Speed, sensitivity, sympathy have been at the heart of the Kolkata Gives initiative when they set out to cover 10,000 families to be their donees. And it was money, manpower deployment and management powering that got the targeted 2.4 million meals to daily wage labourers and marginalized sections in an initiative that was taken swiftly after the lockdown in March 23rd.

Just to show the swiftness of their working—Kolkata Gives “started” their fundraising at 5 pm on 29 March 2020. Artworks were quickly prepared for dissemination through the company’s Whatsapp database and the respective database of its trustees. In the space of three and a half hours, Kolkata Gives had achieved 30 per cent of its target, indicating the generosity of Kolkatans in addressing this human tragedy. By Saturday 4 April, the number of funded families had risen to 7,500, providing the exercise with the critical mass to move into the next stage: disbursements.

A sum of Rs. 2.29 of the Rs. 3 crores required has been raised at the time of writing. More than 3,500 families have to date received their rations.

How does this happen? What is the unique model that makes such actions happen so smoothly and in such a pinpointed manner, we asked one of the trustees, Mudar Patherya. His answer:

“Kolkata Gives is a unique NGO in that we engage with donors at one end and NGO at the other. We are not married to a catchment area or vertical (like education or health care); we go where we are needed. By the virtue of being vertical-agnostic we are able to focus on a single imperative: where is our help needed most?”

He explained further:

“Project Kolkata Gives addressed the challenging target through the enunciation of Project 10K, which was an abbreviation of our intent to provide cash or rations equivalent to Rs 3,000 for 10,000 families during the month of April 2020. We believed this to be a reasonable target with which to address the pain across Bengal. We figured that this would empower us to provide 2.4 million meals through April 2020 (calculated on the basis of four members per household, two meals per household and thirty days of rations).”

Their relief was primarily directed at the daily wage workers to prevent an erosion of their savings, to make them bypass the stress of addressing an uncertain future and provide them with the necessary nutritive inputs, so that they could be empowered to get back to some kind of economic productivity as and when conditions revived.

There is a total integrity of process, we are told, with operations being completely above board. The sense of governance is reflected, first, in the selection of NGOs, shortlisting them in a matter of hours, with many of them already having worked with the organization. Lead time reduced, the appraising of fresh funding requests across Bengal happened. Then, the allocation of materials, a mix of rations comprising rice, dal, cooking oil, soap, potatoes, onions, atta, chudiya, masoor dal, salt, soya oil and mustard oil.

Choosing the vendors was the next step. Most of the material came from Metro Cash and Carry. Responsiveness to the human tragedy was monitored through periodic video conferencing by trustees and their colleagues. The trustees were allocated different responsibilities based on their respective capabilities of fund raising, strategic goal-setting, negotiations, procurement, NGO selection, distribution, logistics, digital marketing and communication.

The NGOs under Kolkata Gives include ApneAap, Antara Birati Globe Vision Society India, Camps 4 Charity (Telnipara Start Up), Chaplin Club, Disha Foundation, Ek Tara, Garden Reach Institute, Garbheta (BDO) , Hope Foundation, IslampurRamkrishnapally Rural Welfare Society, Living Humanity, MUKTI (Sunderbans), New Light ,OFFER , South Kolkata HamariMuskan, Swapnapuron, Samaritan Help Mission, Tiljala Shed.

More than 200 donors responded. Among the prominent ones who came forward with alacrity: AK Exports, Axis Bank Foundation, BalrampurChini Mills Limited, Greenfield, Lux Industries Limited, Meenakshi Mercantile, Magma Foundation, Primarc Group, PS Group, Srijan Realty and Vedant Fashions (Manyavar).

At the end of the day, the feedback was crucial: The BDO of Garbheta 2, from West Midnapore had this to say: “Within the space of exactly six hours, it had issued delivery instructions to the food trader in Garbheta and the following day we received the material. I could not believe that with just two telephone calls Kolkata Gives could have moved material with such speed.” And there’s more to come.

So it is not only stories that go viral on the net, but charity, too, can rise with rapidity given the right organizations, the attitude of giving, the generosity of donors, and the dedicated actions of organizations who work at the grassroots.