Donations Portal for Charitable Organizations: Sultanate of Oman
Information Technology Authority

The Problem

In the Sultanate of Oman, there are 10 Charitable Organisations that are registered and supported by the Ministry of Social Development (MOSD). These organisations are authorised by MOSD to collect donation funds to aid the less privileged in the Sultanate.
Traditional, the collection of donation fund was done manually. Donors would have to travel to the charities’ locations or to the site where the charity collection box were located, usually in shopping areas or small outlets. Another way in which citizens and residents can make their contributions to these organisations would be to make a transfer via the local bank ATM machines to the accounts of the various charities. As most of the Charities’ helpers are volunteers who devote their spare time to the organisations, manpower support used to be a big challenge whenever donation drives were initiated. Often, due to the lack of marketing effort and support both in terms of manpower and financial resources, charities can only obtain donations from the local region in which the organisations are located.
Oman’s 2.8 million population is spread across a total land area of more than 307,000 km2 in 11 different administrative regions and governorates. Hence, residents of other regions and governorates could not make their contributions effectively and efficiently as most of these charities are located within Muscat, the capital area. As much as those who are not from the capital Muscat wants to donate, they might not hear about or aware of the place that they can make their donations.
Administratively, it is also tedious for the charities, it is very troublesome for them to consolidate the donated funds, separate and allot the funds for the different programmes. All account management and administration were also done manually. Different regions and governorates would have to consolidate the funds, bank it in and then create accounts and report to the head office for verification. The process can take hours or even days due to differing banking hours and schedules.
The various organisations could not ascertain the exact amount of donation collected as it was done without proper process and system. These lack of transparency and manual methods in the handing of donation funds could lead to misappropriation and fraudulence practices. Hence, the Information Technology Authority in close collaborations with MOSD developed the Donation Portal to eradicate the misappropriation of funds and administrative workload associated with the collection of donations.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The Donation Portal is developed with a vision to promote charity in the Sultanate of Oman, by providing an electronic gateway to facilitate donations to charities supported by the Ministry of Social Development. The portal collaborates with more than 10 charities for aid programmes covering orphans, disabled, and women.
It provides a one-stop service for the local charities to collect charity funds. Omani and residents can donate to a charity of their choice with a single click of the button from anywhere and at their convenience using a credit card authorised by an Omani bank integrating to the e-payment gateway of Information Technology Authority. Most importantly, the donors do not need to travel to any of the charities’ physical locations. In recent donation drive, the system has attracted donors from all across the country. This enhances the amount of collection as it can now reach places where the donation box cannot.
As the portal automates the donation collection process, it also makes it easier for the charities to monitor and administer the collection process. Some of the key functions of the system includes, secured admin area specific to the particular charity, this allows the charities to print statements and different reports such as total amount of money they received during a specific period of time. They can also filter information and generate specified report like how much funds they have for a particular programme. Most importantly, it has reduced the administrative work on the charities, as majority of the helpers are on a voluntary basis. Most importantly, it eliminated manual handling of donate money, hence eradicating funds misappropriation instances. Preparation of the reports and consolidation of the accounts were tedious work before, with the system, the various charities can now access and print these reports instantaneously. This cuts down the time for preparation of document drastically from several hours to matter of seconds.
The Portal achieved its main objective in assisting the charitable organisations to raise the donation fund for the less privileged and the people with special needs in Oman. It also serves as a place where information about the charity organizations in Sultanate of Oman is readily available, anytime, anywhere.

When it was first launched in 2009, the portal recorded 232 transactions with 2,3624 rials Omani collected. Donations via the portal saw a record increased of 370% in 2010 with a collection of 12,329 rials Omanis. A 744% increased in donation was recorded in 2011 with a total collection of 104,000 rials Omanis.

Transaction increased from 2009 to 2010 is 353% from 232 to 1,050. From 2010 to 2011, the transaction increased by 356%. Since its launched, more than 58,000 visitors from around 130 countries have visited the portal which mark a 700% increased from 8,500 visitors in 2009. During Ramadan 2011, more than 15,000 transactions were carried out through the portal.

