By Anoj Viswanathan
According to the India Philanthropy Report 2017, “Every philanthropy segment—corporate, individual, government/public—is growing but individual philanthropy is on the fastest growth track.”
With more people in the country capable of and willing to give, online fundraising has found new meaning in digital India. Crowdfunding platforms have particularly benefited from this change, making it easier for people to participate in philanthropic activities. Crowdfunding platforms give people a chance to choose from a wide range of causes. They are categorised and verified, allowing people to see the direct impact of their participation in another’s life.
Raising funds is not a new phenomenon, taking it online is. People have always turned to friends and family for help, when a significant amount of money is required for an urgent need. We are only making it digital, and reducing the hassles involved, making it easier to give and receive help. This also opens up an array of challenges, mainly in terms disrupting conventional notions of the online space. Through the seven years that Milaap has been making online fundraising accessible to more and more people, we have faced three major challenges.
The first and major challenge is a set apprehension regarding the legitimacy of an online fundraiser. For an online crowdfunding platform, this directly translates to their reputation– the major factor that drives the donor community. To tackle this, Milaap has established a robust system to verify all fundraising request as soon as they are set up.
The authenticity of the beneficiary and of the need are confirmed by dedicated teams, only after which the request is made public on the platform. Another factor towards establishing legitimacy is ensuring the funds are utilised for the exact purpose mentioned to donors.
To assure donors, it is important to keep them posted through updates. Since Milaap allows campaign organisers to withdraw funds in multiple installments, as and when needed, they are encouraged to post updates, preferably with pictures, to let donors know how their contribution is really helping. We also have fellows on ground to visit beneficiaries for follow-up checks.
Secondly, a crowdfunding platform would receive a large number of payments on a daily basis, coming from various modes of payment. With this, the risk of fraudulent transactions and card details security also goes up. This could be dangerous and discouraging to people in a country that has just about started to embrace the use of debit and credit cards. In January 2017, a total of 28.8 million credit cards and 818 million debit cards were in operation, according to the Reserve Bank of India.
Generally, this can be kept in check by securing your website with the highest level transaction security currently available on the Internet. These days, banks are already providing the 3D Secure password service for online transactions, providing an additional layer of security through identity verification.
It is best to have credit card and debit card payments processed through secure and trusted payment gateways managed by leading banks. Milaap has additionally also built sophisticated algorithms to filter suspicious cards, donors and devices for another level of scrutiny.
The final challenge is breaking the language barrier to reach out to communities where a certain need matters. Recent reports confirm that only about 10% of the Indian population can speak English. With fundraising appeals and pages mostly generated and shared in English everywhere, it only narrows the reach of a need further. There is also, of course, the risk of losing relatability of the cause to translation while people in dire need of funds struggle to express their situations in a language they are not most comfortable in.
Here, the regional media plays a great role in extending a cause to the right people. Since the media knows it’s people best, it is always a good idea to seek the help of the press to not only communicate an urgent need to the right community, but also to reinforce the credibility of an appeal to people who are still apprehensive of the digital space.
Being an industry that is expanding rapidly, it is important to always be on the lookout for these challenges. It is best to come up with long term solutions to avoid any cracks in the system. The best way to do so is by constantly staying in touch with and taking feedback from the community, of individuals, groups and even NGOs who need funds, and those willing to help. This makes the identification of challenges simpler, and gives us enough time to be equipped with the right solutions.
Milaap constantly stays in touch with their community, and are available to instantly resolve queries for over 15 hours a day, every day in a week. The platform is proactively reaching out to people, making the easier, digital way to raise funds better accessible to more and more people in their country!
(Anoj Viswanathan is the Co-founder of Milaap, a crowdfunding platform)
Views are personal.