During the Chennai floods, LetzChange helped an NGO raise Rs 1 crore in less than a week.

LetzChange an online portal that verifies NGOs and makes your decision to give easierLetzChange
Features NGOs Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - 17:37

With enough social inequities and problems confronting the country, there’s always room for those who want to contribute to a good cause. However, there are one too many NGOs mushrooming in our cities and towns and it’s difficult to pick out the genuine ones from the crowd.

How do you ensure that you’re not contributing to a bogus organisation? And how can an organisation convince you that they are not out to cheat you?

This is where LetzChange, an online portal which seeks to establish a culture of giving in India, steps in. Set up in 2014 by Vikrant Bhargava, an alumnus from IIT and IIM, LetzChange has built a robust network of over 200 non-profit organisations across the country.

Where does your money go?

Speaking to The News Minute, Rahul Chovva, the CEO of LetzChange, says, “We have raised more than INR 4 Crore since setting up operations and the current 20 member team operates from Gurugram. As a philanthropy and a not-for-profit company, LetzChange does not possess a conventional revenue model. We are solely funded and mentored by our founder Mr. Vikrant Bhargava.”

This means that whatever contribution you make on the site directly goes to the NGO you wish to support.

Confirming this, Dr Prahalathan of Bhumi, a non-profit set up in 2006 for underprivileged children and combating civic issues, says, “Not only does the platform transfer 100% of the funds donated to non-profits, they also provide bonuses during campaigns to help us improve the effectiveness of our campaigns and also the organisation as a whole.”

Bhumi currently operates from 12 cities across India and has been registered with LetzChange from the portal’s inception.

Venkatesh of Vidya Poshak, a non-profit working in the education field since 2001, says, “Vidya Poshak has never tried crowdfunding or individual online fundraising before LetzChange associated with us. We have benefitted hugely by LetzChange as their programmes and processes are very simple and the donors are finding it very easy and simple to donate online through them.”

Is your NGO eligible?

Asked what process an NGO has to undergo to be listed on the site, Chovva says, “Once a proactive relationship is built with a non-profit, the initial certificates required to be verified are the NGO’s Registration Certificate, 80G, 35 AC and 12A certificates along with the FCRA. Further legal compliance involves verification of the organisation’s PAN card, annual and audit reports along with the income tax return acknowledgment for the last financial year.”

However, once an NGO has been registered, it needs to remain active on the portal and succeed in raising a minimum of Rs. 25,000 in the first month and INR 1,00,000 in a single financial year. Yearly checks and updates of documents are also part of the practice.

There are several non-profits registered on the site but LetzChange does not permit ones with religious affiliations to come on board. Chovva says this is because the primary focus of the organisation is to include NGOs working for diverse causes and not those who ‘discriminate the beneficiaries on the basis of caste, religion or creed’.

Verified non-profits which work in politically sensitive areas like refugee, riot or terrorist activity victim rehab are, however, welcome.

Innovative campaigns

Easy and efficient navigation is necessary to encourage people to donate online. LetzChange allows donors to create campaigns for the charity they support and also helps them use their social network to reach out to friends and relatives with a click.

Asked about some of the innovative campaigns that LetzChange has run, Chovva mentions the Spotlight campaign which was a ‘matching grant scheme’ - donations (up to a certain limit) were matched, which meant non-profits received double the money that they’d received from donors!

There’s also the LetzChange Fundraising Challenge through which non-profits raise funds and also win rewards according to their performance.

Chovva says, “In the first edition, the competition resulted in a total raise of Rs 1.14 Crore from close to 5000 donations and as many as 9 NGOs surpassed the biggest benchmark to grab the maximum rewards. In the 2016-17 edition, the total number of unique donations were in excess of 8,000, while the total amount raised was about a crore.”

He adds that this year, the challenge has been branded on a bigger scale as the ‘Giving Premier League’, with NGOs being divided into teams representing the region they belong to.

Utkarsh of Delhi-based non-profit BloodConnect, which works towards solving the problem of blood shortage, says, “The 'LetzChange Fundraising Challenge’ happens in the 4th quarter of every financial year, and is an event in itself at BloodConnect, when our volunteers come together to raise funds for the cause we believe in. We have raised more than Rs 10 lakh with an incremental growth in the number of supporters every year cumulating to 1100+ supporters until now. Apart from fundraising, we keep receiving adequate marketing assistance from them.”

Image courtesy: Bhumi; Relief supplies collected for Chennai Floods.

LetzChange has kicked into action during times of crises, too. During the Chennai floods of December 2015, for instance, Bhumi managed to raise around Rs 1 crore in less than a week to help rehabilitate flood victims through LetzChange. There are also campaigns run during popular local festivals and giving initiatives like Daan Utsav and Giving Tuesday.

How does India give?

Some causes are more popular than others. Chovva points out that there are several NGOs working in India for education and child welfare – because there’s so much to be done in the area.

“They also have an instant connect with the people of the society,” he says. “Because the availability of education in remote areas is limited, a lot of organizations wish to ensure that this problem diminishes in the near future. On LetzChange as well, education and child welfare remain the most popular causes, along with disability, elderly care and trafficking.”

Are Indians generous? What has the experience of LetzChange been? Chovva’s answer provides insight into how India views charity.

“In India, for a majority of people, the very idea of ’giving’ is misconstrued. While for many, giving to charities is a concept that is surrounded by mistrust, ignorance and lack of awareness, most acts of giving cater to religious purposes. More than lack of awareness or intent, people’s belief in donating to religious places acts as a restraining force in directly reaching the needy.”

However, he also adds that while many think donating is an activity for the rich, there are many ordinary people who go out of their way to bring lasting changes to the underprivileged.

Referring to the whopping amount that Bhumi raised during the Chennai floods through their site, Chovva says, “People do have the heart of give, provided they have clear and trustworthy platforms to perform such acts. Charities should be transparent and receptive to donors’ needs and giving platforms like LetzChange must act like as strong bridges between the charities and the donors, ensuring a relationship that lasts long.”

LetzChange is looking at the transformative powers of the online medium to establish the concept of social giving.

“Almost everyone is glued to social media these days, possessing a huge network of friends and relatives,” says Chovva. “Our belief is that if people vouch for a charity among their network, there are a lot of chances for them to support the cause because a friend's word is more trustworthy than a random mail or a promotional message. We want non-profits across India to leverage the power of social media and take gigantic strides towards fundraising and expand their donor base.”

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