Capitalizing on Technology in Charity

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Charity has always been one of the fundamental themes in the lives of Egyptians. With the continuous declination of the standard of living for both the lower-middle and lower classes in the society, NGOs and people working in the charity and CSR fields are facing a huge challenge to provide an adequate support to those social classes that the country’s government is failing to provide.

Charity and community service in Egypt comes in many forms such as NGOs, CSR departments in corporates, clubs in universities, small groups of friends or even individuals. Activities in all these entities are typically more centralized around some seasons that are mostly religion-related. However, to give you a hint of how huge this theme is in Egypt, during Ramadan only in 2015 approximately EGP 30 Billion donations were collected according to the official numbers. (For more details about the economics of donations in Ramadan, we recommend this article by Omar El Shenety.)

In spite of this huge amount of spending and donations, the relationship between charity and technology in Egypt remains very shallow. From my personal experience in this field and what we have reached in robusta throughout the different engagements with NGOs and CSR departments, I believe that technology isn’t being fully utilized or even slightly utilized at a minimum level to help in the charity work here in Egypt.

During our previous engagements in robusta with lots of NGOs, we noticed that most of them are only willing to make use of technology superficially by building simple websites to use them only as an online informative tool. While on the other side there are several serious problems that are present in the current charity/CSR model that technology would really help in resolving but utilizing technology isn’t on their roadmap.

Below are some examples of the current problems and how technology can help resolve that.

Accessibility of Donating

It is such a pity that people are creating WhatsApp groups to collect money for certain cases. Meanwhile a simple web/mobile application listing the cases by their different types and with detailed information can be very handy especially when it is integrated with an online payment gateway provided by bank or independent platforms like Payfort.

Cases Reach

Lots of people sometimes want to donate money/furniture/…etc and actually don’t know where or how to donate despite the huge number of NGOs. The idea is that you want a simple way to do so which is quite feasible by a location based mobile app that detects users’ locations and can show the different cases around them with their needs. Location based apps can be used in an opposite way by NGOs to see the donors around them and get in contact with them.

Reaching out to more people around the globe

A lot of Egyptians all over the globe would mostly prefer to give their money donations or Zakah to the poor in Egypt or to help the people here to establish microprojects via microloans or similar models yet unfortunately there are no easy to use, credible and transparent platforms where they can do that. Then what about a mobile application that aggregates the cases from the different NGOs with their statuses and integrates with a payment gateway allowing people from other countries to donate their money online to specific cases.

Transparency

Any donor usually needs answers to some questions, where am I putting my donations exactly? which case am I supporting? and the more the donor pays, the more details and follow up they would expect to be provided with. This type of transparency is typically very difficult when you donate, for instance, via SMS or when you donate to an NGO via bank transfer but you aren’t sure where this amount of money was placed. The issue of transparency normally hinders some people from donating to NGOs. Again, this can be achieved by personalization of the donation experience when the user can have a dashboard listing the cases they are donating to and follow up on their progress with whatever amounts of money paid and with some history and statistics about the previous donations and cases.

Recurring Reminders and Notifications

We all usually get consumed in our daily work so we continuously need those reminders from NGOs or our friends if we pay a recurring donation to help some cases and technology definitely can help automating all of that with a combination of simple cron jobs on the server side and push notifications via an almost free service like Amazon SNS.

Follow up and Reconnecting

Technology in general will easily help the NGOs and the donors in several other aspects. One of those is following up on some cases that they donated for via SMSs or Push notifications which will definitely increase the credibility of the NGO.

Another one is reconnecting with the donors in case they are interested in helping specific types of cases when those cases appear or even sending and receiving feedback between Donors and NGOs.

Some Inspiring Examples

There are several inspiring examples in the charity world. I will just demonstrate the idea of three of them and there are others of course all over the globe.

Kiva is an amazing platform that provides microloans to different people all over the world to use them in unique and useful projects that would fit in their environment. The donations are mainly crowd-sourced and you can actually even choose to lend some people to help them do their project and then return your money back after they pay  and if you’re worried about being getting your money back, the loan repayment rate is 97% which indicates how successful they are.

Watsi is another adorable non-profit platform that focuses on crowd-sourcing donations to patients all over the world who are facing difficulties in paying for their treatments. They have an extensive database about the patients with their detailed cases, their stories and so on.

Farmraiser is a web and mobile platform that was built by robusta. It is a very good example for a community-service-like profitable platform. It is built to help organizations like schools, clubs,…etc raise funds for their campaigns by making students sell healthy food and these profits go to funding campaigns so there are four parties that are benefiting and profiting here, vendors who sell their products, campaign organizers who receive  funds for their campaigns, customers who buy healthy products and are encouraged to lead a healthy lifestyle and finally students who participate in the whole community service experience and learn to give back to their community.

There are definitely tons of other platforms with various ideas out there yet those three examples are just simple examples on the different types of platforms we are talking about and hope they would be utilized, implemented and followed instead of going for an informative website for an NGO.
To sum up, it is crucial for all NGOs and people working in the CSR field to pay attention to capitalizing on the available technologies and think creatively about new ideas that would make the lives of everyone easier and gets the most benefit out of the available tools that are already utilized by many and are becoming part of the people’s daily lives and culture.