What’s In Store For Medical Crowdfunding In India?
Crowdfunding is an alternative, digital method of fundraising, where a large number of people contribute relatively small sums of money to fund a project. The first major crowdfunding event was in 1997 when a British rock band financed their US concert tour with funds raised by fans online.
Crowdfunding in India is as new as it can get, and the industry is toddling on young feet, with even experts learning every day on the job. It is still a small industry, albeit a rapidly expanding one, with new players stepping into the market every few weeks. Crowdfunding in India has seen more success in some sectors than others, and the most prominent area of achievement has been raising funds online for medical causes.
Medical Crowdfunding In India: New Beginnings
Medical crowdfunding in India is the single largest sector of crowdfunding in the country, both regarding funds raised, and regarding outreach. The single most important reason for the widespread use of medical crowdfunding is sky high medical expenses. And medical expenses are rising every year with inflation, and recently with new taxation legislation. The common Indian man has little choice but to look for alternative ways to pay for increasing treatment costs.
The average Indian in need of a large sum of money for medical care will still generally use conventional means. These include:
- Other financial institutions
- More unconventional moneylenders
- Friends or relatives
Most people in India do not readily consider crowdfunding online to meet their goal. But times are changing, and with growing internet use across a wider age spectrum, and easier and cheaper internet availability, medical crowdfunding in India is gaining favor. This is a radical change benefitting everyone involved. Leaders in the crowdfunding industry in India agree that medical crowdfunding is only just taking off, it has a long way to go, and hundreds more can receive assistance in the coming years.
How Medical Crowdfunding works In India
The question to ask is how crowdfunding works in India. In essence, the rules of the game are the same in India as everywhere else. A campaigner runs a fundraiser on a crowdfunding platform, sharing a story of why funds are needed (sometimes, supporting documentation too), and makes a call for donations. A target is set. The campaign manager and the campaigner himself share the story as widely as possible on social media to ensure that this target is met.
Medical crowdfunding in India follows this process precisely. In emergency situations, the window for donation acceptance may be shorter than the average campaign. Whopping amounts of money have been raised for critical surgeries like heart, kidney and liver transplants and treatments of illnesses like leukemia and cancer in the last few years.
Medical crowdfunding in India is just old enough that certain ground rules have been established about how it is best done. When Indian social entrepreneurs entered this complex milieu, they improvised on set methods so the local target body of campaigners would feel more comfortable and less confused by this novel means of fundraising. Later still, medical crowdfunding in India began to emerge as a popular tool for critically ill people with humongous medical expenses, and their concerned family and friends. It was also established as a prime revenue earner for crowdfunding platforms. Techniques for making medical fundraisers a success slowly became apparent.
There are ways of making your health crowdfunding campaign more successful than you could hope for. Experienced fundraisers who have done work in medical crowdfunding in India have exclusive medical crowdfunding tips, if you are considering raising funds for treating a major long-term illness, or getting an organ transplant, or paying for expensive post-operative or care. Writing a great story and sharing this story with relevant photos and paperwork on an active social media network increases chances of meeting even the biggest targets.
But tips from medical crowdfunding experts work better when a campaigner has an acute sense of awareness of the market he is soliciting in. The Indian market is not old but diverse. Already, examples are in place for every campaign, successful and not, big and small, social media savvy and otherwise, and ones that were time-efficient or the opposite. Getting acquainted with the Indian crowdfunding ecosystem, which includes the Indian public, campaigners, crowdfunding platform managers, and facilitators (the media), also aids setting up campaigns without loopholes.
This is almost as easy and as informal as it sounds. Successful health campaigns from recent years will offer conclusive evidence.
Harish’s Kidney Failure: How Impact Guru Helped
Harish’s experience of medical crowdfunding in India, with Impact Guru, is a textbook example of the character of Indian crowdfunding. But unlike many campaigners’, his experience of medical fundraising in India went smoothly and without strain, and he survived kidney failure to tell the tale of committed, efficient service from a young and dynamic team at Impact Guru that held his hand in more ways than one. Harish, who is by now an expert among crowdfunding amateurs, asserts that Impact Guru is the most sophisticated player in the business in this part of the world.
Harish had been diagnosed with renal failure in both kidneys, and his family had stretched themselves to pool together the money needed for his operation. Just before his operation was due, his daughter Parvati fell ill. Doctors were worried; the little girl had a severe genetic condition that was causing her vital organs to fail, threatening a collapse. Surgery would restore Parvati’s life, and like a loving father, Harish forwarded the use of the funds he had collected for his daughter’s treatment. She was cured soon. But Harish’s health was no better. He had given up the hope of being able to live.
He had discovered Impact Guru by chance and decided to try crowdfunding on a whim, as he had nothing to lose. The first thing the sick, tired liked about the platform was that he was able to start a fundraiser in under five minutes. He uploaded his appeal to his prospective donors, and his campaign manager worked with him to polish it, free of cost. He posted photos which were shared across social media. With his network and Impact Guru’s constant support, donations began to pour in, and over eight lakh rupees were raised in just over a month.
