HYDERABAD: Crowdfunding is changing the way people are realising their dreams, and how! Apart from raising money for medical treatments, more and people are turning to this mode to raise money for projects close to their heart. Whether you are contesting elections or saving a community radio service, like-minded people are using the Internet to spread the word and contribute to causes they identify with.
According to a report by Nilekani Philanthropies, the term crowdfunding comes from ‘crowdsourcing’, a way to draw ideas, perspectives and labour from a large number of participants, and commonly refers to an open call for donations through internet-based platforms.
Take the example of Ravadi Kantha Rao, a 30-year-old former social worker, who is contesting as an independent candidate from Peddapalli constituency in Telangana. On the lines of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, he is using a crowdfunding platform to raise money.
“I had been raising funds for various activities in my NGO, and that’s why I chose to crowdfund for my political campaign too. I have collected `1,52,000 in 20 days, and some 35 people donated this amount. Since a political career is a risky step for me with no guaranteed outcome, I decided to not use my own or my parents’ money. Politicians traditionally take the money from others, or sell their own properties, but I don’t want to do that.”
Talking about his expenses and the downside of crowdfunding for political campaigns, Kantha Rao said: “The major expenses are for paper ads, TV ads, nomination filing, disclosure of criminal cases and campaigning. I have heard that one guy from Musheerabad in Hyderabad too is going through crowdfunding. Jignesh Mevani went for crowdfunding in Gujarat. However, people hesitate to contribute towards a political campaign as whenever anyone makes a donation to a person like me, other political parties try to take pick on that donor. Most of the donations I got are from known sources, and only little amount is from unknown sources. Since it’s a political campaign, there cannot be any anonymous donor as I have to reveal the names of all my donors as part of audit.”
Kantha Rao also raised the issue of charges levied by popular crowdfunding platforms. “I am not going through a typical crowdfunding platform but through Meraevents.com as the vendor is local. Also, these popular platforms charge 10% of your collections excluding GST. I was not okay with it.”
Crowdfunding is also being used to help grieving families. Recently, money was raised through the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe to bring back the body of Telangana student Sharath Koppu, who was shot dead at a restaurant in Kansas city. $25,000 was raised in three hours as outrage over his death spread throughout the country. In another case, good samaritans got together to raise money to help the first authentic community radio service in India survive. Sangham Radio, which operates from Machnoor village at Jharasangham mandal in Sangareddy district, is owned and run by peasant women from the socio economic margins of the society who have no space in the dominant media.
Through the crowdfunding platform Milaap, the radio service has managed to raise `6,12,798 till now. Similarly, Jasper Paul, a social activist, is using crowdfunding to provide medical care and a safe haven to the destitute in Hyderabad. Stating that crowdfunding is now helping raise money for many off-beat projects other than medical causes, Anoj Viswanathan, president and co-founder of Milaap, said: “We see a lot of community-related campaigns. Up to a certain point, the only way to contribute to a cause was to go through a renowned NGO. Now, crowdfunding has given opportunity to people to support local causes. Let’s Be the Change is an organisation in Bengaluru which cleans up and beautifies places anonymously, and they have raised funds through us. Dr Uday Modi, who provides free food to the elderly who have been abandoned by their families, raised over `1.3 crore. Dr Ramana Rao runs a free clinic for the last 40 year and has raised `63 lakh.”
Speaking about the various ways crowdfunding is being used to realise dreams, Shashank Gandrapu, the concept founder of Hyderabad-based platform Goodclap, said: “We have seen the application of crowdfunding in three places – personal: you want to make a music album, or you want to go for an expedition to the North Pole, causes: raising money for injured persons, education, health or environment, and innovation projects: you invest in a start-up and get an equity in return.”
Giving an example of how a creative project saw the light of the day through crowdfunding, VV Bhargava Sai Kiran, Goodclap’s founding team member said: “Karthick Iyer, the violinist from Chennai, crowdfunded for their third album, Two Sides of Karma, through us. They raised `2,80,000. This was a reward-based funding in which the band invited people to contribute in exchange for some kind of reward. It could be special tickets, tote bags, t-shirts etc. They were successful in making their album this way. They also acknowledge the contributions of these people on social media. So, it’s a win-win proposition.”
A few other platforms like Donatekart are using contributors’ money to buy articles to bring in more transparency. Speaking to Express, Anil Reddy, CEO and co-founder of Donatekart, said: “On our website, we list different articles required by NGOs. For eg an NGO might need school bags. So the website provides them the option to donate money for the school bags. Donatecart then donates school bags to the NGO, rather than paying the money. One major constraint in crowdfunding is that people wonder if the cause is genuine or not. So we send the donors pictures of the bags and show them where their money went. We have helped raise over `5 crore worth of material through 30,000 donors across the world.”
So, if you have a dream, and fire in your belly, crowdfunding is the way to get grooving.
— Kakoli Mukherjee