eye standup

Laughing for a cause

In today’s times, Rs.75 is hardly much in terms of buying products and services. It is less than the price of a cauliflower or a doctor’s fee. Then, in these same times, it is almost a wonder that a primary eye care testing and treatment package for primary school children costs Rs.75!

The inception of this idea dates back to June 2012 in a municipality school in Dharavi at a medical check-up camp conducted by a group of doctors from Rotaract Club of The Caduceus. Rotaract Club of the Caduceus is a non-profit organization of 135 doctors, dentists, paramedics and medical students under the age of 30 years. During the course of the medical camp at Dharavi, the doctors came across an eight-year-old girl named Payal. Payal – chirpy, cheerful and lively – became the favorite of all the doctors at the  camp. Everyone including the volunteers, helpers, students and practitioners were so impressed by her level of energy that they were shocked to hear that the Payal they knew was very different from the Payal who sat in the classroom. The school teacher informed them that Payal was, in fact, a non-performer in class. As was routine, the first problem the doctors suspected was her eyesight. And thus, she was diagnosed with myopia in both her eyes as a result of which she used to see blurred images on the blackboard.

This marked problem among students of public schools gave the doctors of RC Caduceus a new vision for the future of these children. They realized that reduced eye vision was a huge obstacle in the way of educating them. 15 out of 100 students in public schools cannot see the board clearly, thereby developing an aversion towards schooling. The primary eye care program, ‘Vision 6 by 6’ addresses this largely under-reported and under-implemented problem of decreased vision in school children. The objective of the program was to provide public  school students with screening and treatment of five most common eye conditions that included refractive error, infection, vitamin A deficiency, squint and cataract. The program provides a low cost (Rs 75 per beneficiary) model for primary eye care delivery to low-income communities.

The goal was to provide these services to 10,000 such children by the end of March 2013.

To scale up and achieve this very ambitious target , they tied up with the Rotary Club of Bombay Central and Samhita Social Ventures. Samhita Social Ventures decided to organize a fundraising event to raise donations on ticketing basis and thus, finance the provision of the eye care services.

The fundraising event, Eye Stand up, was organized at Y B Chavan auditorium in south Mumbai. Some of the best comics of the country – Tanmay Bhat, Aditi Mittal, Gursimran Khamba and Karan Talwar, along with British comedian Andy Zaltzman, agreed to put up a stand-up comedy show pro-bono.  Submerge founder and DJ Nikhil Chinapa presided as the chief guest of the event. The donors were given an option to contribute by purchasing any of the three kinds of passes for the event: VIP passes for Rs 1500, Category A seating for Rs. 599 and Category B seating for Rs. 399. The entire amount of the donor pass was allocated towards operationalizing the Vision 6×6 program. No administrative or organizational costs were deducted from the contribution. Also, all bookings were made eligible for  tax exemption.

The results of this event were exponential. The non-profit organization was able to raise about Rs.7.5 lakhs from more than 1000 unique donors that facilitated the primary eye care services of 10,000 children. As an off shoot, these services reached as far as 26 schools, 3 villages and 6 low-income communities.

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This exercise highlights certain crucial best practices that we believe several organizations can draw from.

Dual Objectivity

Such events not only help in raising funds but also have an attached incentive for the donors. The donors are part of something they like and feel like they are making fruitful use of their money and time. Combining a social cause with an entertaining medium assures larger collections than individual-based donations.

Large Teams

Such crowd-funding exercises prove to be successful strategies with institutional-based organizations with larger employee and volunteer strength. In the case of RC Caduceus,   the strength was as high as 135 doctors. Hence, every member used their networks to sell tickets. This eventually led to a full house!

Pitch

A simple and concise pitch is always more effective than lengthy case studies. The purpose and impact of the program needs to be clearly spelt out to the donor. The history of the success of such events should also be communicated to the donor. In the case of Eye Stand Up, every pass of Rs.599 that a donor bought impacted 8 children. and this was very clearly communicated on the event collateral and promotion exercises. Details of the program itself, including areas of operation and target demographic, were openly shared.

Marketing

An effective marketing campaign is a great tool to ensure the successful implementation of such programms. Social media should be optimally used to spread the message and invite more donors. If the event has celebrities attending, they should tweet about it to their large number of followers. Nikhil Chinappa’s tweet and facebook mention attracted audience on a large scale.

Strategic partnerships

The partnership that RC Caduceus forged with Samhita helped the event in several ways. Firstly, Samhita was responsible for reaching out to the group of stand-up comics and arranging for the pro-bono performance. Secondly, Samhita helped prepare communications collateral and outreach material for the event. Last but not the least, Samhita tapped into its networks of thousands of donors to increase awareness of the cause and boost audience numbers for the event.

 

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Eye Stand Up comedy has proved to be an effective  way of offline fundraising. Not only has it addressed a very important issue that needs immediate attention, but also attracted donors in large numbers that can prove to be a strong database in the future Samhita is committed to replicating such events and propagating such best practices that not only help to raise funds for such crucial programs but also ensure that thousands out there