Harish noted, significantly, that the Impact Guru team was thorough without being intrusive at such a difficult period of his life. They called him regularly to check on little details of his case and were always punctual. They managed his donor relationships efficiently. If a donor transaction was somehow unsuccessful, the Impact Guru representative contacted the donor and tried to find out what went wrong. They requested the donor to make a second attempt to contribute. Impact Guru took their work seriously and did it well, and Harish was impressed and able to relax.
What amazed Harish most was that his funds were transferred into his bank account by the Impact Guru within two days after his fundraiser was closed. Harish considers his experience of medical crowdfunding with Impact Guru as the best he could have, not just in India, but anywhere in the world.
Chitti Babu’s Kidney Transplant
Consider the campaign Suren ran on the famous Indian crowdfunding platform Ketto. Suren’s friend Chitti Babu had been diagnosed with kidney failure and was weakening fast under the toxicity of the condition. The village dweller from Rishi Valley in Andhra Pradesh was not financially prepared for such a massive emergency, and members of the immediate family were not able to be of any substantial help either. The transplant surgery would cost over twelve lakh rupees.
Suren and a friend researched medical crowdfunding and set up a fundraiser. They took a day out to share their story on every possible social media handle, and to reach out to people they knew personally. They waited for hours, but there wasn’t any collection. Despair began to set in. Their campaign manager suggested that Suren should make a token donation to get the ball rolling.
He did. That is when the tide turned. In the next twenty-four hours, two hundred donors, both friends, and strangers contributed handsomely and shared the link to the campaign across social media networks to bring more donations in turn.
In fact, Suren’s campaign on Chitti Babu’s behalf surpassed its target. Suren encourages all prospective campaigners to set an example and take action. Everyone is unwilling to be the first one to donate, so lead from the front.
Gopi’s Battle With Thalassaemia
Next, let us think of Gopi’s story. Gopi was diagnosed with thalassemia major when he was three months old. To not go into a long and tragic tale of suffering that includes a father who killed himself and a mother who abandoned her infant son immediately afterward, Gopi’s life has not been one where little pleasures could have been taken for granted. But his grandmother, Elavarasi took him in.
Gopi’s medical bills soared over the years. He went to school when he kept well. By the time he was seven, he was on four different medicines every day, and transfusions every fifteen days. The government hospital referred him to a larger and more expensive private specialty hospital. Doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant. Stem cell units were arranged for from a German bank. All that Elavarasi needed to arrange for was the cost of surgery and post-operative care- twenty-five lakhs.
Someone explained to her the concept of crowdfunding. The uneducated senior citizen who worked as domestic help in two homes instantly accepted the plan. At that time in her life, she would have agreed to any plan.
Her mentors at Milaap created her fundraiser and helped her along her journey on through the unfamiliar alleys of the digital world. To Elavarasi’s surprise and wonder, the funds were raised in no time.
Today, over a year on, Gopi is recovering under medication, studying from home, and playing like a boy his age should. Elavarasi’s gratitude for donors and the platform that hosted her campaign is tangible. It brings out to the fullest how rewards-based crowdfunding works in India, and how a single donor is motivated to return and donate again to the same or similar causes if a simple word of thanks if uttered.
Best Practices: Medical Crowdfunding In India
There is something to learn from the stories we have just told- they bring out the best practices every campaigner of medical crowdfunding in India should adopt. What are these?
- Tell a story well: Like Elavarasi, or Harish, get help writing your fundraiser story if you aren’t comfortable with your writing skills. Many crowdfunding agencies will help you with this task. Your story is what will move your donors to make a contribution, so tell it well.
- Be Visual: Photos and medical documentation are an integral part of your story, so upload these as well. The donor needs to feel that your case is genuine and understand roughly how you will use the funds to sponsor medical treatment.
- Donate first: Any donor is encouraged to contribute if the fundraiser account already reflects some prior contribution. Be the first to donate. Then ask a friend or family member to put in their contribution. The first few hours and days of your fundraiser are crucial, and this is when your primary network can do a lot to build up a fund that will bring in unknown donors through social media channels.
- Share: Also always encourage donors to share your fundraiser. Publicity for your story can never hurt.
- Have a social media plan. Your crowdfunding platform representative will guide you. Combine your networks with your friends’ and maximize your reach. Send out emailers, tweet, post to Instagram, blog, update Facebook, WhatsApp quick daily updates to donor groups. Keep it short and regular. When your fundraiser closes, send a social media shout out to everyone who stood by you. Thank your donors.
Medical crowdfunding in India still has a long way to go. The journey so far has been promising, with a mushrooming young and urban population, who are also avid internet users and have incomes large enough to accommodate occasional donations to causes they identify with. New and old crowdfunding bodies continue to do excellent work in medical crowdfunding. In time, crowdfunding in India may well transition to a mainstream fundraising method and benefit more people in need of assistance in healthcare, artistic and social enterprise fields.
The websites of Impact Guru, Bitgiving, Ketto, and Milaap have galleries of case studies of past medical crowdfunding campaigns. Impact Guru, the youngest giant in the medical crowdfunding sector in India, and the one that has raised the most funds, also curates its journeys with campaigners.