As the world still reels under the impact of the COVID pandemic, the need to be optimistic has never been greater. But even though this daunting time, people are proving that compassion and empathy do not depend entirely on the giver’s personal well being.

Milaap, South Asia’s largest online crowdfunding platform opened up its platform for COVID related needs on March 22, 2020. Soon after a month, thousands of individuals have collectively mobilized funds worth nearly 90 crores. The online funding campaigns not only span across helping stranded migrants and daily wage laborers get access to essentials and community kitchens but it has also come to the aid of peripheral communities such as trans people, male sex workers, circus artistes, drivers, delivery personnel, rural artisans, dancers, and freelance workers.

Anoj Viswanathan, President, and co-founder of Milaap said “During the times of natural calamities like floods in Chennai, Assam, and Kerala, crowdfunding has enabled people to unite and help the worst affected section of people rebuild their lives. It was a stroke of hope to see it happen at a time like this when everyone’s life is displaced in some way or another. Over the last month, we have seen more than a 5x increase in customer queries and a 65% increase in the number of fundraisers. It was new for us, but now, more than ever, we wanted to ensure a seamless user experience. Therefore, we immediately built a special team to prioritize these needs, and waived off our platform fee for all Covid-19 initiatives so that people in need can get all the help coming their way.”

The preliminary theme of fundraising was for food, meals, and ration for the worst-affected segments, like daily wage earners and migrant workers, followed by funds for medical and personal protective equipment for healthcare and other frontline workers. The third one is for specifically vulnerable segments of people. A Chennai based trans community started a fundraiser to reach out to at least 100 members initially but the response was so overwhelming that they went on to facilitate support for an additional 200 affected trans people. Similarly, 11-year-old Ridhi from Hyderabad also received generous contributions from across the globe. This 6th grader has collected over 7.48 lakh and has distributed 1250 ration kits to daily wagers. She has plans to distribute 500 more kits in the coming days.

Among others, Luis Miranda, Chairman of CORO, and Centre for Civil Society also started a fundraiser on Milaap to raise funds to distribute essential items to daily wage workers. So far, he has raised about 70% of the required Rs. 1.3 Crore and families of thousands of wage workers have received help. Speaking about his fundraising experience, Mr. Luis Miranda said, “Milaap has been a great partner. When CORO decided to crowdfund for support to daily wage earners who were impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown, Milaap immediately agreed to let us use its platform without any fee. This was the first time I was raising funds on an online platform and getting onto the platform was relatively easy. The team was very responsive to our requests. And the response from donors has been amazing. We are glad we went with Milaap.”

Even popular service aggregators stepped up and united to support their most affected segment of employees: delivery personnel and drivers.

Mayukh Choudhury, CEO of Milaap said, “While tomorrow is uncertain for everyone, we can still agree that the problems of today are harsher on some than the others. We would like to thank the 3000+ unsung heroes who lobbied support for critical needs and the 1.6 lakh generous donors who came forward to help, for adding an unforgettable chapter of hope even in these tough times. Some of these campaign organizers already have managed to serve over 50 lakh meals from the support they received online from generous donors and on-ground from government and administration officials. The response has been humbling, to say the least, and the people who did it are the real heroes. As it has always been, we will make sure that we go the extra mile to connect people with each other. Our next effort will be to help local businesses across India through our new initiative, the Small Business Relief Initiative.

Small and micro businesses are a lifeline for countless societies. They often address critical issues of sustenance and employment. With some support from their communities and generous people around the world, they can raise small grants that can help them restart their source of livelihood.

He further added, “Over the last decade, Milaap has built a network of over 1.5 lakh small businesses who we have supported through regular capital interventions. We wish to extend our platform to qualifying small and microlocal businesses that have been affected by the crisis. We are working with our partner Intuit QuickBooks to help these businesses raise small grants to restart their work after this phase. We hope additional companies and generous individual donors will continue to contribute to this Fund in the coming weeks, in order to provide the much-needed aid to even more businesses across the country,

The Small Business Relief Initiative will support businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19. They can raise small grants with the help of people, especially from the communities they serve to tide over the present standstill.

Archana Vohra, Director, Small and Medium Businesses, Facebook India said, “Milaap has been using Facebook actively to raise funds, reach the right set of donors, and create awareness about the different COVID-19 relief causes. The strong engagement and response they’re receiving on their Facebook page with 2 million followers is testimony to the very important and incredible work they’re doing in these challenging times. They’re also using their Facebook page to inspire people around the country to do their bit. For instance, they recently shared the story of seven-year-old Rommel Lalmuansanga from Mizoram on their Facebook page who broke open his piggy bank to donate to the COVID-19 relief cause, inspiring thousands across India. In these challenging times, Milaap continues to raise funds for non-COVID causes as well. Himani Joshi, a 24-year-old from Nainital, needed a second Bone Marrow Transplant to fight cancer, and Milaap ran a campaign on Facebook that helped raise 21 lakhs within a matter of a few hours for her treatment. At a time like this Milaap has proved to be a beacon of hope for millions of Indians, and Facebook is deeply committed to enabling and supporting them in whatever we can.”

At a time when people gathering together is considered dangerous, more than 1 lakh people have come together on our platform to support various causes in Milaap. Perhaps one of the rarest incidents where a mass gathering has helped the cause of fighting Covid-19 and not the other way.