By Shambhavi Saxena:
Back when I was still in school, a few friends of mine tried to do a signature campaign against animal cruelty. We’d heard how a pack of dogs had been mercilessly killed in the Delhi Jal Board premises. It was also the year that the Delhi High Court had thrown stray dogs a bone by okaying feeding guidelines. Encouraged by the ruling, we set out with yards of fabric, fistfuls of markers and a ready “pitch” – will you please sign our petition to protect stray animals? A bunch of people slammed their doors shut on us, saying they hated dogs, and that we’d ruined their afternoon nap. At the end of it all, we only had 100 signatures, and a burning desire to reach out to a larger number of people who were more likely to support us.
Fast forward to 2015. Friendicoes, which runs one of the most trusted animal rescue and rehabilitation operations in Delhi NCR, was suddenly dealing with a lack of funds. This would spell utter disaster for the hundreds of animals being kept and treated in its Jangpura shelter – you know, the one under the flyover? They had to withdraw their city ambulance service and were still faced with the prospect of having to turn them out onto the very streets they had been rescued from. So, Friendicoes reached out for help. And boy, did people help.
A crowdfunding campaign was launched and Friendicoes released a series of portraits and narratives of the animals at their shelter. Pretty soon an independent media outfit helped spread the word by creating an adorable short video about a Labrador named Hug. Animal lovers like Anjanaa Damodharan and Neha Sharma even tried to raise funds in their individual capacity; between the two of them they collected Rs 3,47,319. All of a sudden people were lending their support, and pledging donations. And the reach multiplied. Pretty soon the funds far exceeded the initial goal of 20 lakhs INR, simply because people from so many different places and walks of life, had been able to coalesce in the virtual space to give the animal shelter the boost it needed to get back on its feet.
And that’s how crowd-sourcing happens. To begin with, you have a fairly simple ask. In Friendicoes’ case it was a call for donations, in another, it might be a signature, or a photograph, or a video recording. And then you have to carry that ask to a larger audience. What’s evident is that as soon as you loop in one person, the message can be relayed to their entire social network, and that’s really where the “crowd” part of it comes in. While it’s hard to estimate just how many people will associate themselves with an issue, the potential is incredible. Which is why crowdfunding campaigns like the one Friendicoes did are so important also because of how the flow of funds works.
Most of the wealth in the world is concentrated in the hands of a few exceptionally prosperous individuals or corporations. Further, the Indian government continues cutting funds to NGOs – precisely why Friendicoes, and some 10,000 other NGOs have run into trouble. Many organisations that work on community issues do not make profits, and to survive, they need the sustained support of people who believe in the work they do. To run an operation like Friendicoes, you need a whole lot of money, which goes into feeding and cleaning alone, and they rely on the goodwill of donors to meet these expenses. So, when the organisation looked like it was going under, after 36 years of service, literally every single rupee donated helped it stay afloat. The crowdfunding campaign, which generated 60 lakhs INR and then some, was an affirming experience for both the donor and the organisation, both placing their faith in each other because both want to ensure the welfare of animals.
Crowd-sourcing can certainly yield some very positive results, and make an actual difference, and if Friendicoes could achieve so much in such a short span of time, one can imagine what other Nonprofits could also do to make the world a better place.