Godparents for underprivileged children
It is not often that a cause great enough to spur a nation comes along. But when it comes to caring for our underprivileged children all Indians have a resolve that is identical. Shubham Srivastava is an entrepreneur and a concerned citizen who has founded the Godparents Foundation which is a nonprofit fund raising platform. He spoke about his chief crusade of alleviating and empowering the underprivileged in a revealing conversation with Yourstory.How is Godparents.in helping the underprivileged children of India?
'Godparents.in' is an online platform with a mission to bring together NGOs and potential donors assisting in the nationwide effort to create opportunities for the millions of underprivileged children who otherwise do not have access to even the most basic necessities of life.
Godparents.in partners with NGOs that have a proven record of dedication and commitment to the cause of creating opportunities for underprivileged children. In establishing partnership with NGOs across India, our aim is to reach children from as far and remote locations as possible. Through Godparents.in, our partner NGOs can create profiles of children which one can browse and help the respective NGO to support them.
Which states are you active in and to what degree?
Godparents.in has partnered with 12 NGOs from 9 different states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa and Karnataka) of the country and more than 180 children have benefitted so far. We have raised more than 750,000 INR from Indians/NRIs based in 15 countries since we started raising funds in mid August.
How does your business pick up where NGO’s and donors leave off?
The USPs of Godparents.in lie at 2 levels - for the donors and for the NGOs.
Donors get a simple and reliable mode of making a contribution on the novel social-networking-like interface at godparents.in which the young generation very much relates to. Visitors on the website can view personalized profiles of all children in need of support, and can decide who they would like contribute towards. Our relationship with our donors is not limited to a 1-time financial transaction but to a continued correspondence of how their support has impacted the life of their godchildren. This adds a human element to fund-raising. Moreover, the transparency of our operations gives donors the power to instantly track exactly where their donations have gone.
To the NGOs, godparents.in offers a decentralized, scalable and democratic system of managing their website content and donations. We have put simplified technology in the hands of the NGOs, thus taking a step towards technological empowerment of the social sector in India. Ongoing technical support is provided through use of latest technologies like remote-assistance over the Internet. In line with our philosophy of facilitating NGOs in concentrating on their USP (i.e. working at the grassroots), we have leveraged our technological know-how to make daily recurring processes as automated as possible. This includes automatic building and maintenance of transaction database, click-of-a-button generation of e-receipts and integration of financial accounting. In simpler words, NGOs do not need any additional man-power and only minimal technical training to be able to effortlessly adapt to Godparents.in.
To our knowledge, no other fundraising model combines this kind of decentralization and technology penetration as Godparents.in. Also, we have approached a hitherto untapped segment of donors, i.e. young global Indians who have recently graduated from universities and have just started their careers.
What is the business model being used here?
Godparents.in passes on 94% of the amount one donates to the caretaking NGO to provide services to the child chosen by the donor. The remaining 6% mainly includes the charges of the payment gateway. Depending upon the Card / mode of payment used by the donor, the payment gateway charges range from 3.31% to 5.52%. The balance of 6% is used to cover the operational costs incurred by Godparents.in, like charges of web hosting services, web development, reaching out to potential NGO partners as well as potential donors, etc.By keeping everything online and automated, we have tried to minimize the human intervention in the overall process of fund-raising which in-turn helps us operate at very low costs. With the help of our motivated team who work voluntarily, we have further reduced the expenses.
“Why did you choose to be an entrepreneur rather than stick to a regular 9-to-5 job?”
I am still continuing with my job at Deloitte and I work for Godparents.in after my work hours on weekdays and on the weekends. In fact, all Godparents.in team members are either professionals working for MNCs or PhD students in US universities
There’s no doubt that working for Godparents.in has been much more fulfilling and satisfying than almost any other thing that I have worked on till date.
Are there many challenges in your work? Please elaborate-
There are 2 major challenges in this work:
- The first challenge lies in convincing and enabling the grass-root organizations to use simplified technology in order to expand the scope of their operations. A lot of Indian NGOs are new to using web-based technologies on their own and often require assistance at several steps of the required operational work. We offer ongoing technical support through use of latest technologies that have never been used in the Indian Social Sector before. The main advantage of introducing such technology is the scale it allows these organizations to reach.
- However, the biggest challenge in our work lies in convincing the potential donors about the credibility of the recipient organizations. In order to do so we have set very strict and clear criteria for grass-root organizations to partner with. We only partner with organizations that have proven their commitment to the cause and satisfy the stringent "Credibility Norms" as set by reputed organizations like "Credibility Alliance" (www.credall.org.in) and "Give India" (www.giveindia.org).
What are the financial details behind how you floated Godparents.in?
The initial investment to start the organization could have been very high had it not been for the support of Microsoft Corporation. MS Visual Studio 3.5 (professional edition) and MS SQL Server 2008 (enterprise edition) that have been used to build the godparents.in website cost about $800 and $25,000 respectively. But we have been very fortunate in being selected by Microsoft under their "Biz-Spark Global Start-Up Program" wherein they have provided us a 3 year license to use these platforms for our website development and deployment.
The actual money that we have invested so far in this venture includes charges for a web-domain name, shared web-server, an internet banking enabled bank account incl. security deposit, a 128bit secure payment gateway, required equipment like printer etc, and the costs that we have incurred in various registration n processes and outreach activities. This sum up to just about Rs.100, 000/- (approx Rs. 300, 7000, 25000, 50000, 8000, and 1000 respectively). This amount was invested out of mine and Co-founder Shivam’s personal savings.
We by-passed the cost of website development and payment gateway integration, since we did it all in-house. This involved 2 dedicated resources working almost 8 hrs a day for 3 months. We value this work at about Rs.300, 000/-.
What has been your proudest moment with godparents.in?
I think each and every donation that we facilitate is an achievement and it makes us believe more and more in the cause. But one incident that stands out is a case of a Nepali girl who was under the care of one of our partner NGOs and was in urgent need of 40,000 INR. We had raised the amount in less than 24 hours exceeding our own expectations.
Our efforts have been very warmly commended by the national print and television media. Recently, India’s leading business news broadcaster - CNBC-TV18, featured a story about our efforts at Godparents Foundation on their ‘Young Turks Transformers’ show which can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-55wBiDdnA
Also, Godparents Foundation was conferred upon with “Exceptional Fundraiser Award” by Prudential plc, UK in a ceremony held at Governor’s House, London on March 11, 2009.
What else can we expect godparents.in to be doing in the next 2 years?
Being a liaison between donors and NGOs, our efforts are concentrated on two fronts - partnering with more and more credible NGOs working on child education and health, and finding more and more donors to support their activities.
So far, we have partnered with various grass-root organizations from 9 different states (Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa and Karnataka) and are in the process of evaluating and partnering with more. At the other end, we plan to open up fund-raising chapters of Godparents Foundation worldwide to spread awareness about the good work being done by the grass-root organizations in the country and to raise funding for the same. We are currently working on starting US based fundraising chapters of Godparents Foundation.
In the near future, we shall also start partnering with corporates under their CSR programs to further expand the scope of our operations, and to generate more support for our partner NGOs.
What important advice would you pass on to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The most important thing according to me is to assess the need of the product/service that you are going to offer. Apart from that, having a self-motivated team who share a common vision and are ready to work hard towards the realization of that vision is a must have.
Yourstory wishes Godparents Foundation success in their noble cause and applauds the resolve and the passion that Shubham Srivastava exhibits.
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