Small Change, a platform for social cause was started by former journalist, Sara Adhikari. After working for close to 3 decades with publications like The Times of India, Khaleej Times and The Sun, Sara decided to return to India – with the idea of Small Change and using her journalistic skills for social good. Small Change tells stories to inspire empathy and change lives. The organisation champions the cause of NGOs by extensive fundraising activities.
Here’s our chat with Sara Adhikari, Managing Trustee at Small Change.
1.What motivated you to set up this organisation?
When returning to India after more than a decade abroad, I did some research on the social sector here to see how my skills as a journalist could help. Reports I read pointed to the fact that most NGOs in India have poor communication skills. So, originally Small Change was conceived to help Indian NGOs communicate better and facilitate their fundraising – the idea being; If people don’t know what an NGO does or how well they do it, why would anyone give their time, money or skills to support them.
2.What was your mission at the outset and how many NGOs are affiliated/associated with the organisation?
Our mission was to grow a new generation of givers in India. We already have 47 NGOs associated with us and a few more are in the process of on-boarding.
4.How does the organisation identify NGOs to work with ,are they certified by you as well ?
We are not equipped to certify or give accreditation to NGOs, that is not our expertise. We decided to invite NGOs who have GuideStar India’s Platinum and Gold level certificates. But from earlier this year we have decided to accept all levels of GSI certification, to open our platform up to smaller NGOs who probably need more help! However, we clearly mention the level of each NGO on the site so the donor is aware.
5.How do you promote fund-raising activities?
We actively promote NGO fundraising campaigns on our social media. We also provide NGOs with a social media pack, with a few collaterals that can be used on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. We also occasionally send out emails to a few select donors aligned to the cause.
6.Can the donations be tracked?
Ours is a dynamic website, so as soon as donations are made, it reflects on the campaign page. Once the Fundraiser is over and funds are disbursed, we get updates from the NGO on how these funds have been used, which we publish on the page. However, if a donor has given Rs 500 towards a Fundraiser that aims to collect 1.5lakh, it is impossible to say how that particular Rs 500 has been used!
7.Any unique challenges you have faced, that have made you & your organisation more resilient?
I don’t think our challenges have been unique. We are one among a handful of online donation websites raising funds only for NGOs. That itself is a challenge as individual giving in this country ( particularly online and for NGOs) is at a very nascent stage. But it is growing, as awareness of the critical roles NGOs play in human development in a country like India grows.
8.Who are the potential funders for your organisation?
We have already got some initial funding from Social Alpha as one of their incubatees, and continue to receive support. Other potential funders are philanthropy foundations and the CSR arms of e-commerce sites.
9.How is your organisation’s impact measured?
In different ways. One is being able to attract new givers persuading them to return to the site to give again. We have a base of nearly 1,000 donors so far – 40% of who have donated more than once, and 60% of our donations come from repeat donors.
The other is being able to impact an NGO’s online presence and their fundraising efforts from retail donors. One very new example is that of Daricha Foundation that’s attempting to bring folk and tribal art into the mainstream. We persuaded them to run a fundraiser to support craft skills training for tribal women – and it was a success, a joint effort. Finally,the number of lives that our Fundraisers have affected this financial year (2017-18) is 36,496 – compared to 1,048 in the last one (2016-17).
10.Are there follow-up programs and plans in place to ensure the work is sustainable?
We see ourselves as an intermediary between NGOs and givers. The work can only be sustainable if we can achieve our vision to “grow a new generation of givers” and find new ways of harnessing an increasing band of young Indians who are participating in change-making.
11.Where do you see this organisation in the next 5 years?
We see ourselves as a leading change-making platform in India, with a vibrant and growing donor community and as a rich source of information and stories about some of India’s best, if forgotten, NGOs – those who are positively impacting the country’s human development indices.