Oxfam & Assam Tea Workers

#TruthAboutTea has confusing donation experience

My teenage days also happened in tea stalls. By now I was in the 12th standard, senior in school and in life. A small tea stall underneath a Banyan tree selling tea for less than a rupee was my spot. Life rolled under the Banyan tea and at the tea stall. It was a known bunker for my gang. The tea stall owner was the messenger and everyone knew Naidu would be found here. Unless he is not sleeping on the banks of the Haldi river.

West Bengal has been a tea-loving state like the rest of India. Adda or conversations, a filterless cigarette, and hot tea is a picture that still breathes with me. Tea finds a special place in my family, my parents don’t move without having tea. And then the tea intervals will keep happening all throughout the day. I have moved from tea to coffee but I still love the strong flavors of the Darjeeling tea. It has memories.

Like the majority of industries in India, the “Chai pe Charcha” or the tea industry in West Bengal and Assam have been hit hard by COVID19, with losses in revenue so far totaling around Rs 2,100 crore.

The crisis of the tea industry is not limited to the Darjeeling region — it spreads beyond to the Dooars region of Bengal and the state of Assam.

With a loss of around Rs 1,000 to 1,200 crore, Assam’s economy that is heavily dependent on the tea industry has been affected severely. Of the total Rs 2,100 crore as mentioned by the ITA, we have a share of at least Rs 1,600 crore. For outsiders, it may look as the closure of only two weeks, but a tea plantation is a form of agriculture, and it has certain farming rules. Once a bush grows, one needs to prune, and the process takes time, said Dinesh Bihani, secretary of the Guwahati Tea Buyers’ Association.

Meanwhile, with production coming to a halt and prices rising, the ultimate sufferers are the tea garden workers.

Seeing the plight of the tea workers, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) recently announced the extension of its collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to support the delivery of essential hygiene products to tea plantation workers in Assam, in the response to the COVID19 pandemic.

Oxfam India’s support for Assam tea workers

In 2019, a report by Oxfam attributed the condition of plantation workers to the “relentless squeeze by supermarkets and brands on the share of the end-consumer price for tea”.

The researchers found that despite working for over 13 hours a day, workers earn between ₹137-167 while tea brands and supermarkets “typically capture over two-thirds of the price paid by consumers for Assam tea in India — with just 7% remaining for workers on tea estates”.

The report was timed well with its fundraising campaign #TruthAboutTea. With me spending more time understanding the world of online fundraising, Oxfam India recently started retargeting me on YouTube with video ads from the campaign. The 8-month-old video has actor Adil Hussain sharing the difficult life of the Assam tea estate workers. The video ends with the Oxfam campaign message. However, the marketing team forgot to add the details of the fundraising campaign and the link in the video description. Simple things that we tend to forget.

The YouTube ad has a call to action with the donation link. I first saw the video ad on mobile but the donation link failed to work on mobile. It is also running another video from the campaign as an ad that shares the disturbing stats of the tea workers. 

Donation page experience

I understand the logic of Oxfam burning media money on their old fundraising campaign. Makes perfect sense especially during such tough times for tea estate workers.

However, the organization could highlight the #TruthAboutTea campaign on the main website which would bring more visibility. Also, why not add the campaign videos on the donation page. The donation page not only becomes a hub forgiving but also an information destination about the campaign work done so far.

Nonetheless, after some search, I located the donation page. Accessing via mobile(mobile experience is bad) the donation page at first glance looks decent. By default “Giving Monthly” has been set true by the organization. 

The page also lists a set of challenges faced by the tea estate workers, how the Nonprofit uses the funds generally, and how your long term support can help the tea estate workers.

Elements that the donation page can let got: The donor’s speak section and that big image of tax benefits. Instead, embed the video when the tea workers talk about their state. Also, the focus needs to be on how the money is going to the tea workers and what development has been done. How has the campaign helped tea estate workers so far since it is a year-old campaign?

Confusing recurring donation

I decide to make a one-time donation since I am a new donor and giving monthly needs more convincing. In my previous article on making donation pages effective, one of the points that I stressed about was reducing the donor anxiety. In other words, collect data that is required.

Why do you want to know whether I have an Indian Passport or Foreign Passport? Besides why do you want to know where do I stay and even though you have made the details mandatory can’t I give you garbage or wrong data. How does it help the organization?

I have provided you my mobile number so you have assumed that I would love to hear your voice or read Whatsapp messages. Thank you but you have the wrong number.

After submitting all the details I reach the payment gateway. Initially, I had decided to donate Rs. 500/- for testing the donation process and making a small one-time contribution. This is where the major confusion starts - the payment gateway is about to deduct Rs. 800/- from my card. Initially, I thought it was my mistake, I repeated the same process and the result was the same. I repeated the same process on the web and the result was the same.

After looking at the banner message it was clear that Oxfam India is only doing a monthly donation. Rs. 800 is the basic support for the monthly donation.

I don’t have a problem with a recurring donation and I believe that Nonprofits should work on recurring donations as stated in my recent article - Recurring Giving and Nonprofits

But don’t you think that Oxfam India should have made it clear on the donation page? Why confuse people or even have a one-time donation option? This happens when your business objectives and campaign execution are not aligned. 

I have said this before, recurring donations should be a feature that Nonprofit should adopt but before you implement ask these four simple and important questions:

  • Why should I give a recurring gift to this organization? 

  • Do you have a different call to action

  • Don’t confuse donors between one-time donation and monthly donation

  • And how seamless it is to make the recurring donations.

I am not able to give my thoughts on the post-donation process and email conversations since I am not confident to be a monthly donor with Oxfam India.

#TruthAboutTea is a great initiative but in the madness to collect money, Oxfam India has not planned it well and hence it falls flat on the execution front or creates donor anxiety and frictions.

P.S. Did the article give value to your time? If yes then can you do a one-time donation to my ongoing fundraising campaign for COVID-19. Donation Link. No! ab kya jaan lekar mano ge. Thank You!