How two Chartered Accountants launched a crowdfunding startup to connect NGOs to potential donors.
- Hello, we are Trishla Pareek (28) and Divya Singhal (27), Chartered Accountants by qualification, and the founders of ShareALittle - a registered nonprofit and crowdfunding platform that seeks to connect NGOs to potential donors.
- Concerned about the pandemic’s devastating effect on the education sector, we set out to achieve the goal to equip underprivileged students with digital devices in September-2020.
- Within just 5 months, we raised Rs. 300,000 (almost USD 4,500) of funding from 62 donors to buy 35 digital devices for students.
- In 2020, we quit our full-time jobs to turn into social entrepreneurs to bridge the funding gap for NGOs.
Realizing corporate careers are not meant for us
Trishla and I, Divya, met at a boarding school at the age of 10 and became friends instantly.
Post-school, both of us decided to pursue Chartered Accountancy. We for the exams together and as luck would have it, we also qualified in the same attempt! But we both took multiple attempts.
Jan 18th, 2018 was a memorable day for both of us as we had officially become Chartered Accountants!
When it was time to start our career, we decided to go the corporate route. However, coming from business families, we always talked about doing something of our own – “someday!”.
In 2018, we both landed jobs in Mumbai, with our offices 10 minutes away from the other. So, we got a flat together and Trishla pursued Financial Due Diligence at a Big 4 and I, Equity Research at a broking house.
When we started our jobs, we were thrilled about working. But the bubble burst as the expectations at work started rising.
Fast forward to 2020, the pandemic broke out and we realized it’s finally time we take an entrepreneurial leap.
But here was the issue – We had no idea what our venture would be about.
What next now?
The idea to start a crowdfunding platform during the pandemic
As the nationwide lockdown happened, we continued working remotely in our full-time jobs while volunteering with children-centric NGOs.
(Trishla and I, have been working with NGOs since we were 14 years old. Our boarding school always pushed us to give back to the community and that stayed with us.)
In fact, in July-2020, I volunteered with an NGO called Indus Action (a policy think-tank in the education space). Here, I had to record the grievances of the students from economically weaker sections who were studying at private schools as part of the Right To Education (RTA) under a 25% quota.
With virtual learning becoming the new reality and schools opened an online format - we would increasingly hear of students from under-resourced families who did not have the means to study from home. Their families' incomes were badly hit too. We wanted to do something to help.
After a lot of brainstorming, we thought of bridging the gap between the donors and the recipients...we decided to start a crowdfunding platform!
We read up about the industry dynamics, how to execute the platform, competitor analysis (domestic and international), how to raise funds, etc. However, this was limited to a week’s work.
With full faith that we could make a difference, September 2020 marked the beginning of our crowdfunding start-up, ShareALittle.
Building the platform
We were still working full-time when we started out as the idea was to pursue this part-time and take things one step at a time!
Our first step was to build a pretty standard crowdfunding model to act as an intermediary between NGOs and donors.
The next step was to have a website in place and build a very secure payment gateway, especially because we were pitching a noble cause and accepting donations on the NGO’s behalf. Besides, the sum involved was big (INR 250K+).
We also got the fundraising content in place for our website. (Luckily, we managed to pull a lot of favors and so our animated video, our logo, our fundraising videos were all done free of cost. )
Being CAs, we wanted to do everything within the legal purview - We did not want to get people’s donations in our personal accounts. So, we got our company registered, opened a company bank account, applied for the 12A status and 80G, and set up a nonprofit.
We later collaborated with 2 NGOs and got the fundraising details from our partner NGOs (this took several calls and tries to get the right videos)
Things picked up their own pace and worked themselves out as if this was meant to be.
In fact, we put a message on LinkedIn and asked around (friends/family) informally that we wanted to reach out to NGOs who are working with children who might need digital devices to study. A lot of people came forward who needed help. Therefore, we collaborated with NGOs even while the company was in the process of getting registered (date of incorporation - October 1, 2020).
From there, we expedited the process and were finally able to launch after 2 months on November 10th, 2020.
Within just 5 months, we managed to set up a nonprofit, collaborate with 2 NGOs, raise Rs. 300,000 of funding from 62 donors to buy 35 digital devices for students.
Unlike our Indian crowdfunding platforms whose charges vary with services, we do not distinguish between our fundraisers and put all our energy into each fundraiser to maximize the funds raised. The idea is to make the limited campaigns that we run, a success!
We had to face (and still do) a sea of challenges - be it coming up with the right name to the message we wanted to spread, how to market our brand, how to come up with an interesting and captivating fundraising story, drawing up the legal agreements for campaign owners and donors, etc.
The first challenge was reaching the right beneficiaries.
However, I would say that the biggest challenge was breaking the stereotype that charities misappropriate funds or that funds do not reach the relevant people.
Other challenges included:
- Pandemic-induced donation fatigue
- Inability to travel and have face-to-face meetings – this also restricted our fundraising events to digital mediums
- Navigating from an employee mindset to that of a business owner’s, which involves dynamic decision-making, accountability, firefighting teething issues, and ever-evolving operational challenges.
We are still trying to streamline our processes for NGO tie-ups, fundraising plans, building a donor base.
There is a steep learning curve involved but we are glad we have taken the first step and we will figure out the rest slowly and as things go!
Present and Future Plans
Somewhere along the line, we decided to pursue this full-time and we haven’t looked back since.
We manage things on our own. We have an advisory board comprising of a lawyer and a CA, that’s about it. The plan is to hire more people once we scale up operations, i.e. running 3+ campaigns at a time. Currently, we limit our fundraisers to 1-2 at a time.
Currently, ShareALittle is focusing on causes that enable and improve access to quality education.
In the future, we are aspiring to include causes that support women's empowerment, overcoming malnutrition, among others, and bring about a tangible change in society.
We just started our entrepreneurial journey and have a long way to go. But, our advice to budding entrepreneurs is − weigh your options and do what works best FOR YOU.
(Feel free to write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)