Whether it's the floods in Bangladesh or a humanitarian crisis like the Rohingya crisis, people always come forward with whatever contribution they can. One taka or one crore taka, every penny counts.
Since last year, charity has increased more than before. Covid-19 and the lockdown have swallowed income opportunities. Many people left the city jobless, businesses shut down, children had to stop schooling as parents could not afford it anymore, child brides increased as poor parents are trying to lessen their burdens. In this crucial situation, the government, big corporations, many independent organisations, NGOs as well as individuals have come forward to assist other people in need.
We started an initiative called Shohojogita Corner through which we serve around a thousand families with dry food packets. It was a tough job initially since the number of needy receivers was far greater than what we could offer. Slowly we set up five distribution corners at Lalmatia, Rai Shaheb Bazar-Old Town, Mirpur Dohs, Malibagh, and Ashuganj.
Each of them became a charity hub for both donors and assistant seekers. People left us dry food at these places if they wanted to contribute. We would package it and distribute it to those in need. The majority of assistance receivers were rickshaw pullers whose income dropped from 600/800 taka per day to 100/150 taka a day.
Some tailors were out of work because the clients were under lockdown. Some unpaid domestic helpers were restricted to entering apartments in fear of infection. Many families even called us to provide a weekly Bazaar as they ran out of money.
The first few initiatives were taken through our contributions. When we saw the severity of the situation, we decided to seek public contributions.
When faced with such situations there is always this dilemma - Should I show or keep my charity works secret?
When we were posting about our charitable activities, we got negative feedback from many. The summary of all the criticism was: no one should show off their charity works. We do not agree with that. We believe there are certain circumstances under which it becomes necessary to show evidence of charitable works.
The reason an organisation or an individual seeks donor contribution is when they cannot meet the demand of the helpless people through their budget. When you go to the public for fundraising, you have to show evidence of your work. Only when they see that you are working for people, will they trust you with their money.
Marketing is important in raising funds for charity
When we started posting our corner's photographs through social media, contributors and people who needed help got to know about our initiative. Marketing is not only for business activities; it is equally important for charity works. Posting the evidence of ongoing charity works in social media educates and inspires donors while informing those who are seeking assistance.
Proof of work for donors
Now that the donors have started contributing, they will expect to see what was done with that money. If you don't post the photographs and/or videos of your activities after receiving the money, people will raise questions about your authenticity.
If there is a large contribution by a single donor, you can separately report to that donor. But when we receive a large number of small donations from 10 to 50 taka, we accumulate every penny and run a campaign which then needs to be published so that the donors see their donations reaching the target groups.
Power of voluntarism
Social works require a huge pool of manpower too. In charity work, you surely need volunteers. We started our first corner at Lalmatia with the help of family members only. Later on, we called for volunteers to distribute assistance in other places, helping in hanging the banners, going home to home for those who called us personally for help. If people see these actions, only then they will come forward to volunteer.
Influencing other people through your posting is a big marketing strategy. I have seen many people getting influenced by our 'Shohojogita Corner' and opening their very own charity/aid corners. This influencing chain benefits people who are in need.
But there are few things we need to keep in mind.
If you are taking photographs or videos, take their permission. They may be in need, but they have the same right to self-respect as we do.
If anyone is uncomfortable in taking direct photographs or videos, you can just snap their hands with the aid they received. Hand shots!
If you cannot take any photos of receivers, then take photos of the goods you are giving away.
It's very important to wear proper masks and gloves, keeping physical distance between the assistance receivers and distributors. This practice should be documented too as it will spread the message that - voluntarism is possible even in this pandemic by maintaining physical distance, wearing masks, and gloves.
Showoff vs Show your work
There is a very thin line between "showing your work" and *show off". There were even reports that after taking photographs that aid has been snatched away from the receivers. The main motive should be helping people and the promotional activities come along with it. The charity work is primary, promotional work is secondary.
I would suggest that if it is your charity work, and you are not going to ask others to come forward and contribute, then it is better to keep it private. I have always seen my parents and relatives distribute their zakat without any public appearances. I keep it to myself when I am personally donating money/helping others because I believe good deeds should be done with intention and not for attention.
But if you are going for a mass charity and need other people's contribution, then showing your charitable work can be justified. It all depends on your objective. If showing your Charity work helps a few extra souls through influencing other contributors, then why not show your work!
Ishrat Binte Rouf is the Project lead of Shohojogita Corner, a social assistance venture of Gen Lab.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.