TOS Fund: First Mobile Crowdfunding Platform for CSOs in Cambodia

Ever since the 1990s, Cambodia has experienced an exponential growth of Non-profit Organisations (NGOs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). One of the main concerns for many local CSOs in the Kingdom is sourcing for funds, which often turns out to be a time-consuming process as donors and the necessary support needed are not as readily available amongst the local communities here.

To combat this, Action IEC, USAID, arts initiative Come Together, and software developer Alien Dev, in partnership with Cellcard, are coming together to launch a crowdfunding mobile platform called TOS Fund in November 2015. TOS Fund will operate similarly to various crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo; its sole difference being that donors are utilizing mobile phone credits to support the various projects that will be hosted, which could range from IT development to art campaigns.

Alien Dev, the team behind the Khmer Smart Keyboard project, carried out a test run of the platform and managed to raise USD$7000 since March this year. A total of 185 people donated to the campaign. Even though this was still under their expectations, Anthony Galliano, CEO of local social media marketing firm Dynamo Digital, said this growth figure represented a stable trend over the last three years, and he expects it to accelerate and grow in the coming two years.

The main reason TOS Fund’s founders are capitalizing on mobile phone credits instead on the conventional online credit card donations, rests on the fact that most Cambodians do not own a credit card and possess limited abilities to make online donations. It was also assumed that the amount per donation would be significantly lesser than that of western countries. However, it has been found that there are 24.2 million mobile connections, amounting to 157% of the population of Cambodia. Out of the Internet subscriptions in Cambodia, 98.67% of them come from mobile devices. This means that the majority of the Cambodian community is active on mobile applications and platforms.

Javier Sola, director of NGO Open Institute, has pointed out that mobile phones are also cheaper and more accessible for the Khmer people to access the Internet. Thus, with a booming smartphone population in Cambodia, TOS Fund is focusing on shifting the reliance of local NGOs and CSOs on international donors and turning their attention towards more viable and smaller ones in the Kingdom.