27 March 2020 News
A Belfast charitable start-up which lets users give directly to an individual living in poverty is making its platform available free of charge for any charitable organisation across the UK.
Free for charities from today, the platform can be up and running within a day and will make a positive impact on local communities as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads.
Launched earlier this year, ESTHER is a ‘pocket-to-pocket’ giving app that ensures 100% of any money someone wishes to donate goes directly to a local individual.
Carol Rossborough, Founder and Chief Executive, says the team wanted their technology to be used in order to get donations to people in crisis quickly and safely.
“At a time of local and global emergency, it’s important that we are able to get money into the hands of those in crisis as fast as possible.
“The ESTHER app will help empower families in crisis in a remote manner. It’s a safe way of giving donations.
“Any donations received through the app limits spend on anything that could potentially be harmful to the end user, such as alcohol, gambling or cash withdrawals. Initially we didn’t allow them, but we’re now facilitating online purchases as a result of seeing increased numbers of people self-isolating as a result of COVID-19,” she said.
Those in need receive donations on their own ESTHER card. Enabled by MasterCard, it works just like a debit card, with all donations being completely traceable, ensuring visibility on what money the donor has pledged. It’s contactless too, factoring in current best practice for payment of goods in-store.
Explaining why they are opening the platform up for free, Mrs Rossborough said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting groups and communities that previously wouldn’t have been affected in a traditional sense. As well as the homeless and asylum seekers, some freelancers and the self-employed have quickly found themselves in difficulty.”
She says that charities are seeing an increasing number of people looking to them for crisis funding:
“Charities are facing major problems. An increased amount of people requesting support puts additional strain on their finite resources and, considering the new guidance around self-distancing, self-isolation and building closures, this means people are unable to access typical venues such as drop-in centres or breakfast clubs.
With that in mind, we thought, ‘How can we open ESTHER up to as many people as possible?’ That’s why we’re making it available to charities, churches and other registered community groups as they may have first-hand knowledge of those who are in most need.”
Ailis McCaul, the firm’s Chief Product Officer, outlined some of the platform’s programmes:
“Our ‘Empowering Mothers’ programme is targeted at single mums under 35. We’re helping those women who have recently lost their jobs, meaning they may no longer have an income to support themselves and their children, as well as those who have been affected by school closures.
“The issues facing those on our ‘Homeless’ programme are of a different nature. These are vulnerable people, who don’t receive any form of government funding, and may not even have access to basic hygiene facilities. They don’t have money for any food yet alone hand sanitiser or toilet roll.
“The donations these people have directly received through ESTHER have been of genuine relief to them,” she said.
As well as being able to donate directly through the ESTHER app, she says that any charitable organisation can run their own peer-to-peer giving programmes via the platform.
The duo has been speaking to a number of foodbanks who, as a result of recent panic buying, have seen a sharp reduction in the amount of donations received.
Ms McCaul said:
“One such foodbank would typically get eleven trays on a weekly basis. They received five items last week. There is a fear that this week will be even lower. This is another example of how ESTHER could be used to help the local community.
“We want to bridge the rapidly growing divide between those in crisis and those not.”
Carol Rossborough, Founder and Chief Executive, ESTHER