As the number of fundraising for poor and sick individuals and family members keep rising on Facebook, WeChat and other fundraising platforms, it is getting harder and - to some extent - even suspicious of these unknown beneficiaries.
To sustain these fundraising efforts in the long run, it is important that fundraiser understands the basic process of verification. I was one among the first to embrace the platform of Facebook to raise funds for poor and sick people in India. I will share my personal experience with the hope that it will be of some help for fundraisers as well as contributors such as potential donors and sponsors like you.
Let me explain in simple steps:
After I came to know of poor/sick individual, the first thing I do is to verify if he/she is actually poor at the local office. If found poor, I inquire whether he/she is a recipient of welfare fund from the Department of Home (poor) or Department of Health (sick) based in Dharamsala, India.
Once verified and convinced that he or she is genuinely poor, I request to meet the beneficiary (poor or sick people). At the meeting, I listen to their story and observe their life style.
Then, I seek their consent to take photographs or videos of themselves and their homes. I also explain the consequences of sharing photos and videos on social media platforms. Without consent, I don't share their photos and videos at all. I highly respect individual privacy.
At the meeting with potential beneficiary, I make a simple mind computation of their needs vs wants. I also assess their personal assets including bank balance and loan payables. Once I have have a clear figure on how much they need as help, I share with them the process of fundraising - money coming directly to them via Western Union, bank transfer and/or hard cash. I also make clear that no other person will seek donation on their behalf as long as I am involved.
After the meeting, I speak to people of their camp or village to learn about what they have to say about the beneficiary. This is really helpful for the management of fund. For instance, many poor and sick people are very bad at managing their own monies. So, if you as a fundraiser fail to manage the raised money, it will not help the beneficiary in the long run.
To support the fundraising efforts, I try to gather as much supporting documents from the local office, non-government organizations, village leaders, etc as possible. These documents are helpful to gain the trust of potential donors.
Once the story of beneficiary is published, it's a lot of work to track each and every contacts from potential donors. The most important work is to track the total requested fund vs. actual raised fund. Once enough is raised, it is important to update donors with statements of receipts and expenses. To maintain transparency after the fund is raised is harder than the fundraising effort itself. So, the most important work for a fundraiser comes after the fund is raised.
Fund utilization could take weeks, months or years. It is important to have a closure when the last penny of the raised fund is spent for the purpose it was meant for. This closure must come with a statement from the fundraiser on whether the condition or status of the beneficiary has improved, slightly improved or no improvement.
Let me conclude with one of the advise from Federal Trade Commission when it comes to charity, "don’t assume that pleas for help on crowdfunding sites or social media are legitimate. Real victims’ pictures and stories can easily be misused to con you." Let's make our Tibetan community stronger by supporting the poor and sick. At the same time, we have a responsibility to not promote the culture of begging.
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