Friendicoes: Not shutting down, for now

Crowdfunding has come to the rescue of a well-known animal welfare organization


Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Photographs by Pradeep Gaur/Mint

A sustained social media campaign and crowdfunding have helped Friendicoes-SECA, a 36-year-old animal welfare organization, avert the threat of closure.

On 13 August, Friendicoes, which cares for 2,000-plus animals across four facilities in the National Capital Region, put out word on its Facebook page that it would have to shut down services like the night ambulance, as well as its shelter in Defence Colony, Delhi, if it failed to raise Rs.82 lakh to pay medical and food bills, among other dues.

At the time of going to press, Friendicoes had 59,514 “likes” on Facebook—a community of confirmed animal lovers. The original “Friendicoes Under Threat of Closure Due to Lack of Funds” post of 13 August was shared more than 1,600 times. Regular posts are still going out on Friendicoes’ Facebook page detailing the items for which money is owed and how supporters can contribute. Friendicoes has also been using its Facebook page to highlight that the municipal corporations owe it more than Rs.30 lakh under their animal birth control or sterilization programme.

Of the Rs.82 lakh, Friendicoes urgently needed Rs.20 lakh. So, on 25 August, it launched the “Let’s Save Friendicoes From Shutting Down” campaign on the BitGiving crowdfunding platform: The campaign raised more than Rs.10 lakh on Day 1. “The last time we saw a response like that on the platform was for Nepal earthquake relief,” says Ishita Anand, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of BitGiving.

The campaign target was revised to Rs.40 lakh soon after launch.

“It’s very unusual to revise the funding target,” says Anand. “The amount was raised in response to funders saying it should be more,” she adds. At the time of going to press, Friendicoes had raised Rs.32,72,230 from 1,128 people, who contributed amounts ranging from Rs.150-50,000.

Anand says there are several reasons why Friendicoes’ campaign has been such a success. “The most important things in a crowdfunding campaign are to convey your story to the contributors and tell them what the urgency is,” she says. Friendicoes met both these criteria, and it is supporting the fund-raising effort by creating a “buzz” in other ways, like a Thunderclap “crowd-speaking” event that goes live today at noon—Friendicoes will post a one-time message on the Facebook timelines of more than 1,600 signees. This is expected to be seen by nearly one million people.

Part of the reason Friendicoes dug itself into the Rs.82 lakh hole is because it doesn’t turn away animals in need of care—even when the people who rescue animals from the street can’t pay, or when a sick or old pet is abandoned at the Defence Colony centre. “Every morning, we find dogs abandoned at the shelter. We have to take them in,” says Geeta Seshamani, vice-president, Friendicoes-SECA.

All the activity so far is geared to paying off the debt. What about funds thereafter? “We’ve never asked for money till our backs were pushed to the wall,” says Seshamani, acknowledging that Friendicoes perhaps needs a regular fund-raising effort.

Abodh Aras, CEO of Welfare of Stray Dogs, a Mumbai-based non-profit, says, “In India, where there are so many human miseries, it is difficult to raise money for animal shelters.”

Anand says it might help if Friendicoes could devise a strategy to divide the work it does into distinct blocks and ask for funding for these separately. This might also help raise awareness about its work.

That might be a good thing: Did you know, for instance, that Friendicoes cares for retired police horses at its “Lifetime Sanctuary” in a faraway corner of Gurgaon? If the horses hadn’t been taken in by it, they would have been auctioned off. “Typically, tongawallas buy them. At 22-23 years, the horses are too old to carry loads,” says Seshamani.

Friendicoes’ Defence Colony shelter has at least 300 injured or sick animals, including dogs, cats and a monkey. Some of the dogs have terrible wounds, like one whose snout had been tied up by someone with metal wire.
Friendicoes’ Defence Colony shelter has at least 300 injured or sick animals, including dogs, cats and a monkey. Some of the dogs have terrible wounds, like one whose snout had been tied up by someone with metal wire.

Horses at the Lifetime Sanctuary in Gurgaon, which has separate sections for horses, donkeys, cows, dogs and cats. There are more than 60 horses here—they eat 200kg of oats, 50kg of wheat bran and 50kg of dalia in a day.
Horses at the Lifetime Sanctuary in Gurgaon, which has separate sections for horses, donkeys, cows, dogs and cats. There are more than 60 horses here—they eat 200kg of oats, 50kg of wheat bran and 50kg of dalia in a day.

The dogs get a meal of rice and buffalo meat or chicken.
The dogs get a meal of rice and buffalo meat or chicken.

Dogs are abandoned every day by their owners, who simply leave them at the Defence Colony shelter at night. The friendly ones, like this golden labrador, are free to mingle with the people and animals who come to the clinic.
Dogs are abandoned every day by their owners, who simply leave them at the Defence Colony shelter at night. The friendly ones, like this golden labrador, are free to mingle with the people and animals who come to the clinic.

Dog sterilization in progress at the Lifetime Sanctuary. Veterinarian Abhishek Singh says he performs 20-45 such operations in a day. The street dogs are given rabies vaccine at the same time.
Dog sterilization in progress at the Lifetime Sanctuary. Veterinarian Abhishek Singh says he performs 20-45 such operations in a day. The street dogs are given rabies vaccine at the same time.

The Gurgaon shelter has 70 cats, with nooks and shelves where the animals can play to their heart’s content or curl up for a nap.
The Gurgaon shelter has 70 cats, with nooks and shelves where the animals can play to their heart’s content or curl up for a nap.

Zarina, who has been volunteering at Friendicoes for over 10 years, feeds milk to a four-day-old kitten with a bottle.
Zarina, who has been volunteering at Friendicoes for over 10 years, feeds milk to a four-day-old kitten with a bottle.

Every day, the staffers at the Defence Colony shelter take the dogs for walks in groups of five-six.
Every day, the staffers at the Defence Colony shelter take the dogs for walks in groups of five-six.

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