The 6th edition of the mBillionth Awards marked an important day for both the grassroots NGOs and the digital community.
At a time when there is growing distrust of NGOs across the country, the need for a validated and verified identity has become all the more pertinent for non-profits.
July 23, 2015, marked an exciting time in the history of Internet because for the first time, ever since the launch of .ORG about 30 years year, Public Interest Registry (operator of the .ORG domain) introduced .NGO — a new top-level domain. In fact, it is not just a domain but a platform for NGOs to earn the reputation of a validated organisation, get visibility in the crowded digital world, ensure fundraising, call for partnerships and build their network.
Thus, taking forward the central government’s Digital India vision, Digital Empowerment Foundation officially launch the .NGO domain, exclusively for non-government organisations in India, to ensure they have a unique digital identity in the ever-growing world of Internet space.
Mr. Amitabh Singhal, Board member of PIR.org, introduced the audience to the .NGO Domain, which is a closed domain and cannot be bought until the NGO is verified and validated.
The .NGO domain was officially launched in India on July 23, 2015, at India Habitat Centre in New Delhi by Digital Empowerment Foundation Founder-Director Osama Manzar in the presence of an esteemed panel that included HelpAge India CEO Mr. Mathew Cherian, Director General of IIMC Sunit Tandon, Convenor and Chief Program Executive (CSR) at Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs Gayatri Subramaniam, GuideStar India CEO Pushpa Aman Singh, Lead of Corporate Affairs/ CSR at Microsoft India Manju Dhasmana and Co-founder of Head Held High Madan Padki.
The session kicked off with Mr Cherian introducing the start of non-government organisations, and addressed the issue of credibility and trust deficit, especially in the present scenario, while highlighting the importance of transparency.
“Do committee meetings, announce accounts there, pin them on a notice board or upload five-year accounts on the website,” he suggested.
Mr. Tandon congratulated each and every NGO for contributing to the development sector in some way or the other but agreed that NGOs need to get out of the vicious circle of insults and “come out clean”. This, he said, can only be achieved through ways and means of transparency and NGO validation.
“Right to Information is often talked of in the NGO sector. To waive off dishonesty, internet connectivity is important,” Mr. Tandon said.
Gayatri Subramaniam remembered the days where NGO were grant based. But today, like never before, 16,000 companies are discussing CSR in their board rooms.
“With the increased number of opportunities, NGOs will have to understand how the corporate world functions, how their lifecycle works and the need to do regular monitoring. Most NGOs are not aware of these aspects, thus they lose a lot of opportunities,” she pointed out.
Meanwhile, Pushpa Aman Singh introduced the audience to the concept of GuideStar. Guidestar is a platform that connects NGOs to the right set of donors and institutions.
“Saying the right thing at the right time on the web portal is necessary. Stories do play an important role but donors always look for hard facts i.e finances and income tax returns. So understand that the donor is important, and carefully accept money from reliable sources,” she adviced, adding that the Internet is a powerful tool not just for showcasing but also enabling validations, verifications and online transactions.
Manju Dhasmana is the Lead-Corporate Affairs/CSR at Microsoft India that has been working towards creating opportunities for the youth in India through several skill-based programmes.
“Online visibility and engagement is important today. Even donors look up for activities on the Internet. At the same time, relationship of non-profits and corporates is very deep and tightly woven. Thus, creating an impact is very important as the credibility of the Lead in the corporate sector depends on the success of the programme” she stated
Mr. Padki made an interesting point at the event. He said there is nothing called a “social enterprise”. Either there is an enterprise or an anti-social enterprise. Each enterprise has to be social and each NGO has to be an enterprise, he added.
Following an interesting panel discussion, which focused on the importance of online presence and ensuring credibility of NGOs in India, 13 early adopters of .NGO domain were awarded with mementos and selfie sticks.
“Take selfies, selflessly,” quipped Mr. Manzar as he closed the first session to set the stage for the second session on the concept of crowd funding.