Digital Fundraising & Social Giving: The Evolution of the Indian Giving Space with Time

Rahul Chovva,  CEO & Director,  Letz ChangeRahul is entrepreneurial & innovative leader with experience in Business Development, Product Initiatives, Strategic Planning, Go-To-Market Strategies, Setting up Processes, Operations and Team Building

From an era marred by a heavy dependence on cash to a time where digital transactions have taken center-stage, we have come a long way. It is evident that especially the more developed parts of our nation are steadily moving towards a cashless economy, more so after the government’s announcement of demonetization. As organizations and institutions, irrespective of their scale, are gradually switching to cashless modes, it’s time the social sector join the bandwagon too.

India ranks 91st among 140 countries as per the World Giving Index, established by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). Their 2016 annual report titled, ‘Online Giving in India: Insights to Improve Results’ highlights that online donations represent less than 10 percent of the total revenues of NGOs working in India. These finding clearly revealed that online fundraising hasn’t been optimized to its highest potential in our country so far.

The online medium, if optimally used, has the potential to be a significant business model for non-profits, not only as a fundraising channel but also for networking and communication. Online fundraising offers a great opportunity for NGOs, irrespective of their size and location, to reach a large number of people, reduce costs, scale up campaigns, engage donors (particularly via social media) and measure the effectiveness of donor acquisition and retention activities. Additionally, leveraging social media platforms as
part of online fundraising efforts has the potential to help NGOs generate widespread awareness and support for the causes they espouse.

One such example of successfully using online fundraising tools is Bhumi, a non profit from Chennai that raised more than Rs.1 crore in the span of one week for the victims of the Chennai floods in 2015, which was one of the biggest disasters to hit the state of Tamil Nadu. People from all nooks and corners of the country offered help and online donations came pouring in, resulting in prompt support for the rehabilitation of those impacted from the disaster.

There is skepticism and a dearth of trust towards donating to charities, especially when it comes to giving online

And not just during emergencies, but digital fundraising can prove to be beneficial even for the sustainability of non-profit organizations. Factors such as referrals through e-mails and personal word-of-mouth via social networking platforms, where donors and volunteers urge their close contacts to support the cause/charity they care for, have increasingly yielded positive results for NGOs. More individuals are now coming forward to support charities based on the recommendation of a trusted friend or relative. For instance, the NGO Akshay Patra aggressively campaigned on social media around sponsoring a meal for a child for a year at Rs.750, and it worked very well because of the broad reach of the message via social media and the easy two-click donation process, which made the giving experience convenient and fulfilling.

The concept of online fundraising is relatively new to the Indian mindset. There is skepticism and a dearth of trust towards donating to charities, especially when it comes to giving online. In addition to this, people also expect something in return for their contribution. These challenges can be addressed through sensitizing people about the importance of their contribution, no matter how big or small, in helping reduce inequities and ultimately contributing to the development of our country. It also helps to educate them about the ease and convenience of giving online through trustworthy mediums and provide training on the use of online giving platforms, which also help non-profits realize different, unexplored avenues of fundraising and exposure.

At the end of the day, it’s all about establishing a culture where more and more individuals come forward to support committed Indian charities and inspire their friends and relatives to join the movement as well. Once that happens, our nation would surely be a better, more empathetic place to live and thrive in.