H I T E R I: AN ALTRUISM OF GIVE AND TAKE
“We simply want to be the bridge between the community and the organizations who want to help, no hidden agendas, no commission, no fees, nothing at all!”, said Ms. Kusum Tamang, Project Head of Hiteri Crowdfunding Platform. Indeed, with a noble cause at the core of the project, Hiteri is an initiative of its kind as a charitable enterprise by being the link between problems and problem solvers. Operating from not that big of a working space but reaching out to hundreds and thousands of lives, Hiteri is a concoction of hearts full of compassion, empathy, patience and perseverance, and brains creating strategies and plans for larger grasp. For this month’s feature, we sat down with Ms. Tamang to talk about this altruistic venture.
What is Hiteri Foundation? How did Hiteri start out and how has it evolved through the short period of time?
Hiteri Foundation is the first crowdfunding program in Nepal. It envisions including different non-profit causes in Nepal to raise awareness and funds as well as in kind donations. When I say kind donations, it could be anything from books, clothes, toys, anything at all that are usable and anyone would want to donate to these causes. So, this is how Hiteri started out, with a concept to help the needy and create a better world.
Hiteri was started in 2018 and we launched it in March 2019. Do tell us a little more about how Hiteri works?
We work like any other crowdfunding platform. Any organization that’s of any cause, be it education, women’s right, human rights, and has been registered as a nonprofit organization with the permission from Social Welfare Council, they can register with us and as a part of our service we provide them with free video shoot, we write their stories, we boost their causes in our Facebook posts and they can share these among their network and friends and raise awareness too.
How successful are the campaigns that come through Hiteri?
Crowdfunding is a new concept in Nepal. Only a small number of people know how it works, so our task is also to educate people about how crowdfunding actually works. For now, since it’s only been for two months, our primary efforts have been to educate people about how crowdfunding works and how transparent the utilization of the funds are. It’s steady, it’s going towards the right direction but we can’t expect it to be going very fast because it will take some time to evolve and spread out.
What’s your most successful campaign and why? Give your best example of the way you’ve seen your organizations work make a difference?
As I said it’s still very new and the campaigns are still running. We don’t have any that has finished its cycle, but we do have a number of organizations that are putting their efforts. Some of the organizations like The Voice of Children, Setu Nepal, and Astitwa Nepal are trying to reach out to their friends, networks, old donors, and also encourage donations in cash or kind. These have been quite successful. Another campaign is our own project for Bara. The storm that hit Bara had a lot of houses damaged, casualties, and families displaced. So we created our own campaign and it was very successful. It was tied up with Volunteer Corps Nepal and managed to raise nearly 1.3 lakh rupees and two trucks in kind donations, just from Nepat, not from abroad. Therefore, I’d say that’s one of our very successful campaigns. We have also observed that a lot more organizations being active just by looking at our affiliated organizations working.
“THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE RIGHT NOW IS AWARENESS IN GENERAL – PEOPLE STILL DON’T KNOW HOW THIS WORKS AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE STILL NOT AWARE OF ONLINE DONATIONS.”
What are the main obstacles that stand between you and your mission and how do you plan to overcome them?
The biggest obstacle right now is awareness in general – people still don’t know how this works and a lot of people are still not aware of online donations. They also do not know that we have provisions for offline donations so that they can fill up the form. We can contact them and we go to pick up the donations from them. That communication gap, we are trying to bridge. The other biggest challenge is to get international donations. We are trying to find an avenue to bring international donations directly to the platform. We are talking to different banks and also Nepalese Diaspora to cater this to the community.
What makes this organization different from similar organizations?
We do not have many similar organizations in Nepal. There are a couple of them, but we are proud and happy to say that we have been fortunate enough to have resources to build a platform of this size. We are the only ones with these many causes in our website and have been quite successful. What differentiates Hiteri from the others is that we strictly believe in our 100% nonprofit model. Whatever we get on our platform as donations, we give all of it back to the needy in the community without keeping anything for ourselves.
The biggest dissimilarity is that we have people coming from the social sector. For instance, I come from the social sector myself and have around fifteen years of experience in this field. We have been involved in crowdfunding platforms and development in other countries so that has given us the opportunity to learn how it works and utilize that into Hiteri. The knowledge and support we have from our partners and the experience gathered together is what makes us different from others.
We see a lot of bags filled with clothes and cartons at your office. What are you planning to do with that?
This particular campaign, the donations were mostly driven towards the Bara victims and we were quite successful. A lot of people came forward, and they were donating a lot of clothes, toys for kids. But we also found out that they have donated winter clothes mostly. So what we did was segregate the clothes and sent the summer clothes and toys to Bara where they were distributed amongst the survivors and updated about the donations in the website as well so that people can see them in pictures. And for the remaining clothes we have contacted the organizations who need them and are ready to be dispatched anytime.
Lastly, what are the plans for future for Hiteri?
Hiteri is a foundation whose major part is crowdfunding. So we want to develop it as much as we can so that it’s easier for people to donate, and then at one point, it will come to an automation module which, as the name goes, will be automated and then we want to move to a different phase from there in which its about training different organizations in capacity building, building communication, or just to help them increase their level of skills in grant writing, proposal writing, and so on. We are all just planning, studying what Nepal needs, and we want to evolve as we go. Right now as for plans, it’s a very open platform where we invite people to give us ideas as well.
INTERVIEWED BY ABHIGYA SUBEDI
PHOTOGRAPHED BY GAURAV XHOMPATE SUNUWAR