Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Indians: Charity rich, philanthropy poor

There is no paucity of funds or lack of individual commitment to society but Indians are stingy, say non-governmental organisations and experts.

"We raise 90 per cent of our funds to support orphanages from individuals and rest from trusts. There is no shortage of funds but a lack of heart amongst people who spend several thousand rupees on eating out but do not help the impoverished," says Anjali Gopalan, who heads Naz Foundation, a Delhi based NGO.

Most of the time people donate money only if it is connected to aid religious purposes, adds Gopalan.

Naz works for raising awareness to prevent spread of HIV/AIDS. Major-General Surat Sandhu (Retd.), Chairman, South Asian Fund Raising Group (SAFRG), says that while India is charity rich, it is philanthropy poor and NGOs need professional fundraisers to motivate and inspire people to contribute for social issues.

"Most of the NGOs suffer from fund crisis. There are 1.2 million NGOs in India but less than one per cent of NGOs have professional fund-raisers and that too in the metros only, what about other cities? The potential of giving in the country is huge but we are tapping a mere fraction of it," he says, while adding India has more than 87,000 millionaires in dollar terms and over 700,000 people earning more than Rs 2 million a year.

The civil society sector in the country raises funds upto $ 600 million in a year, while the potential is of more than $ 10 billion. Non-profit sector in US raises $ 260 billion each year from population of 295 million and UK raises $ 41 billion in a year from 60 million people.

"The credibility of an organisation is directly proportional to the number of 'Individual Supporters' it has. Out of 4.3 million individual supporters worldwide, 70,000 are from India. We have started fundraising with only 5,000 supporters and every year more thousands of people join this noble mission," says Dev Kumar Chatterjee of Greenpeace, an environment rights group.

A large number of people are still ignorant about environmental issues and they think twice before donating, he adds. Swami Agnivesh, a social activist, says that before independence there was a special bonding between Indians and the civil society used to fund everything from hospitals to schools but after the formation of government, the major portion of the fund do not reach to the needy people.

"NGOs are doing a great job by raising funds for the major issues prevailing in the country. Government grants a huge amount of money but only 1 per cent of that reaches to the cause. We should not depend on anyone and only through self sustaining capacity, we will be in a better position to address poverty and inequity that prevails," he adds.

Sandhu says, "Government grants Rs 6000 crore (Rs 60 billion) on NGOs whereas International NGOs give Rs 5000 crore (Rs 50 billion) through Foreign contribution regulation Act (FCRA) in a year. Non-resident Indians (NRIs) send over $ 23 billion into the country as remittances for the development purposes per year. But we still need to raise more funds from individuals as the contribution is much less than the potential."

According to Planning Commission report, funds which come from abroad for development purposes are much more than Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), so it is clear that funds are not well utilised and are being invested in wrong purposes," says Bejon Mishra of Consumer Voice, a NGO.

Mishra adds, "We need professional fund-raisers to exploit the resources to its potential. Most of the NGOs spend 60-70 per cent of their funds, which is meant to be utilised in the country, on hiring foreign consultants. We should create professionals here by organising workshops and conducting specialised courses in fund-raising."


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