Civil Society Groups Turning to Crowdfunding

In a bid to raise more money from within the country, civil society organizations are planning to launch a platform in November that will use crowdfunding via mobile phone credit to fund projects ranging from IT development to the arts.

The “TOS Fund” is focused on shifting local NGOs away from their reliance on international donors and toward smaller and more sustainable local ones, said Cedric Jancloes, a project coordinator at Action IEC, the local NGO behind the project.

“Knowing that [international] donor funding won’t last forever…there needs to be other mechanisms in place that can support social causes of NGOs,” he said Monday.

Mr. Jancloes added that while the fund would be similar to popular crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo—on which people make small donations in exchange for rewards—the form of payment for the new platform would need to be adapted as most Cambodians do not possess credit cards, limiting their ability to make online donations.

“We assume that people will give but they will not give as much as people in Europe, who sometimes fork out hundreds of dollars,” he said.

To address this issue, Action IEC—along with partners USAID, arts initiative Come Together, and software developer Alien-Dev—launched a partnership with mobile operator Cellcard last Thursday, Mr. Jancloes added.

Niek Van Veen, Cellcard’s marketing director, explained that users would be able to send a portion of their phone’s balance to the cause of their choice through the the firm’s existing payment system.

“We have SMS so we can get contributions through that or Cellcard Rewards Payments,” Mr. Van Veen said. “If you reply back to the message then that’s how you indicate you want to donate.”

Kruy Vanna, the CEO of Alien-Dev, said that a recent test run of the TOS Fund for the firm’s Khmer Smart Keyboard project had yielded mixed results, with the firm collecting $7,000 since March with 185 people donating.

“We are happy, but it was still under our expectations,” he said.

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