While there are many among us who willingly donate money to NGOs if we are convinced about their work, some shy away because they doubt whether the funds will be put to right use. To get rid of this obstacle, two young engineers set up a platform that helps link donors and NGOs in a systematic and transparent way.
If you have ever donated or contributed money to an NGO, you must have wondered if it is being put to good use or not. To dispel such doubts and make donations as transparent as possible, two 21-year-old engineers said no to well-paying jobs to begin a unique crowdsourcing e-commerce platform called Donatekart. Instead of specifying the amount of money they need, NGOs that start crowd-funding campaigns on Donatekart have to list the product(s) they need (like 500 sweaters, 200 caps, 200 pencils, etc.).
Assume that an orphanage needs groceries, stationary, pencils, etc. — items that they would have bought if they had the money. The e-commerce platform collaborates with vendors from all over the country who provide these materials and fixes the price for each product through a reverse bidding process, which is displayed on the website. Upon viewing the campaign, people pay for the required products online, through Donatekart.
Donors can add the products they want to pay for by adding them to their carts and paying the equivalent amount, which is essentially as good as donating money. The cost of products can vary from a mere Rs. 2 to over Rs. 1 lakh.
The Donatekart team: Anil Kumar Reddy and Sandeep Sharma in the centre, Tejo Guna, Design Head (left) and Nishant Kumar, Technical Head (right).
Once the campaign is over, Donatekart buys the product(s) and delivers directly to the organisation. To make the process more transparent, the organization sends photos of the final delivery of goods to the donors.
The idea to start Donatekart sprung over a year ago. Anil Kumar Reddy and Sandeep Sharma, both recent NIT Nagpur graduates, always had an interest in social work and enterprise. They were part of their college social club Prayas and organised a number of events and social entrepreneurship conferences where they invited eminent social workers and NGOs to speak to the students. Following this, they took their thirst for social work a step forward and interned with NGOs such as Goonj during their summer break.
It was the devastating Chennai floods in December 2015 that gave Anil the inspiration to start Dontekart. When Anil went there as a volunteer with Goonj, he realised there was a gap between what flood-affected people actually needed and what was being donated. “A major problem I noticed was that no one knew what the affected needed. The flood-affected areas required bed-sheets, mosquito nets, tarpaulins but people didn’t provide these materials per se. Instead, they contributed more food and water,” Anil points out.
He also noticed how people were using e-commerce sites like Amazon and Flipkart to buy rice and groceries and were sending them to the NGO’s collection centres.
This was their major inspiration to start — the fact that people prefer donating in kind knowing what products they are paying for rather than just donating money. Donatekart’s only requirement is that once NGOs or individuals put up the campaigns on the website, they must be able to market the same to their donors in order to gain more traction.
“The campaign is held for a specific period of time (30-45 days), which can be decided by the organisation or individual depending on the size of the campaign. Additionally, they must be able to spread the word through social media to attract donors although we help in making campaign videos and posters for them,” says Anil.
So far, they have run 12 campaigns across eight organisations since their launch during Diwali this year. They have raised more than Rs. 10 lakh so far. Sphoorti Foundation, a Hyderabad-based orphanage has run three campaigns on Donatekart. The orphanage with 227 kids needed stationary like pens, pencils and sports equipment such as cricket sets, tennis balls, etc. They set up a campaign and within a week received Rs 46,000 worth of the required products. “The process is very transparent and donors believe this would lead to a lesser chance of misuse of funds,” says Srivyal Vuyyuri, the founder of Sphoorti Foundation.
The next campaign for sweaters worth Rs 75,000 saw greater response and was completed within a week.
In the wake of demonetization, NGOs too are facing a cash crunch. Maa Illu, a Warangal-based NGO saw a dip in cash contributions after demonetization. How would people make any donations when they did not have enough cash even for themselves? “In an attempt to receive in kind, we created a campaign for this NGO. Within 2-3 days we were able to raise Rs 80,000 worth of products like rice, dal, tamarind, oil, washing soap, toothpaste,” says Anil. It has been their most successful campaign so far.
Functioning with a small team of six members, Donatekart faced its fair share of obstacles while setting up the business.
“NGOs did not want to try out our platform since they already had several campaigns running on other crowd-funding websites. Some even refused because we are a start-up and not well-known,” shares Sandeep Sharma who has had a keen interest in social work since his college days.
Sandeep had worked for three months before he quit his job to pursue his interest in Donatekart. Anil, on the other hand, said no to a lucrative job offer.
“My mother did not know much about the start-up culture in India and was initially not happy with my decision. But my elder brother convinced her,” says Sandeep.
Donatekart is a completely free platform where anyone can come and start a campaign within a few minutes. They do not charge the organisation anything, and even the shipping is free. To know more about their work or donate, you can check out their website or contact them on Facebook.