huge fan of tattoos so I thought 'why not incorporate that into the event?'. I flew some tattoo artists I know in for the event, people who are really interested in volunteering themselves," he said. 

Apart from offering free tattoos, the event will also feature artists, live music, a microbrewery and Dublin's latest food obsession - donuts. Attendees will hear about Tuk Tuk's on-going project and will see how much money is being raised live on an elevated screen.

"All the success we have gained in the last six months, from fundraising projects, to flying out 880 toy boxes to Kenya at Christmas and sending 1.500 winter coats to Syria, couldn’t have be done without the help of our internal team and having the support of an active tribe of partners like Iconic Offices and the artists that will be present at the event," said Buffing.

Tuk Tuk have been selected for the StartUp100 program during the Dublin Tech Summit. Tickets can purchased for the Tuk Tuk Tattoo event here

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