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The startup was launched in 2014 to connect interested philanthropists with charitable institutions.
The startup was launched in 2014 to connect interested philanthropists with charitable institutions.

Crowdfunding for a Philanthropic Cause

The main selection criterion is that a project should advance the greater good, and empower families, individuals, or groups of people

Crowdfunding for a Philanthropic Cause

Startup companies are conventionally for-profit enterprises, but in recent years philanthropic ventures have begun adopting the startup model and technological knowhow to develop new non-profit startups.
A local charity startup, ‘Mehrabane’, has been drawing inspiration from the for-profit world in order to advance their social good missions while imbibing a culture of social responsibility.
With their name literally meaning ‘kindly’, or ‘done kindly’ in Farsi, the charity aims to redefine how individuals can fund worthy causes across the country.
Mehrabane is the first and the largest instance of crowdfunding in Iran.
“It was launched as a charity crowdfunding project, because crowdfunding in the way that is defined globally would not work in Iran,” Golrokh Bahri, executive director of the startup, told the Financial Tribune.
Crowdfunding is the practice of financing any project or venture, particularly a new and small business, by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. “But the culture has yet to be institutionalized in Iran, and legal problems exist (in for-profit ventures), and that is why we are only involved in philanthropic projects for now,” she said.
Mehrabane started in 2014 to connect interested citizens with charitable institutions. Any social support organization can contact it to raise money for a project, as defined on their website ‘Mehrabane.ir’. Donors are able to contribute with just a few clicks.
The projects, for which the budget is predetermined, also have a timeframe, and are not limited to Tehran Province alone where the organization is based and works in cooperation with officially licensed charities.

 For the Greater Good
“Crowdfunding makes it possible for people anywhere in the country to pay whatever is in their capacity for projects such as schools in the most remote areas or to fund children’s education and build their future,” Bahri, 32, told this newspaper.
However, specific criteria have been defined to make projects eligible to be introduced by the website.
“Our main selection criterion is that a project should advance the greater good, and empower families, individuals, or groups of people,” Bahri stressed. “We don’t pick projects that aim to merely support families, but those that seek to enable people to be active and stay socially responsible and aware.”
One of the current projects defined on the website is raising money to restore homes destroyed in the recent flooding in the lesser-developed southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan. Another project aims to help train and empower the disabled.
Others include funding Norouz (New Year) gift packages for families in need in Fars and Khuzestan provinces, preparing New Year food baskets for female heads of households in South Khorasan Province, and equipping a handicraft workshop for women breadwinners in Tehran.
Comprising six volunteers, the startup is determined to promote a culture of delivering social responsibility and “giving back to the community.”
“The entire team is comprised of professionals who have jobs but volunteer their time and energy. We seek to advance the vision of social responsibility and to teach people to volunteer for a cause,” Bahri noted.

 A Bright Prospect
Crowdfunding can trigger massive growth in a nation’s economy in the long run if governments support it and more entities invest in it. Forbes reported in 2015 that over $34 billion was raised through crowdfunding worldwide.
“But, it has yet to be fully recognized and supported by governments while it could help kickstart new businesses, promote employment, and rekindle the economy over time,” Bahri maintained.
Since its start, Mehrabane has raised over 5.8 billion rials ($153,000), 50% ($93,000) over the past six months.
“That is a small amount,” she admits. “Money that supports business, trains people in vocational skills, or pays to send children to school can help strengthen the society more than any other form of investment.”
The most successful project of the startup has been raising money for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) patients, which raised 200 million rials ($5,300) in two weeks in 2014.
The three major campaigns conducted by Mehrabane include: “Off to School” (raised $19,000 to send 1,200 out-of-school children back to school in remote and under-developed regions), “Winter’s Over” (raised funds to provide warm clothes and heating systems to houses and schools), and the currently ongoing “Smiling Spring: Let’s Gift Smiles,” which aims to gift families with food and clothing items in remote regions prior to Norouz (March 21).
Mehrabane offers transparency to donors, therefore “planting a sense of trust in the contributors,” she said.
One of its key policies is “all or nothing”, which is to say that if a project does not raise the required capital within the projected timeframe, it will be abandoned and the money collected returned to patrons.
Also active on several social media platforms, the startup aims to broaden its appeal through their smartphone application recently released and available on local Android stores.

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