A room full of enthusiastic social change makers and experienced professionals along with their teachers and mentors ready to listen about Thinksharp Foundation “StudyMall” on a Saturday evening was a sign of there commitment towards there passion of starting something to help society. Students doing course on NGO management and social entrepreneurship were excited to listen what I have to tell them on managing StudyMall project under Thinksharp Foundation.
We Thinksharp Foundation team was invited by CSIM Hyderabad to speak about our journey and management of NGO to students of CSIM this year in month of June. As our Founder was on not available, this great opportunity came to me to present StudyMall to CSIM students.
CSIM launched a centre in Hyderabad in 2002, by networking with Dr.Reddy’s Foundation. This centre has emerged as a prominent learning and networking centre for social workers, NGOs and budding social entrepreneurs in Hyderabad. CSIM offer a Certificate Course in NGO Management and Social Entrepreneurship which is of 4.5 months duration and provides basic principles of management and entrepreneurship in non-profit organization while retaining its social mission. (http://www.csim.in/csim-hyderabad.php) .
I was very much excited and bit nervous too to be speaking in front of professional students and teachers from professional course of social entrepreneurship. A big help and motivation was Dr.Shrivastav sir (Director CSIM Hyderabad) who helped us from finding a comfortable slot to visit CSIM, then extending help on phone continuously to find the location and being perfect host for us during the actual talk.
As I started my presentation, it was more of very fruitful discussion where students (actually social entrepreneurs) had questions like why and how we started, and why we named it StudyMall , one of the most interesting question was how do I volunteer and helping StudyMall despite my full time job and being from different profession ( I am a MBBS doctor) . There were questions around our expansion plan, how an social enterprise survive, some legal questions and how we mobilize team and volunteer sitting in different locations and yet having StudyMall in remote rural places of Maharashtra. For those interested in venturing in this field i try to cover some basics we learned below on same-
1.Legal paperwork before starting social venture– As explained them that ThinkSharp Foundation is registered U/S Mumbai Public Trust Act 1950 Reg.No E28181 (Mumbai), Date of registration – 13.09.2011 and legally has 80G and 12 A certificates s to accept donation and provide tax exemption the importance of having clear legal documents and knowledge percolated through them before starting any social venture.
2. Managing a NGO – For us what worked best is having an diverse and passionate team coming form different backgrounds- Thinksharp Foundation core team Santosh, Bhagwan, Shraddha and Rahul all are coming from different professions and bring different skills which saves cost which is needed for an start up NGO.
Santosh looks after financial, legal and bringing new donors as he comes from financial marketing profession, Bhagwan looks into branding and marketing being an corporate well known artist, Rahul helps in social media and photograhy as he is a well established photographer (https://www.facebook.com/photushotu.rahul/?fref=ts,) as for me i manage daily social media, communications and PR for Thinksharp Foundation. We have extended team like Deepali (an writer) providing inputs on varied marketing factors, Kranti ( a financial strong background provides inputs on financial stuff) Mr. Mangesh ( CA himself helps a lot on legal stuff), Mr. Zahid an successful entrepreneur himself making time for us on any logistics we need, Amol providing his time and energy whenever we need him to visit StudyMall sites.
3. For the mobilization of resources– The biggest question for us is how to mobilize funds, resources and run StudyMall in rural parts while we all are in cities-
I explained them how we use technology like Watsapp, Skype, E-mail and telephonic calls to connect with local volunteers in rural villages where we have StudyMall to keep everyone on same page on making StudyMall useful to maximum capacity by rural children.We have a local volunteers who are passionate about providing education infrastructure to their village children who then acts as our co-coordinator once the StudyMall is set up. An example is our passionate volunteer Mr. Saurabh Mangrule for our third project StudyMall at Vangani village. He is practically available to co ordinate 24/7 with us and teachers of Z.P. School with whom we are running StudyMall. (read about him( http://thinksharpfoundation.org/blogs/blog/2016/04/19/studymall-at-village-vangani/ )
4. Constant dialogue with actual beneficiaries of your social venture–
Our mantra for successful StudyMall lies in having strong support system at rural level where we open StudyMall, if its independent center or in collaboration with school, we ensure to have dialogue with teachers, village Panchyat, Sarpanch, teachers and key decision makers of village so as to understand actual need of that village and then providing customized solution. We ensure not to bombard infrastructure which is actually not needed this can be identified only after speaking to actual benefeciries and people who are local. For example, our first StudyMall was started with books and after year we introduced computer and now that its completed 3 years we will try to add digital learning solution because first StudyMall at Surangali village was not ready for digitization at start due to non availability of skilled professional or lack of curiosity of surangali village children towards digital education, but now after three years they are ready to accept this and hence we plan to install it . However our third StudyMall at Vangani village had skilled teachers knowing about digital educational infrastructure and children were also curious and exposed to such hence we installed digital projector and educational tablets from the beginning itself.
5. Expansion and scaling your social venture how and when-
Having a practical goal and staying true to your mission should always be priority while deciding scaling and expansion. We are many times asked to make StudyMall sustainable we should charge rural kinds minimal fee to use StudyMall set up. We always prioritized that StudyMall will remain free to use for rural children. Our plan is set up only maximum 3 StudyMall per year instead of 20 or 10, this is to ensure we provide customized StudyMall in every village which will be beneficial and used at fullest by village children instead of just mass availability of StudyMall with too many infrastructure which will not be used.
6 – Interaction and communication with industry
For us what worked is having constant dialogue by attending various events to know how to frame strategy that works best to scale your social venture. We attended many events whenever possible for social entrepreneurship like recently SandBox Samvidha by Deshpande Foundationread more on this event by us at http://thinksharpfoundation.org/blogs/blog/2016/08/06/together-we-can-do-studymall-at-sandbox-samvidhahubbali/) , UnLTD (http://www.unltdindia.org/) following many great websites like YourStory social section https://yourstory.com/ Following great social entrepreneurs http://www.muhammadyunus.org/. Connecting with great websites providing support to NGO http://www.doinggoodfellows.org/, http://www.ivolunteer.in/, http://whiteboardindia.org/ . Following good resources covering NGO like CSR Journal http://thecsrjournal.in/an Industry leader in CSR space.
Ms.Mandeep founder at Quarterpants, http://www.quarterpants.com/ who helped us in making social media fundraising strategy.
7) Fundraising and donation-
What works best for us is we are trying to solve a very common problem known to all poor education resource in rural parts of India. There is lot of awareness around this. But still creating an awareness about problem you want to solve is very critical because awareness will only create connect between donor and your NGO. We constantly create buzz about this poor education problem on our NGO and individual team members website, Facebook, Twitter,Instagram etc and also keep focused approach on approaching those who are already from rural parts .
Keeping donors informed by use of different communication on how there donations are used is very important. We do this by use of mailing ( using MaiChimp- http://mailchimp.com/) social media pictures editing by Canva https://www.canva.com/, social pilot for scheduling pots in advance-https://socialpilot.co/.
This are some practical basics we learned during our venture, but for professional learning there are many institutes and website that should be referred one is CSIM course as explained above.
You can donate and support us too..http://www.thinksharpfoundation.org/#/donate
Thanks and keep your Human side up that will keep you smiling….
Written by -Dr.Shraddha M Bhange
Volunteer and Writer for Thinksharp Foundation.
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