Aseem K. Thakur’s belief that everyone wants to make a difference spurred him to find a way to make fundraising fun, simple and engaging.
Contributed By Chien Han Sheng
Most of us can relate to the sheepish, awkward tensions of being avoided on the streets when we are armed with tin cans asking for charitable donations. In fact, the very word “fundraising” conjures up discouraging images of having to brave sun, rain and avoidance from passersby in order to do some good for the less fortunate.
But what if there were a way to make fundraising fun? Toying around with this small, seemingly insignificant idea, Aseem K. Thakur, an alumnus of the National University of Singapore, came up with a new way for those passionate about social causes to raise funds, and a social enterprise was born.
A graduate from the 2009 NUS School of Engineering, Thakur is the co-founder of GIVE.sg, an online philanthropic platform which allows individuals and communities to raise funds for their favorite charitable causes in creative and fun ways. Today, GIVE.sg has raised over a million dollars for various charities, with a growing base of 4,000 donors.
Speaking at the monthly U@live forum organized by the Office of Alumni Relations at the National University of Singapore on Oct. 19, he showed that small ideas can indeed make big differences.
Through a memorable experience of building houses for the needy with Habitat For Humanity while on an NUS Overseas College program to the United States, Thakur determined to continue his acts of volunteerism upon returning to Singapore. However, he found that trying to raise funds by dangling a tin can in front of strangers was highly unfruitful.
Determined to make a change, Thakur, along with a schoolmate, Yu Ming, managed to get start-up funds from a professor who believed in their idea and founded the online platform GIVE.sg in 2008. Aiming to connect individuals to registered charities through a website, GIVE.sg’s model is simple—anyone who has a fun fundraising idea simply has to log on to www.give.sg, choose a charity, start a fundraising page and invite those in his or her social circle to make a donation. This way, charities can focus their efforts on helping those in need instead of worrying over shortage of funds.
THE PROBLEMS OF FUNDRAISING
In his short but inspiring speech, Thakur highlighted the three main points he found lacking in the concept of volunteerism—getting the involvement of friends, introducing fun into the effort, and picking up the fight.
“A lot of people care about social causes, but they don’t necessarily know the right way of doing it, and they don’t know that it can be fun. With the advent of the internet and social media, what if we can create a platform to connect charities with individuals who want to make a difference?” he said.
GIVE.sg addresses three main issues that hamper fundraising efforts. Firstly, it allows volunteers to tap on their social circle instead of soliciting for donations from strangers. Thakur and his team discovered that donation sums quadrupled when fundraising processes involve family and friends, instead of strangers.
Next, GIVE.sg allows for funds to be raised without going the dreary “tin can route”, which causes fundraisers to feel more ashamed and embarrassed rather than enjoy themselves and have fun while doing good.
Thirdly, with a comprehensive list of charities categorized into education, health and disaster, among others, GIVE.sg empowers volunteers to pick their own fight and allow them to play a part in solving issues they feel most passionate about. The results could not be more conclusive—in a span of two short years, GIVE.sg has helped fundraisers channel over a million dollars to various charities.
Thakur shared not only about how the philanthropy scene in Singapore can be improved, but also the fact that a small trickle of effort, when combined, can trigger an avalanche of change. His is a very simple and refreshing concept of fundraising that is inspiring many others to pitch in and impact their society.
U@live (pronounced “U-alive”) is a monthly forum showcasing members of the NUS community, be they students, faculty or alumni, who are championing causes for the betterment of society. Log on to www.nus.edu.sg/ualive for more information.