Pray, donate money online

HDFC Bank’s web page for online donations to temples

For example, in the month of August, a large number of renowned temples in the country like Shreenathjee, Shirdi Sai Baba (Maharashtra) Guruvayur (Kerala), Golden Temple (Punjab), Jagganath (Orissa),  Baijanath, Chamunda and Badrinath (Uttarakhand) among others witnessed a five-fold jump in the number of online donations.

How it works

The procedure of online donation is a relatively simple for those who are familiar with the use of computer and internet. Online donations allows a customer to reach out to his deities which are located at a certain distance from the donor’s home. This is particularly useful on auspicious days when the masses throng the temples in huge numbers. Let us say a devotee in Bangalore having an account with a particular bank wants to donate money to the Shirdi Sai Baba temple located at Shirdi in Maharashtra on  a particular day.

To do this, he first has to log on to the bank’s website with a pre-obtained and authorised user name and password. He can then click on the icon for online donation and proceed to donate money from his existing account in the bank. The donor’s account is then debited and the temple’s account  is simultaneously credited. The transactions  are secure as they are conducted via the ‘straight through processing’ (STP) route and there is no manual intervention. Only those banks and branches under the core banking soultions can facilitate online payments.  

When  online donation was first introduced by HDFC Bank in October 2007 as an add on service to their customers, it faced some initial hurdles. This was because temple trustees, who were used to the conservative system of physical donations, took time to  adopt the new system. However, the concept gained popularity in the past one year, one of the main reasons being that a comfort zone was established after a couple of temples, particularly the noted Jagganath Puri temple in Orissa, started accepting donations online.  

Talking to Deccan Herald, HDFC Head Operations A Rajan said, “The collections at this counter which were Rs 5 lakh in the first year of the operations , have gone up to Rs 60 lakh in the past year.” We have received a number of letters of appreciation for providing this facility, he said. For example, a Sai Baba devotee in Chennai was very pleased that he could offer his prayers on Thursday, which is considered to be an auspicious day, without having to travel, Rajan said. The profile of users has changed noticibly. In the earlier days, online donation mode was used mainly by tech-savvy youngsters. But lately, it is being utilised by all categories of people of different age groups.  

Apart from customers,  online donation facility is also being given by some banks as an additional privilege to its employees. ICICI Bank has partnered with GiveIndia, a donation platform, to provide its employees a  medium to channel their donations to NGO’s that have been screened for transparency and credibility. Give India provides the tax exemption certificates and feedback. With Give India, ICICI Bank has an active payroll giving programme with over 12,000 registered employees. It also has option for its internet banking customers to make online donations.

Some temples also provide the facility to devotees to log on to the website and see a live telecast or recorded videos of prayers being held in temples.  From inception till date, one lakh devotees have had darshan at the HDFC site, of which 30,000 have used the facility to donate money. If needed, this procedure also guarantees a donor anonymity. If he chooses not to disclose his identity, he can fill the space which asks for name of the donor with words like ‘anonymous’ or ‘devotee’.

Also, besides making donations, through this facility customers can request for and make payments for special pujas and make room reservations on the temple premises. Payment for this can be made either through credit cards or online.

The deities are not the only beneficiaries. Banks benefit too as it helps in customer acquisition. Moreover, customers will be lured to use netbanking, for which the bank will have to bear lower transaction costs. Temples, on the other hand, are enjoying the benefits of technology as online donation has opened up a new revenue source for them.  Also, they require less manpower for tasks like manning the counters and counting cash,  so the overall costs are reduced. Apart from that, by the use of this mode, the threat of pilferage is zero.

Rajan of HDFC added, “The J&K authorities were so satisfied with our services for the temple at Vaishnoodevi that they have signed up with us for the Amarnath temple in Kashmir this year.”

To  attract devotees, banks runs campaigns on the website where they have runners or streamers and icons of deities displayed on the home page. Also, banks are looking at launching this facility with charitable organisations.

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