India Social Case Challenge – Edition 1
Category – Long term initiative
Title-FundACause: A Case Study on the Role of Social Media in Charitable Giving
Share a little about your organisation
‘FundACause’ is an attempt to connect individuals and organisations in India seeking money (for events, medical treatments, education, etc.) with those who might be interested in helping. It does this through Twitter and a blog on Posterous.
Information on funds available for non-government organisations (NGOs) and educational scholarships is also documented on http://twitter.com/FundACause.
FundACause is a unique platform that posts a wide variety of financial aid appeals – from individuals, NGOs, and corporates on Twitter, a blog, and some online groups. It also makes available information on educational scholarships and grants as well as funds offered to NGOs and individuals. Over ten months, FundACause has contributed in creating a new culture of giving by showcasing a wide range of options that exist for anyone who is interested in making a difference in someone’s life.
When I started FundACause (FAC) ten months ago, the purpose was simply to share some of the mails related to financial appeals, which I received from time to time, on a forum where people could get to know about them and if possible, help in any way.
Over time, I realised that FAC fulfils several needs, or rather, fills many gaps:
- No service in India – online or offline – documents the financial requirements of individuals as well as corporates and non-profit organisations at one place. (Organisations such as GiveIndia and Karmayog understandably have strict criteria for NGOs they list on their site or e-group, which, though, in effect, limits the number of people whose needs can be addressed.)
- FAC not only lists an appeal but also tries to personally connect the requesting organisation or individual with potential sponsors or donors. (Two sample tweets: http://tinyurl.com/FAC-Sponsors)
- To the best of my knowledge, no website provides information on people and organisations willing to offer financial support to those in need as well as scholarships and grants. (Sample tweets: http://tinyurl.com/FAC-Donors) (Karmayog has a section that displays a few donor organisations but the donor list and their contact details are not updated.)
- No newspaper or Twitter page collates tweets from celebrities – actors, sportspeople, journalists, politicians, etc. – about the social issues or NGOs they engage with.
- FAC also makes a conscious effort to share with celebrities how they can use Twitter (or other social media) to enlist more supporters for the causes they believe in or are actively working towards. (Sample tweets: http://tinyurl.com/FAC-Celebrities)
- Finally, FAC also compiles articles and blog posts that might be able to promote giving and offer insights on human behaviour vis-à-vis giving. (Sample tweets: http://tinyurl.com/FAC-Articles)
Every time I receive a mail (from e-groups and friends, mostly) or a tweet that asks for money, I post it on Twitter and my blog.
I try and include those who can help (either by retweeting or by donating money) on that tweet.
A few times, I have searched Twitter to find people or companies that are in the same city or in a related field so I can include them on the tweet.
Each tweet takes me between 1 and 5 minutes to post.
No budgets or resources have been allocated for this activity. There are no tangible expenses other than internet costs.
I have reached out to NGOs, corporates, celebrities, and other people on Twitter by sharing with them some of the ways in which they can do their bit to make the world a happier, healthier place to live in.
1) Through the FAC blog, NGOs can:
- learn about work being done by other NGOs
- view the manner in which they are soliciting contributions (the kind of proposal or appeal they are making), thus, take tips on how to improve their communication material
- get their own needs circulated to a wider audience that they perhaps didn’t have access to otherwise
- collaborate with other NGOs doing similar work, or even guide other NGOs on various aspects of their functioning (for example, inform NGO X that it doesn’t necessarily need to scout for donors to buy computers since they are offered gratis by a couple of organisations)
2) Through the blog, companies that sponsor events have an option of supporting organisations that work with the disadvantaged by sponsoring NGO events or magazines.
The FAC blog can also be utilised by companies to choose new CSR projects as it lists the needs of 549 people (various kinds of NGOs and individuals) across the country.
3) FAC has also been engaging with very many celebrities by:
- sharing relevant tweets by them on the FAC Twitter page, thus making it easier for NGOs on Twitter to connect with celebrities who seem to be moved by the cause they’re working on
- giving the celebrities specific information on how they can get more people (their ‘followers’ on Twitter) to support the NGO/cause
4) To everybody else on Twitter, the FAC page gives a variety of options regarding how one can reach out to someone in need. FAC has posted needs of all the GiveIndia-certified NGOs (around 220) that have undergone rigorous due diligence, as well as detailed, moving appeals from parents who seek help to pay for their child’s medical treatment or school fees.
Those people who are hesitant about making monetary contributions because of concerns about misappropriation of funds now know that they have the option of directly paying the patients’ hospital bills, or buying text books or food grains for those in need.
Assistance can be extended in non-monetary ways as well, as one reader did by roping in a doctor friend who was willing to waive off his surgery fees for a patient she read about on the FAC page.
At the very least, people on Twitter can get involved by learning about others’ needs (by following the Twitter handle and/or blog) and retweeting them with the belief or hope that help can come in from anywhere. As it probably must for many of the listed cases!
5) FAC also covered community events such as relief work for cyclone Aila victims, the Mumbai Marathon, Twestival, and the Joy of Giving Week (JGW) by compiling information on (almost) all the fund-seekers.
How has this initiative been received by these stakeholders?
A few people and NGOs have been offered financial help by the readers; many more have been offered visibility through retweets. As far as celebrities go, a few of them have retweeted the FAC tweets or asked their ‘followers’ to visit the FAC Twitter page or the blog. However, a large number of the celebrities that FAC has tweeted has not enlisted support of their ‘followers’ by sharing with them information and links that were made available through FAC.
