Shilpa Raina writes on a new online solution for sensible gifting to the needy in India
The most pertinent question that crosses the mind of a donor is “will my donation be used for the right purpose” while the most daunting task a NGO faces is “to find ways to utilise unwanted gifts”. Bridging this chasm is an online portal that offers transparent options for “sensible” gifting to the marganalised.
In a first, online shopping portal Amazon.in has launched the unique initiative “Gift a Smile” by joining hands with 10 NGOs to create a platform for people to select the gifts they want to give from the wishlists of the organisations.
It can be accessed on the Amazon website. Interested donors can choose from an array of wishlists – stationary, books, portable loudspeakers, medical kits, toys and sports equipment, among other things – for a transparent and credible face to these virtual donations.
“What happens is that people donate things they don’t want or what they think can be donated,” Shailendra Kumar Sharma from NGO Pratham, told IANS.
“In such cases, we don’t get what is required and end up sitting on a pile of unwanted material,” added Sharma, whose NGO primarily supports education and vocational training skills among children.
Sharma said the initiative gives NGOs the space to select what is required and needed.
Most importantly, this virtual medium offers a platform where specific information about each NGO is given, with a page dedicated to its domain and programmes.
This, in a way, lends greater credibility to this initiative that connects and engages these two different communities.
These NGOs have been selected by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), a registered trust, and according to its chief executive Meenakshi Batra, it is a wonderful platform for donors and NGOs to come together.
“We know these NGOs can deliver. They are extremely credible, have a significant outreach and have been chosen on based of these credentials,” Batra told IANS.
All the NGOs on board have different ideas to use the “gifts” and are quick to caution that these shouldn’t be confused with “charity”.
Hence, Geeta Malhotra, country head of Read India, wants to use these gifts as “rewards” to encourage children to go to school and study hard.
“We plan to use these as reward during competitions and class performances. This will motivate them to study in a competitive environment,” Malhotra, whose NGO supports education and women’s empowerment, told IANS.
Donation options have also been made “centre-specific”.
The display page of each NGO has a link to its various centers and a donor can choose a centre of choice.
Thus, the Kolkata-centre of Save the Children has asked for beauty products and equipment like foot-care kits, hair straighteners and facial kits among other things to help the girls who are being trained as beauticians.
“We are giving girls vocational training to be beauticians and help them live a dignified life. So, such a platform gives us the opportunity to ask people to donate what we need the most,” Irwin Fernandes, director – resource mobilisation, Save the Children, told IANS.
According to Sujeet Ranjan, chief operating officer of NGO Magic Bus, the platform leave “no room” for compromising quality.
“The quality of these gifts is good,” Ranjan pointed out.
Another prominent aspect that can’t be ignored is, how this gifting system will help the NGO’s in better allocating finds to other areas.
“When support like this is available, we can use some money to scale up our programes further,” said Sharma.
Amazon India vice president and country manager Amit Agarwal is hopeful of bringing more NGOs on board.
“This is our small effort to show how in small steps technology can be used to connect causes and generate support for a cause,” Agarwal told IANS.
“We have a long-term outlook for India and would like to have more NGOs on board,” he concluded.