The Points for People initiative makes it possible for individuals to support underprivileged communities simply by using the points accumulated in a credit or debit card

Balamdina Nag seems at first sight to be an ordinary young tribal woman, except that a 10-day training programme as a learning assistant changed her life. Instead of being tied to her kitchen, Balamdina started working to increase school enrolment by motivating parents in her tribal village of Maliburu in Khunti district of India’s Jharkhand state. She and her colleagues have got 250 children from six villages to join school.

Balamdina’s new role became possible because she is a beneficiary of the Central India Initiative (CInI) of the Tata Trusts, which works to uplift the lives of tribal populations in the four Indian states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat. CInI is unique in many ways — one of which is that it is the only programme of the Tata Trusts that has accepted donations from individuals who have contributed through a unique loyalty points donation scheme called Points for People.

Points for People is a crowd-sourced donation platform launched by the Trusts to open up philanthropic funding to the Indian public. It is based on an unusual strategy — enabling people to contribute by donating loyalty points accumulated on their cards. “Points for People is a concept designed to enable self-sustaining societies by encouraging donations from those who are privileged,” says Ganesh Neelam, zonal manager, north and central India, Tata Trusts.

The idea is that though people can (and do) donate cash for philanthropic projects, they can also set up a process for steady donation by contributing their loyalty points.

Maximum reach

A website — pointsforpeople.org — enables people to sign up. The donor has the option of selecting how many points to contribute and which project the funds should benefit. The card service provider ensures that one rupee for every loyalty point earned by a customer goes towards funding livelihood, education or water and sanitation projects that are managed by the Trusts.

For this, the Trusts tied up with Strategic Caravan, which manages the website and works on building the partner base. The platform has tied up with a few leading service providers — Loylty Rewardz (which manages loyalty programmes for some of India’s biggest debit and credit cards), HDFC Bank, Edenred (which manages the Ticket Restaurant cards), and Xoxoday (which offers cards for dining and travel experiences). The Tata Trusts are also in talks with a few Tata companies to enable their customers to contribute via the company loyalty programmes. Word about the project is being spread through social media and brochures.

Started at the end of 2016, the Points for People project has already connected with 5,000 card holders. The donation target for this year, according to Mr Neelam, is 30 million. As a crowd-funding idea that makes it easy for individuals to reach out and support underprivileged communities, Points for People deserves several brownie points for its innovative strategy.