Realising that raising money for charity will only get tougher in the present economic environment, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has decided to harness the ever-increasing mobile users in India. For Iskcon, this will help them sustain the inflow of donations for its mid-day meals programme.
Iskcon along with Atom Technologies has introduced a mobile interactive voice response system module that will enable individual donors to zip cash donations over the mobile phone, using their credit cards.
Technology will make fund-raising easier, asserts Shri Radha Krishna Das, MD, Iskcon Food Relief Foundation, who is keen to roll out the IVRS mode of payment to all 16 Iskcon centres across India. At present, the IVRS mode has been launched for Iskcon's Mumbai centre.
Through the IVRS mode, Iskcon is targeting the Gen Y (a term applied to those born between 1981 and 1995), who are comfortable paying for downloads, movies and music electronically and most of whom have mobile phones.
Mobile payment solutions provider Atom Technologies' director Dewang Neralla is confident that mobile-giving has the ability to match, or even outperform, online donations. He says, "Iskcon, which raised an estimated Rs 8 crore (Rs 80 million) for its mid-day meal scheme through both online and offline channels, could well look to raise an equal amount from mobile donations."
The charm of mobile giving is its reach. Nationwide, there are an estimated 129 million television households, including 73 million cable and more than 15 million direct-to-home subscribers, according to a Ficci-KPMG report. Also, there are an estimated 50 million internet-connected households. By contrast, there are 390 million mobile subscribers (in March) across the country.
Neralla asserts, "India's mobile population is a huge universe for charities, especially for the smaller players who struggle for donations." He reckons that mobile donors may contribute smaller sums, averaging between Rs 100 and Rs 200, but the volumes are bound to be much larger than any other form of donations. While nonprofits relied on a smaller number of donors making large gifts in the past, the new paradigm is appealing to a vast number of smaller donors.
Atom Technologies has also joined hands with two other NGOs - GiveIndia & CPAA. GiveIndia will be adopting atom's IVR-based payment option, whereas CPAA will be going in for a mobile-based payment solution where donors can donate via text messages. Nonprofits could also send targeted messages to their donor base to update them on the progress made with fund-raising or on cause objectives.
For Iskcon, the IVR mobile payment facility would help in reaching a wider and untapped audience who can choose to donate any amount as per their convenience. Iskcon's Das articulates that an IVR-based system can help with the non-profit organisation's communication with the donor by cutting through the media clutter.
Last year, American Red Cross managed to attract an estimated Rs 9.65 million in pledges for its disaster relief funds through mobile payments.
Another reason to cheer for mobile-giving is the falling minimum amount of donations from individual donors. "Contributors might be unwilling to pony up more after allocating funds to larger charities with more marketing muscle. That's where the mobile can play a constructive role for smaller nonprofits," concludes Narella.