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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Give in kind, not cash

DonateKart is an online crowdsourcing platform that helps NGOS collect products they require

Volunteering during the 2015 Chennai floods gave Anil Reddy an insight: Most donations in kind are wasteful. Also, if people can buy products for themselves online, why can't they buy them and get them delivered to those in need?

Mr. Reddy and his friend, Sandeep Sharma, who were then students of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology in Nagpur, turned their backs on a lucrative career through campus placements, and decided to do something about the problem that vexed Mr. Reddy. With funds cobbled together from their savings and help from friends, they launched DonateKart in December 2016, soon after they completed their engineering.

The idea behind the online venture was simple: People are often skeptical about donating money to NGOs because they don't get to see the impact. DonateKart aims to bring in clarity and transparency to the process, so more people will contribute to charities. Rather than seek a sum of money for a cause, DonateKart helps NGOs start crowd-sourcing campaigns by listing the products they need on their website. From stationery, blankets, groceries and utensils to medical equipment, NGOs can raise anything for free. The beneficiaries are the underprivileged, even as the website aims to serve government-recognised NGOs in the social space.

Mr. Reddy says, "Donatekart is a crowdfunding platform that lets anyone donate products to NGOs. As 70% of the money raised by NGOs is usually used in procuring products, we are making these donations transparent by helping NGOs get the products directly from donors using our platform."

Over a year, the venture has expanded to a team of eight, and has helped 80 NGOs raise products worth Rs. 40 lakh, from nearly 2,000 donors.

Linking NGOs, donors

"We believe in completely revolutionising the philanthropic space so that donors can contribute only to credible NGOs," says co-founder Sandeep Sharma.

The e-commence platform organises a reverse bidding drive, collaborating with vendors across the country. In the usual bidding process, consideration is given to the one who gives the money. Here, the receivers of goods are given priority.

Here's how the process works: Whenever any NGO approaches DonateKart to launch an online campaign for the cause that they look to address, they provide them with a list of products. The NGOs can then share this catalogue — which includes 700 different products that any NGO might require — on Donatekart. The NGOs then pick the required quantity of the product they need and start a campaign for a time period of about 30-45 days.

Under this timeline, the NGO promotes the campaign on social media, with hashtags, emails, tweets and other ways to keep donors in the loop. The donors on their part can visit the website and choose the products they want to donate. They then pay for these products online. "At the end of the campaign, whatever product donations the NGO gains, are delivered to them. The donors are later given updates with photos and videos," says Mr. Reddy.

The NGO takes care of the campaign promotions on Donatekart. "We help them, by suggesting tried-and-tested techniques to get more donations. Further assistance includes making posters, writing content and emails. NGOs have marked a 3x increase in their donor base and contributions due to these efforts," says Mr. Reddy.

Donors, too, find the system useful. Hari Repala, a donor who lives in the US, said the platform made it easy for him to contribute. "I want to help people, but am reluctant to donate money. DonateKart allowed me to donate products and ensured that it got to the needy."

Overcoming Odds

One of the major challenges during the initial days was explaining the concept of DonateKart to NGOs. "While approaching NGOs, we were mistaken for some of the others in the field who ask for donations. Eventually, we got around to propagating the idea of DonateKart being a mediating platform, that helps them raise campaigns and donate."

Mr. Reddy says DonateKart is a self-sustaining platform, with no commission in the picture. With the support of Zone Startups India, a startup accelerator, DonateKart runs a number of campaigns in Mumbai.

The founders had no doubts about starting their venture in Mumbai. "Since there are multiple NGOs and corporate offices in Mumbai, it becomes easier to reach out to all the stakeholders. We aim to acquaint people with the idea of crowdfunding. We try to instill transparency and clarity in charity," says Mr. Sharma.

For the moment, DonateKart is focused children and education, and recently ventured into personal causes and animal welfare. "There is also a lot of potential in religious causes, where donors need transparency in terms of how their donations are utilised," says Mr. Reddy.

In the next few months, DonateKart aims to bring more NGOs to the platform. "We have plans to hire more people. Till now we have seen growth simply on then back of word-of-mouth publicity. Now we will go out and talk about the model we have built," says Mr. Reddy.

https://www.donatekart.com

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/give-in-kind-not-cash/article19166531.ece

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