The coronavirus health and economic crisis has altered the lives of millions of people around the world. Many have already lost their jobs due to government-ordered shutdowns, particularly in sectors like tourism, F&B, as well as hospitality, and this number will continue to rise throughout 2020.
In this challenging time, some people have been sharing their resources with those who are less fortunate, at times utilizing the targeted distribution found in charity programs. Since most countries are enforcing social distancing and effectively banning mass gatherings, charities are organizing online fundraising initiatives as they require almost no physical contact between people.
“We are seeing an increase in fundraising on SimplyGiving that is directly linked to COVID-19. Traffic on our platform has increased by 250%, compared to pre-COVID. And donations raised has increased 60% year-on-year,” said SimplyGiving CEO Cheryl Low to KrASIA.
The first wave of fundraising campaigns, which are still running, aims to help frontliners—medical and retail workers—and underprivileged communities. Low also observed the beginning of second-wave campaigns to assist charity groups and nonprofit organizations.
Low has found that many supporters of NGOs set up personalized fundraising pages on SimplyGiving on behalf of the organizations. These campaigns are shared through various social media platforms to generate awareness—and donations.
“NGOs are beginning to prioritize online fundraising, because the traditional methods of fundraising, through events or face-to-face encounters, has essentially halted for the time being. And they need to find a safer way to continue raising funds, so they are reaching out to platforms like SimplyGiving,” said Low.
COVID-19 relief across ASEAN (and the world)
Launched in 2011, SimplyGiving is a peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising platform. To ensure broad appeal, SimplyGiving facilitates multi-lingual presentation and handles 17 currencies, so people located anywhere can financially support causes that they believe in.
Most of its fundraising campaigns are anchored in Malaysia, the platform’s home base. A notable recent campaign was steered by a fashion influencer, Vivy Yusof, for the IMAM Response and Relief Team (IMARET), a charity run by doctors to provide aid to healthcare frontliners in the country. Started on March 17, the campaign amassed MYR 1 million (USD 250,000) in donations from more than 23,000 donors. “It was amazing to see a grassroots community coming together to make a difference,” said Low.
SimplyGiving also hosts fundraising initiatives from other locations in Asia, such as Hong Kong, Thailand, and the Philippines. Most of them are run by individuals or NGOs, although there are also a number of corporations that have hosted schemes where they match the funds donated by their staff.
The company has also been appointed as a platform partner and country champion in Malaysia by the global charity movement Giving Tuesday. As an emergency response to the unprecedented need due to COVID-19, Giving Tuesday has designated May 5 as the first day of its campaign in 2020. It lists a whopping 54 platform partners, including GoFundMe and VolunteerMatch.
Right now, many organizations and individuals are teaming with online charity platforms to raise money for valid causes. In Indonesia, for example, Kitabisa is the go-to partner for various fundraising drives. The biggest one, hosted by television personality Najwa Shihab, managed to collect more than IDR 10 billion (USD 643,500) for vulnerable communities. The cash will be distributed through a set of ongoing programs run by institutions that have been vetted by Kitabisa.
The Indonesian platform also partners with major corporations like JD.id, Amartha, and Gojek for COVID-19 relief programs. “We hope that this collaboration could ease the burden on medical workers and the poor who are currently struggling to survive in the midst of a pandemic,” said Kitabisa CEO Alfatih Timur in a statement.
Keeping scammers at bay
Unsurprisingly, there are scammers who are trying to take advantage of charitable attitudes. The World Health Organizations has warned about fraudsters targeting people under the pretense of doing charity work for COVID-19 relief programs.
SimplyGiving takes precautionary steps to ensure the legitimacy of campaigns on their platform. The company conducts thorough checks of charity registration certificates and combs through listings on government charity portals; it also reviews charitable institutions’ websites and social media pages to ensure that they are active entities. Individual fundraisers must provide government-issued IDs, bank statements, and their proof of address.
“We also review the donor trends, particularly at the start of the campaign. If we see that the majority of the donors are from the fundraiser’s own network, then we take comfort that the donors already know the fundraiser personally and are supporting them because of this,” said Low.
Another aspect that makes the P2P fundraising platform popular, according to Low, is trust.
“When you receive a donation request from a friend or family member, you are likely to make a donation because someone close to you has asked. And you trust this person that is sharing the information with you, even if you are not aware of the charity,” she added. “You start with your friends and family, and people you know—and grow the network from there.”
Low suggested that people should only donate through a trusted source, and that they should carefully read the information provided on the campaign’s page. It is also necessary to look into a charity organization’s background on your own by visiting its website, checking its social media pages, or even visiting government portals like the Singapore Charities Commission to look up its registration information.
“If you are still unsure, don’t make the donation. Report it if you think it’s a scam. Choose to donate to a cause that you know and trust,” said Low.
At a time when social contact needs to be minimized, online platforms like SimplyGiving and Kitabisa are keeping their channels open to ensure that aid from generous individuals can be funneled to people in need.