Bringing the peripheral community of donors to the centre of the narrative of crowdfunding could answer some interesting questions, writes Mayukh Choudhury.
Reports suggest that over 6 crore Indians are pushed below the poverty line every year due to the burden of medical expenses. Consequentially, there is also a rising need for alternate financing.
Online funding platforms play an important role here, providing potential donors with a list of verified causes they can categorize, filter and choose from. I’ve often heard people complaining about how healthcare crowdfunding has turned into a “popularity contest” and this got me thinking.
Since the advent of online fundraising, the world seems to be swarmed with “worthwhile” causes. Whether it takes somebody a step closer to saving a loved one’s life or pulls someone out of a seemingly impossible difficult time of life, a donation definitely helps the receiver more than it does the donor.
In this situation, a lack of proactiveness from the donor’s end, often termed as donor apathy, has a significant negative impact on donations.
Understanding the donor
While the needs spread out before each donor could seem infinite, her ability to make a difference is maximized by picking one of these causes she can make a subtle difference to. More often than not, a single donation cannot fund the entire need. Optimizing satisfaction with the small fraction of her income that she parts with could be a real challenge for a donor.
Audiences empowered to skip ads and promotional content makes it difficult for urgent causes to garner attention. An increasingly visual internet also means that audiences spend almost the same amount of time on a webpage’s primary image as they do on the entire written content. What does all of this mean for those who create online campaigns? It means they are competing for the same person’s attention, and help does go out to the one that promises maximum gratification to the donor. This calls for some serious revision in how we approach fundraising then.
While fundraising platforms can and must be empathetic to the beneficiary who is going through a difficult time, for the user who is actually loosening her purse strings, this empathy can often be shrouded in doubts, questions, or misunderstandings, and this is completely understandable. She just wants to know if putting her money elsewhere could have more impact.
There is no good or service this donor gets in return of the investment, and gratification can be a fairly subjective concept. This is the reason we see some fundraisers working better than others, although they may share the same urgency in need.
It is important to understand that a donation is only an explicit expression of empathy, and while asking for it is difficult, no one is obliged to give to your cause. Of course, everybody deserves to be helped, but with the increase in visible needs, the donor’s compelled choice between two or more equally urgent causes does not make them any less of a good person than helping someone makes them. They are still going out of their way to help someone, and are still parting with money they could spend on a good or a service that could provide more utility to them.
Anybody who provides a platform for people to raise funds cannot pick and choose who is a more worthy recipient. Anybody with a genuine need is eligible to seek help, but every person who stumbles upon a need is not obliged to help.
The only distinction that platforms can make is between internet-savvy organizers and those who are still not active consumers of the internet. While the former can reach out to the right people through the infinite reach of social media, the latter will need help on various aspects. For them, there must be a dedicated team, always available for guidance, and even tailor-made outreach plans that give their cause much-needed visibility.
A donor comes across your cause among millions of other things they see every day, and the truth is that powerful storytelling through informative content and moving images does help to some extent in extracting the last bit of generosity in some donors.
Given the magnitude of need, with over a lakh people pushed into financial distress due to medical expenses every day, even the virtual world, with its infinite array of possibilities, becomes an overcrowded marketplace where various causes compete for digital real estate.
Attracting the attention of donors is fair and understandable, especially when your cause is urgent and the amount needed is huge.
Rather than criticizing modern healthcare crowdfunding for being a popularity contest, we could probably try to understand the perspective of the donor and understand how important it is to convince them. Bringing donors from the periphery of crowdfunding narratives to its centre could be a brilliant way to understand what it takes to make your cause worth giving to.
Photo Credits: Austin Distel on Unsplash