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Think Change India

Making philanthropy easy, essential and effective

Shital Shah
8th Jan 2011
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This is a guest post from Namit Agarwal, Communications Manager of Samhita.

Indian billionaires have been criticized for their inability to contribute enough to social causes. As more and more billionaires around the world pledge their wealth for charitable purposes the gap becomes more distinct.

In the recent past we have seen Indian industry leaders parting away with their wealth, setting examples to bring about a perception change in the corporate circle. We can now hope that in the near future Indian corporate houses will come closer to the international philanthropic benchmark.

In the US almost 82% donations come from individuals and only 5% from corporate foundations. This astonishing figure is beyond comparison in India. In a recent donor survey conducted jointly by Samhita and the Global India Fund it was found that most donors are unaware of credible nonprofit organizations to support.


To address this issue and to make philanthropy easy, essential and effective the American Center and Samhita organized a panel discussion of distinguished panelists comprising Dr. Amita Vyas, Assistant Professor and Director, George Washington University and Founder, Global India Fund, Li Ping Lo, Foreign Service Officer, U.S. Consulate Mumbai, Noshir Dadrawala, Chief Executive, Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, Vidya Shah, Executive Director and Head, EdelGive Foundation, Akhil Shahani, Director, Kaizen Private Equity and Rajiv Agarwal, Advertising Consultant moderated by Priya Naik, CEO, Samhita.“Everytime I’d share stories of the wonderful work that nonprofit organizations in India do. I’ve always met with the same response that they didn’t know that there are so many such organizations doing such great work,” said Dr. Amita Vyas.

“People all across the United States care about supporting social causes here in India. But there are too many complexities to giving. People want to make smart financial decisions about their giving. But it is complicated to find organizations and even more complicated to find whether the organization is credible,” she said.

The Global Indian Fund (GIF) provides a variety of options for US donors to support nonprofits and get tax benefits. GIF has partnered with Samhita to create an online platform for US donors to support Indian nonprofits. GIF together with Samhita and other sector experts have created a credibility framework to verify and list nonprofits on the portal and will be launching soon.

“People also want to feel connected to the organization they are giving to. Donors also want to visit the organization, meet the social entrepreneur and volunteer their time when they visit India by providing pro-bono expertise to these organizations. Our partnership with Samhita will help us to go beyond cheque book philanthropy and build that long term donor relationship,” said Amita.

“The biggest mistake that nonprofits make is to go to a donor with a one-size-fits-all request, without knowing what their preferences are. The key is to understand who your donor is and what is it that he or she is affiliated with,” said Akhil Sahani.

“The term donor brings in the concept of a benevolent giver and a grateful recipient and we need to put that aside,” said Noshir Dadrawala. Noshir, author of many nonprofit management books, has helped several nonprofits come into existence and also helped several philanthropists support social causes effectively.

“It is an age of social partnerships, where the donor is an investor looking for the best social returns. Unlike other investments the social returns are not measurable oftentimes which is a big challenge,” he said.

“Media has a very important role to make giving cool and essential. Few years ago being green was unheard of but now it is very cool,” said Rajiv Agarwal.

“Most donation requests we get are transactional in nature. But what’s important is to build a relationship between a donor and the organization. A platform like Samhita.org will help present multiple options before a donor and also help them build that engagement,” he said.

EdelGive Foundation has been supporting several nonprofit organizations by providing grants. “We struggle to find enough credible organizations to support,” said Vidya Shah. EdelGive Foundation stresses on building the organization’s capacity by improving administrative resources like HR and Finance.

“It is important for a donor to like an organization before he gives,” said Akhil. “The best way to reach out to a donor is to ask for his advise first, make him your guru and then let him decide to make a donation,” he adds.

“It is more about friendraising than fundraising,” said Noshir. “It is important for each one of us to make a contribution in our own capacity,” he said citing the starfish example.

“It is important to inculcate the spirit of giving from early childhood. Unlike adults, children have a very simple approach to life,” said Rajiv.

“In the United States tax benefits is a very important incentive for people to give,” said Li Ping Lo.

“In India and also in US and UK religious giving takes a major share. India has a culture of giving but not institutional giving,” said Noshir.

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