The e-Daan model is based on two simple ideas: first, you have things lying around the house that are in working condition but are not being used; second, there are NGOs out there in continuous need of donations for their various projects. Although there is both a supply and a demand for these used but still usable goods, the connections are rarely made. It is not because people with excess “stuff” are necessarily greedy, or that they do not care about those in need; on the contrary, it is far more likely that the people with these things lying around their houses would love to put the goods to better use, if only they knew where they were really needed or had the time to get them there. This is where e-Daan steps in, by personally making the connections between individuals and NGOs.
e-Daan was founded by Deeksha Kotwalwala and Kosal Malladi, two MBA graduates from MICA, Ahmedabad, and Mayank Jain, an MBA graduate from NMIMS, Mumbai. Together, along with a social media team consisting of Latika Pathela and Siddharth Phadkar, the team at e-Daan has been able to connect individuals and their in-kind donations with NGOs across the country.
“We’re operational in 13 different states,” explained Mayank Jain, “There have been over 1,000 donations including televisions, refrigerators, dry rations, clothes, etc.”
For an individual, donating is as simple as a few clicks of a button on the e-Daan website. After filling out some basic information, including the donation that one would like to make, e-Daan sends the request to the appropriate NGO. When the NGO receives the request, it contacts that person and they mutually decide on how best to deliver the donations.
Studies on the number of NGOs in India have placed estimates at upwards of 3.3 million, or around one NGO for every 400 people. With this shockingly high NGO per capita ratio, one might imagine that matching an individual’s donations with a suitable non-profit would be easy. e-Daan has found, however, that the scale of the sector alone is not enough to simplify their task. “The biggest challenge,” said Mayank, “is how unorganized the NGO sector is. Organizing this unorganized sector was our challenge. Our social service entrepreneurial model works on the efficiency of the NGO, not just the efficiency at e-Daan. We had to choose the right NGO’s.”
Of course, while e-Daan continues their efforts to expedite the process of charitable giving, the debate will continue over the efficacy of such efforts. While few would doubt the merit of philanthropic giving, many hold to the notion that efforts should be focused instead on providing the means for people to pull themselves out of poverty, to give them the tools so that one day they might be able to afford their own clothes, for example, rather than being dependent on donations. At e-Daan, however, their work has provided the team with only a greater confidence in the important role that charitable giving plays.
“e-Daan has made us realize the importance of meaningful charity – getting the right resources to the right people at the right time,” Mayank explained. “Even a small step towards meaningful charity can make a big difference. You do not necessarily need to be working in the field or even be physically present somewhere to do good to the society around. With the technological advances it has become extremely easy to even operate via a mobile phone and do something for the underprivileged. It’s all about the power, the simplicity, and, more so, the right execution.”
Mayank’s point is noteworthy. While providing the means to development, rather than the products of development, is critical, there will always be an important place for basic acts of charity. Especially when facilitated by organizations like e-Daan, in-kind donation is something that any individual can partake in regardless of time constraints or opportunity costs.
While these acts are not by any means an end-all solution, they do make a significant difference. No matter how strong a person’s desire to do good, not everyone will have the time or freedom to create a sustainable, grass roots impact on a less privileged individual or community. Yet, they may have a few extra shirts lying around, or some unopened canned food, that could go a lot farther if placed in someone else’s hands. So far, perhaps, that having received the basic necessities of life, a family might be able to focus not on how to feed their child their next meal, but on how to enroll him or her in a school; not on where to find low wage jobs but on how to start a business of their own.
For Mayank and the team, the feeling of fulfillment that comes from doing good through facilitating these acts of charity, combined with the satisfaction of working toward a particular goal, is what makes their work at e-Daan worthwhile. “When you are following your heart,” said Mayank, “each small step that you take towards the eventual goal (in our case, making e-Daan synonymous to ‘Donate in-kind’) is a celebration of doing something really awesome, and that’s what keeps us going.”
e-Daan has recently partnered up with Megamenu.in, an online food ordering platform, in order to connect restaurants with NGOs via food donations. As with this creative new partnership, the future of e-Daan lies in its ability to perpetuate their model across sector boundaries and continue to bridge the gaps between NGOs and those with something to give.
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