About the initiative
Out of the 1116 tweets on the FAC page, 549 are financial assistance requests, 50 offer funds or scholarships, 17 are articles on giving, and a bulk of the remaining 500 are messages that were sent to those who tweeted about getting involved with social change.
On the blog, the financial assistance appeals have been classified under the labels Education, Health, Nutrition, Salaries, Events, Housing, Living Expenses, Films, Energy Generation, and Miscellaneous.
I have tried to spread the word about some of the funds-related tweets by posting them on the Karmayog e-group, NGOPost, a few other online groups, and sharing them with friends.
Also, FAC has proactively reached out to other organisations in the country that receive appeals for help (Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, United Way, etc.) with an offer to circulate those appeals. Local supplements of two national dailies and an MTV host have also been mailed to gauge their openness to disseminating the FAC data.
Impact – Outcome
- I believe that FAC has been able to show people that if there is motivation to help an individual or an organisation, other things can easily be taken care of.
- FAC on Twitter has 433 ‘followers’ and the blog has been viewed 17,401 times.
- Several tweets from FAC have been retweeted. (Sample retweets of a recent tweet: http://tinyurl.com/FAC-Retweets)
- I have also (compiled and) shared through FAC some useful lists on Twitter: blood donors in India, mental health helplines, volunteers available in Bombay, animal adoption blogs, websites that facilitate the giving and receiving of stuff for free, NGOs working on child sexual abuse, those that need computers, etc.
- While ensuring that those in need of funds do, in fact, receive funds through my tweet or blog post was not a goal that I had set (after all, supporting NGOs that attempt to ameliorate the lives of the not-as-privileged needs to be a community-driven effort), I was pleasantly surprised to learn that 7 to 9 of those seeking help received financial aid. (See the comment on http://tinyurl.com/FAC-FundsReceived for an example.)
- It is plausible that a few more people may have been helped but the donor did not want it to be known that s/he is making a donation and hence, FAC wasn’t made aware of the donation.
- Also, some might have learnt about the need through retweets of or emails from other people. Hence, it is difficult to get data on donors who might have directly connected with the beneficiaries.
Aside from these factors, it is difficult to know the exact nature of impact the FAC tweets might be having since not everyone who uses information accessed online provides feedback to the source of that information.
What I have learnt from people’s tweets to me and FollowFriday recommendations is that many people are very appreciative of FAC. Since not too many are making optimum use of the FAC tweets, though, I could perhaps think about or find out if there’s anything that can be done at my end to be more effective. For instance, FAC could perhaps convey the various ways in which it could be used to those readers who might see it solely as a platform to offer financial help.
I’ve also realised that for Twitter to change the landscape of modern philanthropy in India, the value of charitable giving needs to get integrated into everyday living. The power of Twitter may lie in its ability to spread information like wildfire but for that to happen, a lot more needs to be done by a lot more people.
I have also learnt that to be successful and sustainable, innovative approaches to philanthropy need to create value for donors and recipients, as well as for society.
I also realised that public figures have a long way to go before they can harness the power of Twitter to talk about issues they seem to care about. A huge number of them (re)tweeted about 1411 tigers; as many tweet about praying for victims of natural and man-made calamities as well as need for blood for medical treatment but only one or two retweeted the link to the two NGOs doing tiger conservation work or the comprehensive database of blood donors in India.
Some of these potentially influential people also don’t (re)tweet links to NGOs they ran for at the Mumbai Marathon, or even NGOs started by their seemingly close friends or themselves.
Since many of these NGOs are not yet savvy with social media, it seems that they may not have offered ideas on how their supporters can help them generate awareness and donations through social media.
Some specific learnings have been related to technology, such as using http:// instead of www on the links to make them clickable on Seesmic, Twitterfox, etc.
A mistake made early on resulted in some waste of time for me and difficulty in accessing the details of the financial aid appeals for my readers. Since I didn’t want to create a blog then, I would download the documents on the desktop and upload them to receive a URL that can be tweeted. All those who read those tweets would need to download the file to read the financial appeal details. Had the website I used to upload files (FileQube) not stopped functioning, I might have continued to be ‘inefficient’.
Since I am pretty private about my life (although I did upload a display picture a week ago!), using a medium as public as Twitter was a bit challenging. As was submitting my entry for this Case Challenge. And knowing that one or more people will read some or all of what I have written (some of which might even seem cocky-ish) does not make it easier!
FAC on twitter today is possibly in its best phase so far. It has ceased to be just a source of seemingly repetitive funding appeals. By responding to tweets related to volunteering, giving, feminism, etc., FAC looks more vibrant and has a wider use.
FAC is very open to exploring possibilties of how it can help more people more often. This could involve:
- checking with more newspapers or radio channels about their willingness to carry some of the information posted on FAC
- ideating on or starting an ‘Indian Giving League/Give-a-thon’-type initiative that could involve IPLers or celebrities on Twitter to mobilise their readers to give (more)
- helping a company design its CSR activities
What makes FundACause a best practice case has partly been answered by the responses to the question on background/need.
FAC makes it possible for us to know about several people’s stories and their living conditions and therein lies its significance. Some of these stories are accessible to people only through FAC and not through any other public forum. This is because the two websites that receive such mails but are unable to act on them have been sending them to FAC since the past few months.
FAC was nominated by people on Twitter for the indianwomensocmedia hashtag created by Gautam Ghosh.
View those tweets and read the article on FAC that appeared in JAM magazine and on bombayinspires.com at http://tinyurl.com/FAC-RecognitionInMedia
Some compliments that FAC has received: http://tinyurl.com/FAC-Testimonials
Name of the company: FundACause
Case submitted by: Chandni Parekh