Small is big

The value of small donations is recognized by not-for-profits of all sizes. This is why crowdfunding agencies design their fundraising campaigns around individual donations


A donation of Rs450 can fund a child’s midday meal at school for a whole year. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
A donation of Rs450 can fund a child’s midday meal at school for a whole year. Pradeep Gaur/Mint

New Delhi: People often hesitate to give money, especially small amounts, to non-profits thinking that such small sums would make little difference to anyone’s life. But those working in the field say no amount is too small.

Rina Soni, director (public engagement) at Oxfam India, said, “Small donations are incredibly important. Every grant made by a donor towards a programme has a multidimensional and multifaceted impact. However, the intensity of the impact may vary for different stakeholders depending on the nature of the grant, type of the programme and the expected outcome per beneficiary.”

Oxfam India, a not-for-profit, works with more than 60 more grass-roots organizations to empower underprivileged communities in the areas of health, education, gender justice, economic rights and disaster risk reduction.

In fiscal year 2016, Oxfam raised Rs17.53 crore from corporates as well as 32,092 individual donors.

Soni said that a donation of about Rs1,100-1,200, for example, can help provide a hygiene kit to a family of five in a humanitarian crisis. A kit of this kind typically includes items such as buckets, mugs, washing and bathing soaps, combs, antiseptic liquid and menstrual support materials. On the other hand, a behavioural change programme, such as changing the attitude towards violence in a village, would require a minimum grant of Rs20 lakh per year, she added.

Soni explained how even smaller sums of money help. For instance, Rs800 could help fund the education of a child for an entire month, while Rs1,500 could cover healthcare as well as education costs for a month.

The value of small donations is recognized by not-for-profits of all sizes. This is why crowdfunding agencies increasingly design their fundraising campaigns around individual donations.

“The campaigns are focused on presenting individual beneficiary stories in order to help donors connect with the cause, individual or institution they choose to fund,” said Ishita Anand, co-founder and chief executive of crowdfunding website BitGiving. For donors, it is often not just about the money but also about participating and having a positive impact, she said. Such specific stories help them feel like they are part of the change.

Anand points to an ongoing campaign by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) under which the non-profit is looking to train sniffer dogs to catch animal poachers. WWF needs Rs1 lakh for each dog. However, this is broken down into units such as Rs3,000 per month for a dog’s dietary needs and Rs6,000 per dog for “super hero” equipment, which includes grooming kits, leash, harness, coat, neck collar, feeding plate, towel and balls.

At Caritas India, a humanitarian aid organization, individual donations have only recently been added to the portfolio of fundraising. According to its communications officer, Amrit Sangma: “These donations are important because it sows seeds of interest among individuals to extend support irrespective of how much or less they can afford to give. This also establishes a sense of community between the do-gooders no matter who they are or where they are from.”

After the recent Bihar and Assam floods, Caritas raised Rs2.89 lakh from 192 donors from across India. One volunteer reached out to 65 donors, 17 of whom contributed between Rs100 and Rs200. An amount of Rs2,450 can support a family of five people with dry ration for two months in emergency situations like floods. For example, after the Bihar floods, Rs4,800 was able to provide food kits for three families for two months.

With organizations becoming more transparent and technology savvy, the impact of a donation has become easier to follow. Sangma said small donors can follow-up on their donations and see the impact they have made. “And if they see positive impact of their donations they are eager to give again,” he added.

Sangma’s views are echoed by Mumbai-based HelpYourNGO, a non-fundraising agency set up in 2002, that provides detailed financial records of “credible” not-for-profit or non-governmental organizations to help donors choose where to put their money. The agency has a list of close to 700 not-for-profit organizations.

HelpYourNGO chief executive Pradeep Mahtani said, “The two key factors that make people hesitant to give money are—the size of the donation and whether it will be used in the right manner. Small individual donations address both these concerns of donors.”

He said more people need to be encouraged to give small sums of money and since smaller amounts are easier to set aside or give away, they can pave the way for trust in donors about the impact of the money and perhaps future commitments as well.  

Mahtani points out that Rs450 can fund a child’s midday meal at school for a whole year, while Rs500 covers the transportation cost of a child with a cleft-lip for his or her surgery. “Small amounts may seem insignificant to the donor but they add up in the larger scheme of things and help tremendously,” he said.

READ MORE