The buzzword for modern startups, crowdfunding was originally touted as a breakthrough for entrepreneurs to raise capital via a collective effort. According to a 2013 study commissioned by the World Bank, crowdfunding is projected to become a US$90 to US$96 billion industry by 2025. Today, crowdfunding for social causes is quickly gaining traction, proving to be a valuable fundraising tool that taps into a broader network of potential donors.
For Diani Lee, her very first crowdfunding experience proved to exceed expectations, raising close to a total of RM300,000 for the Malaysian Lotus Charity Care Centre Association via Simply Giving, an online fundraising platform in Asia. “I know crowdfunding is a trendy thing to do and I was searching online for websites that will be able to help me raise money for the home. I found other popular crowdfunding websites such as GoFundMe and GIVE.asia but unfortunately the websites did not provide the option to crowdfund in Malaysian ringgit. This would pose a problem in future especially for donations in large amounts,” shares the former general manager of corporate marketing and communications of Country Heights Holdings. She eventually decided to crowdfund via Simply Giving, Asia’s largest social crowdfunding community founded by Dato’ James Iskandar Jaafar-Greaves. With offices in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, Simply Giving has worked with 650 non-profit partners and social enterprises in 20 countries across Asia.
“For me and my immediate friends, it was an eye-opener to raise donations via crowdfunding. I set up the page on a Thursday and by the weekend my phone was beeping non-stop from notifications for donations pouring in. We managed to raise RM200,000 both offline and online,” she shares with a hint of elation in her voice. She acknowledges that there were necessary precautions to take especially when it comes to the transparency of the funds. With a target of RM450,000, she shares that crowdfunding has opened up another dimension of fundraising in a more efficient way. “The narration is very important. We did not have to organise a gala dinner or fundraising party. This way we ensure that the money raised really goes towards the cause. Just like any other fundraising, crowdfunding needs to be done properly with a lot of responsibility and transparency,” she stresses.
She also advocates crowdfunding as an effective method to raise funds as there is a digital footprint to track donors and the amount they have donated. The crowdfunding model also allows donors to post questions and leave messages behind, which Diani finds useful as she prints out the messages and passes it on to the home. In return, a new relationship between donors and the home is fostered as the home is now in the process of writing personal thank you notes. “As a donor and fundraiser, I feel this is the way to go. There is no wishy-washy and it’s very easy for people to donate from the comfort of their computer screens. There is no pressure on how much you want to donate as well.”
Diani’s mission to raise funds began after she made a visit to the Malaysian Lotus Charity Care Centre earlier this year. The centre has been around for 14 years and was run by its late founder Dr R Thomas Manoharan who passed away in 2016. It was a year of double tragedy for the 25 elderly folks and 26 children who were attached to the centre when their home burnt to the ground. The founder’s wife Sarah Thomas is now managing the home on her own after relocating to a small rented three-bedroom house in Semenyih. “When I saw the children and the home’s condition that they were living in, I thought that if nothing drastic happens then any donations that come in is going to perpetuate them in that situation further,” says Diani. With a focus on building a new home for the children, Diani has managed to bring in a team of professionals comprising an architect, a town planner and a project manager who have all volunteered to take on the case pro-bono.
To make a donation or follow any updates on the home’s progress, please visit https://www.simplygiving.com/poor-orphanage-with-26-children