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October 17, 2014
Business Line
Rashmi Pratap


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GiveIndia allows people to donate money online by verifying NGOs and ensuring that the money is spent fruitfully

dna-meet-the-giversIn a country with a penchant for shopping online, here’s an organisation that saw the potential in an online philanthropy marketplace much before the e-commerce boom struck. This non-profit organisation also succeeded in keeping a tight tab on costs. The result is GiveIndia — a platform that raises money from lakhs of people and channelises it to nearly 200 NGOs, which have been verified for credible and transparent utilisation of money.

While GiveIndia does not raise funds for itself, it helps bring donors and receivers together. When the website was set up in 2001 by IIM-Ahmedabad alumni Venkat Krishnan, there were only about 40 lakh internet users in India. Despite the low internet penetration, Krishnan knew it was an idea whose time had come — a non-profit organisation that would make giving convenient and its utilisation transparent. “Nobody is asking why should I give; the bigger question is to whom, where and how to give. This is why people refrain from giving even though they want to,” says GiveIndia CEO Dhaval Udani, who started as a volunteer with the organisation almost seven years ago.

Receiving end

The biggest barrier to giving donations is the absence of a mechanism that will ensure its proper use. GiveIndia bridges this gap by not only evaluating the NGOs it works with, but also by tracking the end utilisation of funds. And more importantly, it raises funds at a cost of just 9.1 per cent, one of the lowest in the world.

“We keep 9 per cent (of the money raised) for our costs — which include due diligence, maintaining the technology platform, payment gateway, transaction charges, etc,” says Udani.

dna-meet-the-giversFor GiveIndia, the main costs arise from maintaining the website and evaluating the NGOs. “We raise funds online and through our payroll programme and are, therefore, able to keep costs low. It also makes the model scalable as it does not cost much to increase the number of donors on our website,” says Udani. The fundraising cost for other NGOs can be upward of 30 to 40 per cent.

TK Mathew, CEO of Deepalaya (an NGO working with urban and rural poor), says his organisation raises its own funds through direct mails and the donation box. “Our fundraising department has people to monitor donation boxes and find sponsors. We have to pay for communication and administrative charges and that costs a lot of money, up to 40 per cent of the donation at times.” GiveIndia charges only 7 to 9 per cent of the funds raised towards its costs.

Similarly, Om Prakash Sharma, secretary of Rajasthan’s Gram Chetna Kendra, highlights that fundraising through GiveIndia is a better option than travelling 50km to meet five people, who may not even agree to donate. “With GiveIndia, there is surety,” he says.

In the last 11 years, GiveIndia has evaluated over 50,000 NGOs on various parameters such as regulatory, governance and accounting compliance. “Being on the GiveIndia platform improves our visibility and credibility since they verify every NGO on the list. They also offer training and capacity-building for our staff,” says Mathew. Sharma adds his stamp of approval: “When you apply to other organisations for funding, accreditation from GiveIndia helps improve our chances of being funded.”

Project-specific

On the GiveIndia website, NGOs list very specific causes, such as ‘providing a water tank for five families in a drought-prone area’ along with the amount needed.

Donors choose a cause and the money passes on to the NGOs concerned.

GiveIndia also monitors the utilisation of every donation above ?500. “We visit one beneficiary of every programme to verify the impact on the ground. We also seek photos and profiles of the beneficiaries and families,” says Udani. So for a child whose education is being funded, GiveIndia will ask for his report card, while for a group of families needing a water tank, a picture of the tank would be sought.

Payroll goodwill

Last year, GiveIndia raised ?55 crore through its website, payroll programme and through high net-worth individuals (HNIs). The payroll programme facilitates corporate employees to make a donation, from even as little as ?50, from their monthly salary.

Over 50,000 people in 110 companies are part of the payroll programme. The conversion rate is almost 50 per cent, implying that at least half of the people in a company sign up for the programme on average. “We know these initiatives work and will scale them up, roping in more people and getting in more donors to donate,” says Udani, declining to divulge how he plans to reach the target of ?100 crore funds in the next few years.

Currently, GiveIndia is growing at 30 to 40 per cent every year and it should not be difficult for the organisation to reach the ?100-crore target. As online connectivity improves, along with people’s desire to give, Udani should be able to achieve his dream sooner than he anticipates.