Technology has given charity an impetus as people can now donate online to many causes
Athreya, a banker, was going through the morning newspaper when an advertisement from a children's orphanage seeking donations caught his eye. He quickly looked up its website, read testimonials from earlier donors, and transferred funds to the NGO's account, even before he left for work. “I felt so good. Happy that I was able to make a difference, and happier that the process was so easy,” he says.
Online donations are catching up. Recognising the trend, many NGOs provide an online platform for this, or tie up with another NGO that facilitates online donations.
Take, for instance, the Chennai-based True Gifts. An initiative of the Bhoomika Trust, it serves as a link between many NGOs and prospective donors. Once you visit the site, you can choose to donate anything from Rs. 200 to upwards of Rs. 10,000 for the causes listed. From providing fruits to children to buying a ceiling fan for a hospital ward, anything is possible.
So, is there a spurt in donations around festivals? Says Latha Subramaniam, programme manager, Bhoomika Trust: “There is an increase yes, but nothing very substantial, because we don't really advertise. We rely on word-of-mouth promotion. Some of these donations are online, a few offline. Older people feel more comfortable walking into our office, and seeing what we do before making a donation. The younger set, especially those living out of town or the country, find it easier to make an e-transaction.”
True Gifts uploads causes as and when the participating NGOs come out with their wish list. Usually, Deepavali wishes centre around new clothes, sweets and crackers, says Latha.
At Udavum Karangal, the Chennai-based NGO (it has two centres in Coimbatore), which looks after more than 2,000 orphaned children, destitutes, and people with HIV, AIDS and mental illness, online donations are slowly increasing.
“These transactions are so convenient,” says Papa Vidyakar, founder, Udavum Karangal. “Also, Deepavali is a time for giving. Contributions are always high. Also, how to donate is a matter of mental make-up. Some people want to visit the place they are making a donation to; others do it on impulse — either online or by using drop boxes. Our online presence helps a lot, be it the website or our facebook page,” he adds.
Another advantage to online donations, says Vidyakar, is the immediacy of the transaction. “You think of donating something this moment, and the next moment it is done. You don't get the time to ponder about the act and change your mind.” During Deepavali, his organisation usually receives sweets, special meals and fruits. “We don't really encourage crackers now. We are trying to teach the children that it is a festival of lights, not crackers,” he says.
Families for Children, Podanur, which houses 350 children, including children with special needs, does have a website, but online donations are limited to Canada and the U.S. In Coimbatore, people prefer coming in person, says Festus Christian, administrator. “We have been getting new clothes and sweets this festive season.”
Not just for children, people like donating for senior citizens too. Indrani Rajadurai, special advisor, HelpAge India, says a lot of people do go online during festivals to spread cheer to the underprivileged. “This is a time when people want others to be happy. And so, we see them making donations towards specific causes. Some might want to adopt a granny or gift a senior citizen vision,” she explains.
However, despite the convenience of online transactions, some believe in sticking to the traditional method of donation, which is always tied to a special event in their lives or a festival. “I plan my donations for the year well in advance. It is never on an impulse. At the most, I might give in if I get a moving flyer from an NGO, or if an old age home approaches me around the time of my father's anniversary. Then, I make a departure,” says V. Ananthanarayanan, who works in the life insurance business.