CharityMonk is an easy and efficient way to contribute to society without having to spend extra. This brilliant idea helps everyone who shops online to give a part of their spending to an NGO. CharityMonk pairs up with 200+ online stores and supports 35+ NGOs. The concept is explained thoroughly by Stephen Sebastian, co-founder of CharityMonk, in his interview.
Can you explain the concept behind CharityMonk? What is it about?
Charitymonk is a platform where users can donate to NGOs, while shopping online without spending extra money. Charitymonk is partnered with 200+ online stores and supports 35+ NGOs. Whenever someone purchases with Flipkart, Amazon, Aliexpress or any other leading online store through the Charitymonk website or mobile application an automated donation goes to an NGO of his/her choice. Charitymonk is a transparent platform as the user can track the amount donated through each purchase and its status.
What led you to CharityMonk, from where did the idea sprout?
We had worked with few NGOs earlier and understood fundraising is the biggest pain point for any NGO. As e-commerce was booming and growing exponentially we had a thought to connect it with fundraising. One day one of my friends who is a blogger explained to me the concept of affiliate marketing. We (3 of us) discussed and brain stormed about possibilities of connecting affiliate marketing and NGO fundraising and thus came to this concept. Charitymonk works on affiliate marketing model where online stores pay us commissions for sales we bring in. This is used to donate to the NGOs
You associate with big names like Emirates and Amazon. Was it easy to get these businesses on board?
We work with brands in two ways direct association and association through intermediaries (affiliate networks). As we were beginners and didn’t have any website or channel which had traffic both ways were really difficult in the beginning. It took more than a month to onboard our first affiliate network. After onboarding our first partner, it wasn’t much difficult to onboard new stores and affiliate partners
What benefits do major online stores like Flipkart and Amazon reap from partnering with CharityMonk?
Online stores give us commissions for the sale we bring in. As we are donating that to NGOs, major stores are more than happy to partner with us. Partnering with Charitymonk shows their social commitment
What percentage of the customer’s purchase (payment) goes to Charity?
The amount that goes to charity depends on the item purchased. It can vary from .5% for grocery to 7-8% for fashion. The highest amount raised in a single transaction is Rs.900 for an air ticket. We have all major international airlines as our partners including Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Singapore airline.
Could you tell us some of the NGOs you associate with? Are there any particular criteria for selection?
We have NGOs from all parts of India supporting different causes. Currently we work with 35 NGOs. Our NGO partners work in healthcare, child welfare, women empowerment, elderly care, arts, animal protection, environment protection and education sectors.
We have NGOs who work all over India like Helpage India, Bluecross to local NGOs like Nammal, AKBDA etc. Some other NGO partners are Environics Trust, Ashwini, Teach for Green, Heart for Art, Karma foundation, SERUDS, Atma foundation.
We review the NGOs activities and transparency in financials before partnering with them.
How have people responded to CharityMonk?
We have been getting a very decent response from people. The web application has been functional for more than a year now. There are around 1500 users for the platform as of now with zero spends on marketing. We are building an organic crowd as of now, most being partner NGO followers. We have plans to invest in marketing and make the awareness and customer acquisition faster.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? Why do they have that? What’s the reality?
As the concept is new in India, most people wonder how someone can donate without spending money. People are less aware of our model as it is the first of its kind in the country. Many people feel that Flipkart/Amazon charges extra for items purchased while going through Charitymonk.
But a customer pays exactly the same amount he/she would normally pay to buy an item from Flipkart/Amazon. There is no change in price. The donations come from the online store. The donations are still applicable if coupon codes are applied too.
Tell us about your team and how did you meet each other?
Our team comprise of 3 people. All three of us are part of the founding team. The team members are Shyam Unnikrishnan, Sibin Joseph and Stephen Sebastian. Shyam and Sibin were class mates at the Adi Shankara Institute of Engineering and Technology. Sibin and I are first cousins. I was working in Chennai after MBA from LIBA. We teamed up together and started working on the idea once Sibin and Shyam completed engineering.
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