There was a time, not so long back when you would nod away at your desk trying to fight away the lethargy which often enveloped you in the afternoons. The shrill ring of the phone would jerk you from your reverie. Still grumbling, that the untimely call had disturbed your afternoon snooze, you would pick up the receiver and find that the person at the other end was a sales or bank executive offering financial services that you absolutely didn’t need. Yet, there were also instances when the call was from a representative of an NGO in the vicinity requesting you to aid children or adults who were in need of urgent medical attention and who had approached the organisation for funds. The seemingly sincere requests would tug at your heartstrings and yet very few of us would agree to help the NGO without hesitation. There was always a kernel of doubt at the back of our minds, how do I verify the veracity and genuineness of this request. Am I being taken for a ride? Thus, more often then not, any donations made by us were to known people and organisations whose veracity we could physically verify.
But in the last few years, the advent of crowdfunding platforms on social media have caused a complete turnaround in the way we practice charity. What does crowdfunding mean? Crowdfunding refers to a collection of funds from multiple investors via a web-based platform or social networking site for a definite objective. Small financial contributions from a number of persons cumulatively may fulfil the fund requirements of the investee, who otherwise lacked access to such funds. These contributions are sought through an online crowd-funding platform or via social media. While there are different forms of crowdfunding wherein funds can be raised in this manner for even business projects, book publications etc. We are focused on Donation or Social Lending Crowdfunding. This is a legal form of community crowdfunding where contributions are made as donations without any motive of any return. Eg: social, artistic etc.
Do Crowdfunding Platforms Really Work?
A report published in 2019 titled Everyday Giving In India published by Sattva sheds some light on the same. India’s informal giving is at 90% (INR 30.7k cr / USD 4.6 b) of total every day giving; occurring largely in cash and in amounts that cannot be traced back to individual donors or sources. Most informal giving is directed towards the community or religious giving. Community giving through informal ways goes directly to cover health emergencies and other basic needs of community members such as domestic help or the homeless.
Religious giving goes to religious or spiritual institutions, of which about 13% on average is redirected toward charitable causes and through religious institutions setting up social initiatives or contributing to government schemes. India’s formal giving, or giving through formal channels that can be tracked, is a mere 10% (INR 3.3k cr / USD 496 m) of everyday giving, split primarily between formal charitable giving to SPOs to improve social outcomes (INR 2.9k cr / USD 440 m) and giving for disaster-relief to government (INR 0.2k cr / USD 32 m).
Interestingly, a portion of formal giving to the community is now being made through crowdfunding platforms (~INR 0.2k cr / USD 24 m); e.g. campaigns to cover medical expenses. And this is only expected to grow with time. In a few years, we may see a trend reversal with India’s formal giving increasing while there may be a decrease in the percentage of informal giving.
Platforms such as Milaap, Ketto, Impactguru etc., who practice donation crowdfunding in India, have gained popularity in recent years and seem to be the future. They are slowly becoming the go-to option for people when they wish to donate for a good cause. Vice-versa, hospitals and NGOs across India too, are tying up with these platforms to raise funds for individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds in need of urgent care. The limitations of these platforms include poor digital penetration in some areas of the country and their reluctance of some sections of society to adopt e-commerce practices.
On the other hand, the advantages of these crowdfunding sites include the ease of giving via their online portals. Usually, it is the lack of reliable information that is the biggest barrier to giving. These online platforms put forth not just a cause, but the story of the individual in need, his/her medical status, familial background, socio-economic status etc., backed with signed and attested letters of the treating doctors and hospital, and accompanied with photos of the recipients. Thus, this makes the platform reliable in the eyes of the donors. Also, the doctor’s signed letter always includes the exact treatment estimates and as donations are received by the platform on behalf of the recipient, they make it a point to update the revised amount needed.
Also, in my personal experience, when I have used these platforms, I have found that I receive regular emails from the platform updating me on the medical status of the recipient that I have donated to. As a healthcare sector employee, I have myself witnessed patients benefitting from these funds received from crowdfunding platforms and thus, would urge people to come forward and support them. If each one of us pledges to make a small donation on these platforms once a month, it could change lives.
As has been so beautifully put by Mr.Anand Mahindra (Chairman, Mahindra Group and Founder, Nanhi Kali2)
“In the Indian context, we need a billion givers rather than a billion dollars by a single giver. An early and widespread culture of giving is what suits us better.”