LetzChange Changing The Nature of Giving In India

The concept of online crowdfunding 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.

Social entrepreneurship in India has gained tremendous growth over the last decade. Unlike other countries like the UK, Italy, Korea and Singapore where the agenda is being driven by government and large private enterprises, India’s journey of social entrepreneurship has been led by the vision and energy of outstanding individuals and evolved with support from organizations providing direct, indirect, financial and advisory assistance to social enterprises.

As per the latest report on philanthropy published by the British Council in December 2016, titled “Social value economy: A Survey of the Social Enterprise Landscape in India”, the average annual turnover of social enterprises in India is pegged at INR 7.8 million. Nearly three quarters of the social enterprises surveyed expect a substantial increase in their turnovers in the next financial year, 78% aim to expand into new geographical areas and 73% aim to increase their customer base in the coming years.

Giving impetus to philanthropy in India
The concept of digital charity or online giving is an emerging trend that is giving a boost to philanthropy in India. This can be attributed to the growing e-commerce space in our country, which has made people more comfortable with online transactions. The online medium can prove to be significant business model for social enterprises, not only as a fundraising channel but also for networking and communication.

In addition to this, NGOs are also leveraging an online presence and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube to transcend physical and financial boundaries in expanding their network and reaching more donors than is possible through traditional, in-person mediums.

Besides this, the increasing involvement of mainstream financial institutes is also helping expand the reach of social enterprises. For instance, various venture capital firms and specialized social investors are already investing in for-profit entities with social objectives, providing them with venture capital, networking, marketing and business expertise. Additionally, the government has now made it mandatory for big corporations to set aside 2% of their profits for investments in social business ventures, through the CSR Bill (corporate social responsibility in the new Companies Act). This will open up funding options for more social enterprises and further contribute towards the growth of social entrepreneurship in India.

Fundraising in the digital era

Speaking particularly of the evolving nature of fundraising in today’s digital era, it has the potential to grow exponentially owing to the global proliferation and reach of digital tools. In India, the surge of online e-commerce and marked expansion of digital payment platforms has made it increasingly comfortable for people to spend money online, including making donations to the charities.

Specifically, some emerging trends in fundraising in the digital era include the following:
• Proliferation of Social Media – More and more NGOs are now leveraging social media platforms to create awareness and raise support for the causes they espouse.
• Crowdfunding – Crowdfunding has recently become increasingly popular among people who want to raise funds without going through the embarrassment of approaching anyone personally to ask for money.
• Online Coupons – E-commerce websites (e.g., Snapdeal and Naaptol) are becoming platforms for listing special vouchers and deals, the margins of which are given as proceeds to their NGO partners.
• Smartphone Apps – India has the world’s fastest growing smartphone market with nearly 731 million mobile phone users in 2017.The proliferation of mobile and internet access has led to an increase in the use of apps. NGOs too are increasingly looking at considering this channel as a way to increase their donor reach and raise more funds.

The journey and vision of LetzChange
With LetzChange, our aspiration is to become the leader in the online giving and fundraising space in India. We want to make social giving a simple, credible experience for people, while leveraging the potential of online channels to maximize fundraising impact for the betterment of our country.

Our platform has proven to be particularly useful in raising funds for small and medium-scale non-profits located in remote areas as it helps them overcome physical and financial barriers to expand their donor base. Usually, smaller non-profits barely have the resources and budget to market their initiatives, thus eluding them from reaching out to a potentially large donor base. In such a scenario, word of mouth and network-giving becomes the most reliable tool for transcending geographical and financial constraints in marketing. This is exactly where LetzChange fits the bill, by allowing our participating NGOs across the country, no matter how big or small, to spread the word about the cause they are espousing while at the same time empowering our donor base to support the charity of their choice and leverage their social network to do the same.

The journey so far has been heartening as we have grown from a network of 10-odd partner NGOs in 2014 to around 200, as of February 2017. All these NGOs have now started to build a trusted network of donors, an asset these organizations will cherish forever. LetzChange, in its two year journey, has managed to reach more than 50,000 unique donors and has raised more than Rs. 4 crore for around 200 partner charities.

We have also been successful in raising funds expeditiously during natural disasters. For instance, in 2015, LetzChange along with its partner Bhumi, raised more than Rs. 1 crore in the span of one week for the victims of the Chennai floods, which was one of the biggest disasters to hit the state of Tamil Nadu. People from all nooks and corners offered help and online donations came pouring in, resulting in prompt support for the rehabilitation of those impacted from the disaster. Additionally, the constant coverage of our campaign by Amazon India further boosted the inflow of donations in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

The Giving Premier League
Every year, through our annual fundraising competition, the ‘Giving Premier League’, we incentivize our NGO partners to reach out to a larger number of donors, nationally and internationally, to gain better visibility and raise funds. Previously in 2015 and 2016, Rs.1 crore had been raised each year, all thanks to the spirit and perseverance of our committed partner organizations. This time however, with the 2017 edition of the League, we are aiming big and scaling up the event, with a larger number of NGO partners onboard and a cumulative prize of Rs.2 crore.

Online crowdfunding challenges
The concept of online crowdfunding 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. This has proven to be challenging for us as we understand that we have to first work towards changing mindsets, which is a much longer term endeavor. Through our work, we have also come to the realization that there is a need to sensitize people about the importance of their contribution, no matter how big or small, in helping reduce inequities and advancing the development of our country, as well as educate them about the ease and convenience of doing so online, through trustworthy mediums like LetzChange where every NGO is thoroughly vetted. Ultimately, donors are seeking assurance that their money has reached the intended beneficiaries in its entirety, and at LetzChange we have overcome that barrier by assuring our donors that 100% of their donated amount is transferred across to their chosen, trusted NGO without any deductions.

Another challenge for us was to come up with a robust portfolio of committed and verified nonprofits working for diverse causes across the country. We overcame this by doing thorough research and conducting in-person visits to nonprofits across the country. We have now onboarded more than 160 charities after thorough due diligence and we aim to create an online ‘happiness chain’ across the country where NGOs, irrespective of size or location, are benefitted through the creation of a huge national and international network that they otherwise might not have been able to tap into.

Inspiring others to join the Giving Movement
It is very encouraging to see the growth in the philanthropy space in India. Many people are now coming forward to contribute their money, their time or their voice to make a difference for the people who are less fortunate. There is still a lot to be done, and each one of us can make a difference. We at LetzChange have great admiration for India’s leading philanthropists, including Azim Premji, Nandan and Rohini Nilekani, Shir Nadar, the Piramals, and others who generously allocate their fortunes, share their knowledge and ideas on philanthropy and commit their time to champion for those who need help the most, and are excited to see more philanthropists and citizens in general get increasingly actively involved in contributing toward our country’s development.

At LetzChange, we attribute our views on philanthropy to a saying by Mahatma Gandhi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others,” and are very optimistic of our role as catalysts in moving the needle of development in our country through committed support of non-profits throughout India.

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