CHENNAI: When six-year-old Vivash was first diagnosed with Disseminated Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive form of cancer, his parents spared no effort to give him the best possible medical care available in the city.
Starting treatment at Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre, they were soon struggling to keep up financially after the initial round of radiation therapy cost Rs 11 lakh.
That’s when a doctor from the hospital introduced them to Milaap, a crowdfunding platform. They realised they could depend on the benevolence of strangers online to help save their son and started a campaign on Milaap with the target of Rs 10 lakh. They were successful and now, Vivash is undergoing chemotherapy and responding well to treatment.
Vivash’s is not an isolated case. Many people have been taking to medical crowdfunding to meet the burgeoning demands of treatment. “Crowdfunding websites make it more organised for individuals to collect funds for a legitimate reason,” explains Anoj Vishwanathan, co-founder, Milaap, started in 2010.
To tap into the segment of users that would benefit from medical crowdfunding, these sites started tie-ups with doctors and hospitals to ensure that deserving patients would be given priority. “Medical campaigns account for more than one third of all causes uploaded onto our platform,” explains Varun Sheth, co-founder, Ketto, another prominent online crowdfunding platform. “We also maintain contacts with social and medical aid workers who actually know of cases that might otherwise slip under the radar.”
Anoj points out that doctors themselves have been taking the initiative to mobilise support. “The rates of survival are high if proper albeit timely treatment is provided. By tying up with doctors, our campaigns not only get authenticity but it also expands their reach,” he adds.
Several doctors too run charitable organisations that help people (especially children) with advanced diseases — like Dr Priya Ramachandran from Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital, who founded the Ray of Light Foundation. “Children have the highest rates of cure in cancer, and anyone who wishes to donate will find that they have an absolutely genuine reason to do so — to save lives,” she says.
Surprisingly, nearly 50% of all contributions in each case come from strangers! “Milaap has been able to raise close to Rs 10 crore in Chennai itself, for the benefit of nearly 350 patients across city hospitals like Apollo, Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre, CHILDS Trust and Kauvery,” adds Anoj.
“The highest amount we’ve raised at Ketto was close to Rs 1 crore for a complicated cancer case early last year. It did take some time for the concept of crowdfunding to reach people,” avers Varun. “We also have an 80% completion rate for most of our campaigns. We get a lot of campaigns from CMC Vellore, apart from Apollo Hospitals and Fortis.” Hospitals generally have non-profit foundations to help patients, and if directly transferred to the foundation, the donor can also claim income tax benefits.
Crowdfunding sites also boost certain campaigns on social media so that they can get some traction on Facebook or Twitter. Global crowdfunding platform Crowdera, for example, urges someone from the beneficiary’s side to act as a Chief Enthusiasm Officer, who keeps supporters updated with emails and boosts chances of funding. Apart from that, they’ve also eased the ways to contribute — such as direct transfer through mobile wallets.
PROMINENT CROWDFUNDING SITES