2021: Building a stronger IFF with Community and Operations

Donate to help sustain our work [https://static.internetfreedom.in/donate/] Fundraising : In numbers IFF’s fundraising model is based on individualised giving and the membership programme (recurring donations) has always been at the core of it. Over the past year, our membership base grew to 427 recurring donors, donating at an average of Rs. 800 on a month to month basis. However, after the new RBI guidelines on recurring transactions [https://www.cnbctv18.com/personal-finance/faqs-rbis-new-a

Fundraising : In numbers

IFF’s fundraising model is based on individualised giving and the membership programme (recurring donations) has always been at the core of it. Over the past year, our membership base grew to 427 recurring donors, donating at an average of Rs. 800 on a month to month basis. However, after the new RBI guidelines on recurring transactions came into effect on October 1, 2021, we witnessed a 70% drop off in memberships, shaving off Rs. 2.5 lakh from the predicted monthly revenue. Our membership numbers plummeted to 141 as of December 25, 2021.

In response, IFF set up a fundraiser to raise an amount of Rs. 30 lakhs, with an aim to bridge the funding gap caused due to the loss of membership revenue. We were able to raise Rs. 25 lakhs in less than three weeks of launching the fundraiser and this has only been possible because of the support of our community. We are immensely grateful for the support that we received from the entire IFF community.

Our organization’s ability to continue to operate is due in large part to the generous support of individual donors who believe in our mission, as well as donations from organisations and philanthropies. IFF raised a total of Rs. 91,13,417 through individuals, organizations and the expenditure stands at Rs. 55,21,026 since the beginning of the financial year 2021-22. Average donation sizes range from Rs. 3000 for one time donations to Rs. 800 for recurring donations. This year, we were also able to secure institutional funding from UNESCO and received organizational donations of Rs. 25 lakhs from FOSS United and Rs. 1 lakh from Nilenso Software.

Diversity of payment modes and achieving technical stability

While we are trying to cope up with the sudden drop in recurring memberships, we are also looking at more stable ways of conversion since banks and the payment processing platforms are not allowing for smooth conversion. As a way to have the community continue to support us with alternate methods we introduced ways in which members can continue giving on a regular basis. This included setting up Netbanking, Standing Instructions (SI) and UPI Autopay. The physical mandates i.e. paper NACH is implemented and can be now processed for setting up recurring payments at IFF. This method is scheduled to go live in the first week of January. With a part-time solutions architect on-board and with help of tech volunteers from organisations like ERP Next, IFF was able to achieve a high level of technical stability in terms of its systems and infrastructure. We were able to migrate to safer work systems, automate the donor management and payment processing systems along with building custom integrations.

Fundraisers, Merchandise and a Patron Programme

IFF now provides its community with the option of hosting fundraisers/match donations directly from its website. While systemic fundraising brings in the resources and finances that are key for our strategic litigation, policy, and digital literacy work, hosting fundraisers paves the way to build a sense of community and enhances engagement with the mission. This year, Krupa Hebbar and Kritarth Jha hosted fundraisers for IFF. Here's a quick guide to help you host a fundraiser of our own for IFF! This year, we also listed our long term supporters and cheerleaders for the Internet Freedom patrons’ programme. IFF also partnered up with brands like Frankly Wearing (there is now a Sanitary Panels x IFF Tshirt) and No Grey Area to create merchandise allowed us to diversify donor contribution methods and build brand awareness. This was just what IFF supporters needed to strike up a conversation about our mission!

Plans for next year

Over the coming year, we intend to scale up our pre-existing fundraising techniques, grow diversity of funding resources, strengthen our donor relationships and attain a high level of tech stability. We also plan to host a series of IFF meetups across the country and introduce our work and explore possibilities of developing partnerships. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] if you would like to host us in your city or have any leads on this.

Community Building

2021 has seen IFF catapult onto the frontlines of creating public literacy for significant and complex developments around the internet, free speech, privacy, surveillance and tech policy. Breaking down these issues in simple and accessible explainers for audiences, from rapid responses addressing the censorship during the pandemic, to detailed analysis of the incoming Data Protection Bill. We also set out to expand our online presence, building strong communities over Telegram and LinkedIn, while the IFF community over Twitter and Instagram stands stronger than ever at 65K+ each.

Key Highlights

Mass Advocacy:
We at IFF believe in channelling public literacy into mass advocacy, this year we led two massive campaigns, reflecting the strengths of the community we’ve built together.

  • #VaccinateIndia
    We ran a Twitter storm demanding #VaccinesForAll, culminating our actions demanding the Co-WIN platform be made more accessible into a successful public campaign, rallying the entire community. Soon after the Delhi HC issued a series of directions offered by the Amicus, Senior Advocate Rajshekhar Rao on a note prepared by IFF.

  • #PegasusLeaks
    Soon after the Pegasus Project in a massive exposé revealed that a military-grade spyware was used to spy on prominent Indian activists, journalists, politicians, we organized another campaign, demanding the state #InvestigatePegasus.

Digital Literacy
In 2021, we managed to produce and propagate digital literacy materials covering a wide range of topics, from frequently asked questions about digital hygiene, privacy to complex policy issues like AgriStack, Internet Shutdowns, IT Rules and more. Experimenting across formats and platforms, engaging with our amazing group of volunteers to make this content more accessible with Project Translate. We collaborated with IFF’s legal and policy teams to break down technical concepts, into topical memes, detailed infographics and viral videos.