Customer experience satisfaction and feedback were collected to improve the donation services. The Citizen Charter is published online to provide awareness to customers of the donations portal, sponsors, donation service, roles and responsibilities, service standards, user rights and others. A customer experience approached is used to measure and analyze customers’ satisfaction and outlined the customers’ feedback and response plan. Based on the 2011 Customer Survey analysis, more than 59% of the customers responded that the portal services exceeded their expectation and another 41% of the customers were satisfied with the portal services. 95% of the customers surveyed also responded that the Donation Portal is easy to navigate and use. 88% of the customers surveyed took less than 5 minutes to complete their transactions, while 10% took 6-10 minutes to do the same.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
online donation portal solution was proposed, implemented and administrated by the Information Technology Authority’s (ITA).
The Information Technology Authority’s (ITA) in association with the Ministry of Social Development launched the official online donations portal on the 13th January 2009. This official donations portal is approved and supported by the Ministry of Social Development of Oman.
The stakeholders apart from ITA and Ministry of Social Development are all the various charities under the patron of the Ministry. Currently , the portal was launched with the first 5 charities (1st) Association of the welfare of the Handicapped, (2nd) The Association of Early Intervention for Children with Special Needs, (3rd) Oman Association for Disabled, (4th) Al-Noor Association for the Blind and, (5th) the National Association for Cancer Awareness. In parallel, we are working with all rest local charitable organizations to become part of the online donations portal project with the vision of helping them collect donations online. To date 8 charitable organizations are linked to the Donation Portal.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The strategy for implementing the project was done in phases. In phase 1, 5 of the 10 charities were targeted and with the success, the next 3 were included. The rest of the organizations will be included as soon as they are ready.
From the users’ prospective, the strategy is to keep it simple. Donors do not want to spend a lot of time navigating the site. They just wanted something straight forward. Same goes for the charitable organisations, they do not and cannot afford the time to attend long trainings. Therefore special attention is spent to the user’s interface, ease of use and functionality of the portal; it is specially design to ensure user friendliness. It required minimum training and eliminated the fear of users. However, in case there is a need for support, there are 2 staffs dedicated for the Charities and End Users.
For public awareness, in conjunction with the various festive seasons, awareness programmes were launched to encourage the public to donate via the portal. For example in the spirit of giving and donating during the holy month of Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr, the Information Technology Authority (ITA) is continuing to raise the awareness about the Donations Portal for Charitable Organisations. Traditional media and social media campaigns were also deployed to increase public awareness and increase its usage. The success of these campaigns is evident with more than 58,000 visitors from 130 countries visiting the portal in 2011.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The following are the key development and implementation chronology
2007 July – Identified needs, contacted stake holders – Various charities were contacted by the ITA team to understand their needs and requirements. During these meetings, processes for fund raising and procedures were discussed and agreed upon.
2008 Jan– Concept proposal and buy in from charity – After gathering the needs and understanding the requirement, a concept plan was drawn up to get the buy in from the various charities. Adjustments were made along the way to satisfy the different requirements.
2008 Feb – Development of the system based on requirement – Once the charities have approved the concept, the development of the system started. It went through the typical process of creating prototype, production and actual live system.
2008 Nov– Ministerial meeting and approval – When the system was tested and finalised, it was presented to the Minister for approval. The Minister was always kept in the loop on the progress of the system.
13th Jan 2009 - The Information Technology Authority’s (ITA) in association with the Ministry of Social Development launched the official online donations portal on the 13th January 2009 at the Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM).

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The main obstacle of the project is that according to the Omani law, charities are not allowed to collect donation from outside Oman.
As such, the Donations portal only allows donors who are Citizens or Residents of Oman and who have an account in the Omani banks to donate online.
The above leads to a technical issue, the default system accepts payment from anywhere, however due to the law, a customised module was developed to authenticate that donors are from Oman with valid credit card or bank account from Oman.
Another related issue is on Online Transaction Security – The customised module needs to be certified secured for online transaction from international bodies. So the system has to acquire SecureTrust and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Compliant before it can go live.
All the issues were resolved and as stated, it went live on 13th Jan 2009.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The Donations Portal is an end-end eServices presented by a web-based channel (Web Portal) integrated to an ePayment Gateway to process ePayments/eDonations. The integration is done through a Virtual Payment Client which communicates between the Donations Portal Web Application and the Payment Server.
This portal was totally developed in house, ITA mobilised 10 resources internally. The team consists of 1 project manager, 7 coordinators for gathering of requirements, arrangement of meetings, creation and editing of content for the portal. 2 resources were dedicated in the design and development of the portal.
For direct cost spent to third party vendors, ITA paid US$ 7000 for the setting up of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Compliant, US$ 1000 for SSL Certification and about US$5200 for the hosting and domain registration.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
This system is highly transferable as it is built on a highly scalable platform. If there are any agencies which need to use the system, it can be easily customised to suit the requirement.
This system is also highly sustainable as charity has always been a part of the Arab culture. There is always occasions and donation drives organised to help the less privileged. Ramadan is a good example where Zakat and Fitra contributions are part of the duty of Muslim and the Donation Portal facilitates the Zakat and Fitra collections.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The Donation Portal is a one-stop-shop service where it requires only a single interaction channel. The electronic donation service does not require processing steps from the charitable organizations as donation payments are directly transferred to the organization bank account using the ePayment Gateway. Charities can view the successful and/or failed transactions made by donors online through an interface designed for charities to retrieve the transaction history. In this way, donations made are transparent and all records money received by each organization can be retrieved and viewed easily.
Currently, we have 8 charities integrated within our portal and we are working on integrating the remaining 2 charitable organizations. The portal is a success despite only being launched for less than 3 years. One of the recognition that it received was the United Nations Word Summit sponsored Arab e-content Award in 2010.
The Donation Portal also won the Best eService G2C Award in the GCC Award.
One example of the portal meeting it’s main objective is that during Ramadhan this year (2009) we received donations from cities across Oman even as far as 1000 KM away donating to the charities located in the capital Muscat. The amount collected in 2009 was 2,624 Rials Omanis, 2010 was 12,329 Rials Omanis and 2011 was 104,000 Rials Omanis, making a total of 118,953 Rials Omanis since the implementation of the Portal in 2009.
There are various lessons that we learned in this process. Online Security has to be of the upmost concern, we have to ensure that it also comply with the rules of law in the Country. Take our initiative for example, we will need to ensure that the system comply with the donation law of Oman. It states that no donation from outside the country is allowed.
Involving stakeholders like the various charities in marketing efforts and involve them early is important. Through these organisations, they can encourage more people to go online. However, donation is a very delicate issue, public awareness and education is important rather than enforcing it. This is very unlike other government initiatives.
Public education on e-transaction needs to be enhanced. Public needs to be assured that online transactions are safe. For more information on the Portal, please proceed to the following weblink.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Information Technology Authority
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Kamla Al-Rahbi
Title:   Senior Project Specialist  
Telephone/ Fax:   +968 24166669
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   P.O.Box 1807, Al Athaibah, Sultanate of Oman
Postal Code:   130
City:   Muscat
State/Province:   Muscat
Country:   Oman

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