Funding droughts and online solutions: How we crowdfunded our project to end child marriage

Adolescent girls in a life skills education class in the state of Maharashtra, India.

I would like to share with you the story about how my organisation, the Institute of Health Management Pachod, took the leap into the world of online fundraising after a long tradition of writing grant proposals.

My work in the development sector dates back more than 35 years, when I first took over a small four-bedded rural hospital from a British missionary. Today, I am the director of the Institute for Health Management Pachod, an Indian organisation that runs programmes ranging from environmental protection and sanitation to neonatal and maternal health.

Working closely with adolescent girls, addressing the issue of child marriage is a given for us.

Changing funding landscapes in the development sector

Unlike many local development organisations, the Institute for Health Management Pachod has enjoyed a long history of support from donors. In 2006 however, the funding landscape changed due to the global economic downturn. Funding sources dried up at a fast pace. Suddenly, our funders were unable to support our work in the same way as they had for many years.

Whereas large foundations and international funding agencies were offering fewer grants, at the same time an increasing number of NGOs were competing for the same funds. Until that point we had distanced ourselves from the notion of charity. “We don’t do charity,” we would say with confidence, “we do development work.” But now we were forced to look into fundraising through individual donations.

Going social to raise funds

Luckily, we heard from colleagues at Girls Not Brides about GlobalGiving – an online crowdfunding platform that lets people directly fund projects and would allow us to raise money for our work to empower and protect adolescent girls and prevent child marriage. IHMP and other Girls Not Brides members were invited to join GlobalGiving’s “Gateway Challenge” to win a permanent spot on their site.

The entire business of raising funds and projecting your image online through social media was our biggest weakness at the time. We thought, “Our work takes place in the field, with the people. Who’s got time to sit and tinker with Facebook and Twitter?” But once we entered the GlobalGiving challenge, we realised that individual online fundraising was the way to go.

Winning a fundraising challenge

We received training from GlobalGiving who guided us through the process of raising funds online. They gave tips on how to project ourselves successfully to an online audience, how to reach new donors and nurture our relationship with existing ones. Following a huge effort within my organisation, not only did we succeed and gain a permanent spot on this crowdfunding platform, we were able to raise the second highest amount in donations from a record 174 donors – bringing home a bonus cash prize to support our programmes!

A few months later, GlobalGiving sent out evaluators to visit our programmes, and we received a fantastic report from them. This helped us secure an offer for funding from a corporate donor. If we get these funds we propose to use them to purchase 80 bicycles to allow girls from small villages to attend school. This will help us to keep many girls from being married off as children and instead continue their education.

Go ahead, absolutely!

Based on this experience, my advice to other organisations around the world is to take the leap and try online fundraising through crowdfunding platforms like GlobalGiving. I would tell them to go ahead, absolutely!

And once you do, the first thing you need to do is get your website going. At IHMP, we know that many of those who donated to us had visited our website first to see what we were really doing. Make sure to put all your financials and other reports on the website. Donors are interested in balance sheets, audited reports and the like.

Another learning, perhaps our greatest one, was that as an organisation, if you do not have an online social media presence – on Facebook, Twitter – then you’re in trouble.

I can say with confidence that despite our initial concerns, IHMP hasn’t looked back. We have taken the decision to have one fulltime staff dedicated to communication and fundraising work. Crowd-funding has helped us to serve many girls in our communities, protecting them from child marriage by providing viable alternatives.

Find out more

Find out how your organisation can join GlobalGiving

Support IHMP’s project

Find out how IHMP empowers adolescent girls