  • Infographics and visual explainers:
    IFF’s Instagram has developed into the go-to place for crisp, quality explainers that break down technical jargon, making digital rights discourse accessible to a larger audience. From the Pegasus Exposé, Facebook Files, to policy issues like NDEAR, CERT-IN’s vulnerability disclosure policy. We also worked on producing a series of sharp infographics for our exclusive Telegram community, who then got to interact with IFF’s staff in real-time.


At IFF, we love hosting events and conversations! Since the pandemic made us wholly remote for much of 2021 as well, we continued hosting online events as a way to bring meaningful and insightful interactions for our community. We were able to build the technical capacity to stream across multiple platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Some of the most notable digital events we organised this year included:

  1. Privacy Supreme with guests like Shashi Tharoor and Ron Deibert commemorating 2017’s landmark Right to Privacy judgement in the Supreme Court.
  2. Quarterly Calls with IFF Members with regular updates for members and donors on our work!
  3. We launched the #DialogueWithIFF talk series featuring the first conversation with Sophie Zhang, a data scientist and Facebook whistleblower who joined us for a conversation around fake engagement on Facebook by political actors in India.
  4. This year, we focussed also on Panoptic Talks - A series of conversations that will look into the different aspects of the rise and rise of facial recognition in India and worldwide.

Apart from these, we also conducted events in collaboration with other organisations like Jan Sarokar around the Pegasus Hacks and its implications and with Civic Data Labs for the launch of Zombie Tracker amongst others.

What's next?

In the coming year, we intend to scale up the production of digital literacy materials, creating simple, accessible and sharp content that aims at increasing public literacy around digital rights. 2022 will see more collaborations with the community, as we expand Project Translate, and contribute to the wiki-wormholes, building a strong digital rights movement in India.

Year in Review: IFF Operations

At the beginning of 2021, IFF was a team of 6 full-time staffers. At the end of 2021, we are now a robust 10 person organization with 2 of-counsels and 2 full-time interns. As we have grown from 6 to 14, so have our inner workings and our priorities regarding staff wellness, streamlining internal management processes and making sure we are always compliant with the regulations that we need to adhere to as an 80G and 12A registered non-profit organization.

Revamping operational and financial management processes

One of the things that become important to ensure smooth functioning of any organization is ensuring that the internal processes like payroll, tax filings, filing annual compliances are streamlined.

In order to make sure IFF is up-to-date with all its operational requirements in a timely manner, we signed up for services that would make our day-to-day operations run smoothly. We enrolled in Razorpay x Payroll to ensure that staff salaries were dispatched in a timely manner and TDS Filings were automated and streamlined. This has helped decrease manual processing of staff and vendor payments and has also reduced the scope of errors that usually occur when processes are manual.

In addition to this, we also onboarded Aditya Jha, who works as a part-time Accounts Associate to make sure our accounts are tabulated on a weekly basis. In order to make sure that we had institutionalised processes for fund utilization in a transparent manner within the organization, we adopted our first Finance Manual that lays out the terms and conditions, and processes for all income and expense related transactions for all staff, vendors and leadership at IFF.

Adoption of new HR Policies

As staff size increased, one of our main priorities was to make sure our HR Policies were always up-to-date. For this, we instituted the PoSH Policy and the Anti Bullying Policy to put in place clear guidelines of expected behaviour and redressal mechanisms for all those who work at IFF.

  • PoSH Policy:
    The Prevention of Sexual Harassement Policy (PoSH) was constituted mid-2021 under the guidance of One Future Collective who not only helped us devise our current policy but also hosted 4 pro-bono workshops for staff and the Internal Complaints Committee. These workshops not only looked into the nuances of sexual harassment in the workplace but also trained the IC on how to sensitively and objectively deal with these complaints.

  • Anti Bullying Policy:
    In addition to the PoSH policy, IFF has also constituted an Anti Bullying Policy to make sure all forms of harassment are adequately addressed within the organisation. It was constituted in consultation with the staff and was adopted towards the end of this year.

Memberships and Accreditations

In order to make sure IFF continues to grow its institutional credibility and transparency, we have also worked towards getting accredited by institutions that will help us do this.

  • Credibility Alliance and Guidestar:
    We have been accredited by Credibility Alliance and Guidestar since 2019 and updated our accreditation there in 2021 as well. Our goal in 2022 is to upgrade to the highest levels of certification to ensure we are compliant with all the transparency norms laid out by them.

  • Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy:
    In addition to internal compliance, we also regularly seek external regulatory advice from Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy (CAP) to ensure we don’t miss out on any new developments in the non-profit sector. This has added another layer of checks to our compliances and has made our systems more robust and up-to-date.

Way forward

2022 will be crucial to IFF’s growth and sustainability as an organization. In order to make sure our operations grow at the same pace, our focus will be on staff wellness and instituting mandatory time offs for all staff members to budget for adequate rest for them given the kind of work they do on a regular basis.

In addition to this, we also hope to launch the IFF Operational Resource Manual that will outline all the internal processes we follow to make sure we run the organization smoothly. We hope to expand our Operations team and add more members to ensure work is manageable as team size grows and that we are able to provide the backbone that our organization and its staff needs to continue its work on India’s digital rights.

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