Thursday, September 8, 2016

Raising funds for non-profit research without writing grant applications

Some days back I had read an article in The Jakarta Post that talked about the meager funds that were put in for social research i.e. research that can help provide solutions for diseases, welfare services for poor and other social issues.

The article had identified a very pertinent issue often plaguing the developing world- lack of investment in research. The article also urged support from government and listed some private philanthropists in Indonesia (like Tahir Foundation) that were already funding research in important public welfare areas.

That set me thinking, the two sectors- government and private corporations have a responsibility to support research and therefore should be appealed for increasing spending. However, why is the alternative approach that was also used successfully by a famous global campaign not tried more often to raise funds for research. 

I am talking about The ALS Association's phenomenal "Ice Bucket Challenge". We all would recall how in the year 2014 it caught imagination of people around the globe and raised more than 220 million worldwide for various charities working on ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) . Almost 77 million, 67% of the USD 115 million raised by The ALS Association in United States was used for supporting research.

Why can't we use a similar approach? Although several look alike efforts like dirt bucket, rice bucket challenge etc. were not as successful, yet we need to deconstruct the mechanism used by the campaign and learn from it. 

The Ice Bucket Challenge did not go to public at large with piles and piles of data and an appeal to donate for ALS related research. They made people experience what it felt like suffering from ALS and asked them to contribute up to USD 100 each for discovering cure for ALS. The organisation then decided to use a majority of these funds for research. 

Last month, The ALS Association broke news that partly due to funds raised by Ice Bucket Challenge, the scientist were able to discover a new gene that is the most common contributor to the disease. This will ensure that going on drugs could be developed to address the effects of this newly discovered gene.  

So what we learn from this campaign is to make people experience the cause, show possible impact and ask for their contribution. 

You don't always need viral campaigns to do it, in fact The ALS Association was not able to repeat success by using same campaign in the following years. 

Even face to face fundraising can be used to raise funds for research. Do scroll up and look at the illustration. You may not have realised but it is a face to face fundraising booth that is raising funds for research. In this a scientist sits in the glass booth, which models a research lab. The scientist sits idle, but stands up and starts performing experiment once you put your donation form inside the box. 

This is just not a bright looking idea that will not work on the ground. In fact, Multiple Sclerosis a non-profit organisation in Australia had actually used a similar approach in its street fundraising effort. 

So, this goes on to show that the tools of fundraising from public at large can also raise funds for research. It is for more and  more nonprofits and research institutes to adopt this mechanism of mobilising funds. 

One needs to showcase impact and benefits that research is likely to bring in a way people on the street can understand. Rest, that individual walking on the street has been and will remain generous, always.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Overhead- a short film on non-profit overhead costs

Often non-profits are questioned about their overhead costs and why in first place they need to spend. The non-profit workers may lead a normal middle class lifestyle and splurge but they are so very stingy when it comes to spending the donor money. The film tries to address these two issues of common perception. Do watch and share, The Overhead.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

"CSR Reborn"- interpreting CSR post Indian Companies Bill 2012

With the passage of Indian Companies Bill 2012 in lower house of Indian Parliament, the country is abuzz with optimism and confusion simultaneously. While broadly the new provisions have been welcomed, the bill in its current shape raises lots of questions.

At this turning point "CSR Reborn" comes in with some answers and postulations. I gained several insights editing the book. Three of the industry captains in CSR and Corporate Sustainability have also lavished praise on the book (see the back cover). The contributors to this book have decades of experience in the development and CSR sector, hence the praise does not appear out of place.

The book has been published by SAFRG, which is a not-for-profit think tank on philanthropy and CSR working in Asia since 1989. The book is officially being released at 24th South Asian International Workshop on Fundraising and CSR, which is being held from August 1-3, 2013 at Awesome Farms, Faridabad-Sohna Road, New Delhi NCR. This is a gathering of varied audience from more than 10 countries across Asia, Australia, Africa and North America and hence an apt platform for unveiling the book (more details on

You can lay hands on a copy by writing in to It is priced at INR 450 or USD 10 per copy.