Adil Zaidi, 41, partner at Ernst & Young, dons the hat of a volunteer during the month of Ramzan. For the past four years, Delhi-based Zaidi, one of the 2,000-plus global members of a Facebook campaign, ‘Who is Hussain?,’ has been organising meals for people during Ramzan. Last Saturday, around 250 volunteers from the campaign in 18 Indian cities arranged meals for one lakh people.
“Our UK headquarters gives us details of events we are supposed to conduct. Accordingly, we reach out to volunteers through WhatsApp. Depending on their availability, volunteers contribute their time and money,” says Zaidi. In some cities, group members arranged cooked meals. In others, they distributed packets containing wheat, rice, sugar and edible oil, he adds.
The month of Ramzan is as much about fasting as it is about charity. Zaidi’s is one of the many online groups which work as bridges between needy people and those who wish to help the needy but don’t know how to. In addition to regular charity, many Muslims prefer paying Zakat during Ramzan. Zakat requires Muslims to offer 2.5 per cent of their wealth to the poor. Numerous groups have devised online campaigns in time for charity.
The number of Ramzan-specific charity campaigns on crowd-funded platforms has been increasing every passing year. “In the past one week, we have seen about Rs 1.5 lakh raised on the platform and campaigns being started every second day. It’s amazing to see how the age-old tradition is taking a new form through crowd-funding and is increasing the impact that each person can make,” says Ishita Anand, founder, Bitgiving.com, a crowd- funding platform which enables people to share their stories, raise funds online and also provide payment gateways.
As compared to personalised campaigns which depend on face value and have limited reach, online platforms have a multiplier effect. “Even if someone doesn’t know you but is impressed with your work, the person will donate online,” says Danish Aziz, 38, development professional who has been running the online campaign ‘Feed a Family This Ramzan’ for the past five years. This year, the campaign’s aim is to raise Rs 2 lakh for poor families in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Rs 1.30 lakh has already been raised. “One also has the advantage of using crowdfunding platforms such as Ketto.com and Bitgiving.com,” added Aziz, who hosts his campaign on Bitgiving.com.
Another factor where online campaigns score over word of mouth is by ensuring that the focus remains on the cause and not on the individual. “The money received by the organisation is a stamp of approval on its credibility,” says Shafiqur Rehman, who runs an online campaign ‘Free a Trafficking Victim This Ramzan’ said, “Through online campaigns, the focus is on the cause and not on the person. The money received by the organisation is a stamp of approval on its credibility.”
In most of the cases, the receiver of the money is himself working for a cause or he knows organisations which are. For example, Danish Aziz said that from his experience in the development sector, he knows various grassroots organisations across the country. He gives the money to them and they ensure that it reaches the people who genuinely need it.