A collaboration between the Khon Thai Foundation and ChangeFusion Institute, Thai crowdfunding platform Taejai.com was launched in order to foster NGO projects and social enterprises to create positive change. In little over a year, the website has helped raise almost B3 million for 42 successful projects aimed at everything from making cheap wheelchairs for disabled dogs to setting up organic rice mills in remote areas. BK talks to Sirinart Torviriyalertchai, 35, Taejai’s project manager.
What was the idea behind Taejai?
We saw a lot of good ideas to create a better society, but they lacked funding. Thai people like to donate and support good projects, but sometimes don’t know where to contribute. So, we wanted to create a place that lets both sides meet. Our society needs new ideas. Taejai is like an online shop, only you browse for good causes not clothes.
Why web-based crowdfunding?
We want it to suit people’s lifestyle. Traditional ways of making merit and donating require going to a certain place or sending money via mail, but with Taejai you can use internet banking, credit card, debit card or online money transfer platforms like Paypal. Also, we can reach more people online.
How does Taejai work?
We have a number of criteria for assessing projects that are submitted, chiefly whether it creates positive, measurable and effective social change; has a creative and innovative way to deliver sustainable change; and whether the people behind it are committed. We work closely with project owners to achieve their goal and follow up with them after the fundraising target is achieved. Sometimes we also track the progress of the project for our contributors.
Have you faced any difficulties?
Yes. People still aren’t so confident about online donations, but we have proved over time that it’s safe and reliable. It helps that we use a standard gateway like Paypal. Also, there were some people questioning why we collected 10 percent of all donations. Our explanation is that the banks charge us for using internet banking and credit cards. All donations are tax-deductible, too, so we have costs for receipts and mail to cover. We want to be a social enterprise that can support itself and last the distance.
Which project has impressed you the most?
I personally like projects that focus on education. One that’s currently in the fundraising stage is for free online physics lessons by a doctorate science student. We also have guys who teach calculus online for free. We’re proud to help people who want to strengthen our society. A couple of projects couldn’t raise the money projected. One was in our testing period, so they understood this could happen. For the other, the restoration of an old wooden market in Chiang Mai, our contributors were still able to help the project along.
What’s next for Taejai?
We’re now working on spreading the word about our site because we want this community to grow. We’ve seen that some successful projects, like funding scholarships for children, can work better as ongoing projects that people can always donate towards. We can’t do that on our site at the moment as we need space for new projects. So the rough plan is to use the same donation system to create another permanent platform.