Let me begin with a confession.
I haven’t been a very charitable person for most of my life. The most common form of giving that I’ve practiced is donating old books, toys, clothes and appliances, where the act was as much driven by the need for spring cleaning than genuinely wanting to help some stranger in need. Every now and then I donate to relief funds during earthquakes and floods, and that’s about it. Amidst the hustle of life we barely give a thought to any of these humanitarian pursuits. I suspect that is the case with almost all of us.
As a middle class Indian, we are led to believe that most NGOs are a scam and the proportion of funds actually reaching the intended people is way too less. Those of us who feel like doing some social work in other ways, choose the route of volunteering – teaching poor kids, feeding people at an orphanage or a temple, and so on. There is no doubt that the gratification of a real interaction beats donating money via “unreliable” organisations every time.
But the truth is that there is never going to be a zero-corruption mechanism for aid delivery. Moreover, for working professionals, it is hard to volunteer personally with any regularity. To stay away from charity for fear of corruption is like staying away from driving for fear of traffic jams. Beyond a point, you have to accept that there is no perfect world and take the leap of faith. I think it’s important to do something and fail rather than not do anything at all.
Once I made up my mind to do something, I began looking for ways and means to contribute.
While planning our monthly budget some time last year, my wife and I decided to set up a monthly donation to “Mission 10 million meals” on GiveIndia’s online donation platform. This was our chance to make a meaningful impact with the least amount of effort, while being fairly confident that the donations are going to be put to genuine use.
GiveIndia is a great platform for discovering and donating in legally vetted charities and causes. Apart from being very user-friendly, it offers great transparency into the entire process by sharing regular updates on the programmes we donate to.
Building trust through great experience and transparency is something we can all get behind!
A few days after we completed the first transaction, I got a call from a product manager on the GiveIndia team. He wanted to understand my experience, and also bounce off some ideas their team was thinking about (While this seems far-fetched, in the startup world it is common to look-up early users and customers and reach out for feedback). It was a great conversation, and left me feeling happier about them.
The entire experience created a tiny spark – what if we could do monthly donations using Sqrrl the way we did monthly mutual fund investments? The tax exemption from the donations could tie into the “personal finance” theme of the product, while creating an opportunity to expand our horizon from pure savings and investments, and make a contribution to the upliftment of underprivileged people around us.
I pitched the idea to the founders, all of who were very warm. Incidentally Samant (CEO, Sqrrl) was acquainted with Atul (CEO, Give) and we started discussing a partnership. With everyone on-board for a pilot, we started putting together a simple yet complete flow for this feature.
Today, users of Sqrrl can set-up monthly donations (powered by GiveIndia) right from the app, and I am proud that we’re the first personal finance platform where you can donate money (not just reward points) to compliant causes and NGOs, on a monthly basis.
To take a seed of an idea to a product is a taxing but an incredibly exhilarating journey. I’m very excited about being able to make a real impact using the right technology and partnerships in place, and hope we are on the right track with this one.
Look forward to hearing some more similar product stories and your experience with GiveIndia on Sqrrl! Hit me up at @adsahay or in the comments.