NGO Insights: Informed Voter Project (MumbaiVotes)

Dated : 31 Dec 2014
  1. Sector and Positioning:

MumbaiVotes.com is a web-based initiative of Mumbai-registered non-profit ‘Informed Voter Project (IVP)’. IVP is a research based body and perhaps the only independent non-profit who has developed an info-bank on Mumbai politicians. It is designed to help citizens of Mumbai monitor the performance of elected representatives like Members of Parliament (MPs), Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and other election candidates. MumbaiVotes tracks the political career, personal conduct, and delivery on promises made by these officials. The portal enables citizens to make informed voting decisions. The organisation doesn’t support or endorse any political candidate or party.

The non-profit works with college students studying Journalism, Political Science and Management. It has developed a comprehensive research and analysis methodology to cover all the information required to make informed voting decisions. 

  1. Impact:             
  • As on December 2013, MumbaiVotes.com tracked 6 MPs, 36 MLAs and 227 Corporators with 738 Video Interviews and 8,067 news articles.   
  • MumbaiVotes’ objective is to cultivate the discipline among voters to make informed voting decisions. Unlike traditional non-profits, MumbaiVotes quantifies its impact by those using their published materials and their website i.e. profiles of election candidates. As on December 2013, MumbaiVotes.com had 0.44mn users.
  • It partnered with several newspapers, journals, and websites to reach out to a wider audience and increase its overall readership through digital as well as print media.
  1. Financial Parameters:
  • IVP’s income halved from Rs0.12mn in FY13 to Rs51,000 in FY12. Only individual donors supported IVP during FY12 and FY13. Financial data of previous years was not shared with us.
  • Despite publishing comprehensive data on politicians at different levels, IVP has chosen to remain independent and not sell their research to the general public or any institutions. Thus, there is no income from sale proceeds or service charges.
  • Program activities of IVP’s programs are directly related to the election season. Therefore during FY13, no direct activity cost was incurred. Operating Expenses totaled Rs50,678 during FY13. Out of this, 77% of total expenses was spent on paying stipend to carry out some basic research.
  • IVP operates from its founding members’ residence in Bandra, thus saving on the rental and other costs. A large portion of expenses during peak season is incurred on paying stipends and publishing reports on politicians.
  • IVP has an outstanding loan of Rs105,000 as on 31st March 2013. Details of the loan were not disclosed in the audited financial statements.
  1. Sustainability Parameters:
  • Self Sufficiency Ratio (SSR) which measures an organization’s ability to meet its operating expenses from its own income doubled from 53% in FY12 to 113% in FY13. However, the increase in SSR is due to reduction in total expenses and not on account of increase in own income.
  • The YoY income growth was negative in FY13. We feel this is likely to improve in FY14 & FY15, as IVP had conducted several studies for elections held in FY14 and FY15.
  • IVP’s sustainability remains a concern due to its nature of operations and weak financial health observed during FY12 and FY13.          
  1. Major Challenges/Improvement Areas:
  • Appointments with existing politicians or with election candidates. The organisation has a robust questionnaire covering both aspects of the candidate’s life; professional and personal. To avoid certain questions, candidates sometimes refuse to entertain volunteers from IVP.    
  • Small team size. IVP is a volunteer-driven organisation. The strength as on May 2015 was only 1, but when required as risen to over 1,000. The donations IVP receives are not sufficient to induct a team of full-time employees. To address this, it engages the volunteers during the pre-election period and pays them stipends. The volunteers are enthusiastic under-graduates from top schools in town.
  • Lack of financial support. So far the organisation has received funds only from individuals. Sources we interacted with indicated that corporates and most citizens, unfortunately, are not willing to support causes that are research driven. The organisation is convinced that the philosophy of donors and philanthropists is evolving and will soon start supporting research-based projects.
  1. Governance & Reporting Standards:
  • The Board consists of three trustees having diverse professional experience. Founding member, Mr. Vivek Gilani, is an Environmental Engineer and has co-founded private companies like Eliminate Carbon Emissions and The NO2CO2 Project. At IVP, he spearheads the research, analysis and the communication functions.
  • Dr. Aloke Thakore is a Media Consultant, Teacher and Columnist and at IVP. He supervises the research & analysis team. The third trustee, Dr. Uttara Sahasrabuddhe is an avid reader, and is a Civics and Political Expert. He delivers lectures at Mumbai University (Department of Civics & Politics).
  • The trustees work independently and do not have any political background. The Board of Trustees formally meets every quarter. The minutes of the meetings are documented and circulated.
  • MumbaiVotes.com is a credible, transparent and comprehensive website. 

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