Thinking of fundraising to help feed the hungry during the Corona crisis?

And do not know how to start? Kumar Manish can help you with a few quick tips and suggestions. Manish is one of the team members behind #AhmedabadFightsCorona – an initiative that has managed to raise over 1.84 lakh rupees in just two days since the 21-day lockdown in India was announced.

The team is not only raising the money, they are also deploying it – that is, working on the ground to use that money to help reach groceries to those who need it the most but have no means or money to procure it for themselves.

Who are these people that need help? These are people who live on the streets or run their small businesses on the street – labourers working on now-closed construction sites or odd jobs, daily wagers, street food vendors, or even senior citizens who live on their own and who suddenly find themselves isolated and stranded.

If you have felt a deep sense of unease over the fact that you are privileged enough to be able to buy and stock groceries during this difficult time but several people simply can’t and want to do something to make a difference in your own city, here are a few suggestions from Manish that can help you get started.

When can you start? Right away!

We started with this initiative on the night of the announcement of the lockdown itself. The minute I heard the speech, I thought about the repercussions this would have on the most vulnerable in our society. People who depend on a daily income to get through each day. They have little in the means of savings, for there are no opportunities to save in the meagre income they make. 

I contacted like-minded people and organisations. We had to decide on three key things very quickly. The organisation part of the campaign. The strategy. The right contacts. In terms of how we got a team together, it was important that we all knew each other offline as well as online. There was a trust, we all shared a certain credibility through our work and core values.  

We knew what we wanted to do. Raise funds, promote the fundraiser, and deploy the funds for those who needed it, without delay. Because hunger can’t wait.

What are the building blocks for starting a fundraiser?

I would say that there are six key steps and I can run through them quickly and briefly here.

The first is: selecting a good payment platform. When you are raising funds digitally, you need a robust payment gateway that doesn’t put off people who have good intentions but are ticked off by a cumbersome process of transferring funds. It has to be a quick and a hassle-free process. When we selected a gateway, we first did a trial transfer and it was an instant and efficient process. A friend did the next transfer and she echoed that it worked on the first try for her. A few more transfers and we were ready to go.

The second is: content. The content has to be emotive and with a clear call to action. At a time of a crisis of such magnitude, everyone wants to do their bit. However, your content has to say and do the right things. It has to also carry your personal credibility and credibility is currency on social media. In the online world, credibility helps break through the clutter of fake news and dubious or suspicious claims and campaigns. We created a detailed draft – from keywords, hashtags, tailored content for social media, the right bitly link as well as appealing graphics that build a sense of ‘us’, of being in this together. Remember, there will be people who may not be able to contribute monetarily, but if your content is right, they will share it among others – via their social media channels and this helps tremendously as well.

The third is: social media and communication. People are willing to help. They need a trusted individual/set of trusted individuals and a good platform. All the members of the team used their social media to promote and spread the word about this campaign. We used all forms of social media – WhatsApp groups, Instagram stories, Twitter, Facebook groups and our content was shared and circulated widely among different and diverse groups. Here’s the announcement tweet on my Twitter feed – just an example of how to get it started.

The fourth is: coordinating with local authorities, NGOs and resources. This bit is important in a campaign like this one. Especially because in a time of a lockdown, where no one is supposed to be on the streets, if you coordinate with those who are already on the ground, you will be able to reach people faster and effectively. This means that we have access to information – which areas or group of people are awaiting help, which areas have already been looked after and so on. Coordinating with the local authorities meant that the Elixir volunteers got an official letter that helped them navigate the lockdown and gave them access to the stranded individuals and families.

The fifth is: use a mix of technologies available to help reach your goal. We used Zoom for conference calls, WhatsApp groups for coordinating our volunteers, Google docs and maps. Just a few examples – use what works for your team the best.

And the sixth and last bit is – sharing updates. It is vital for a campaign to share field updates. The volunteers, team members as well as contributors and supporters of the campaign will want to know and be motivated by the fact that help is reaching those who need it. It will also nudge a lot of people to contribute to the fundraiser because they see that real work is happening on the ground.

Just one more thing…

While sharing updates and keeping a record of the success stories is important, please avoid taking pictures of children, or selfies with those that you have helped. Maintain the dignity of those who you are privileged to help at all times. Remember, we are in this together.

Instead take photographs of the groceries that you have been able to deliver, say perhaps close-ups of the hands with the groceries, but please do respect the privacy and dignity of the families you are helping.

That’s about it. Good luck with your campaign.

((Overall, the campaign was able to raise 25 lakhs through crowdfunding, and 45 lakh worth of donations in kind. This in turn meant they could help 35,000 plus individuals with ration kits, serve 4 lakh plus meals, distribute 9000 plus ration kits and help with over 7500 PPE kits…)

            

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