Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What does Indian Fundraising Really Need?


The largest annual gathering of charity fundraisers in India drew to an end after 4 days of discourses, debates, presentations and partying. The 19th South Asian Fund Raising Workshop (SAFRW) held at Agra saw the international experts, the Indian veterans and absolute beginners, all rubbing shoulders under one roof.

The show was great and the organizers deserve a pat for that. The knowledge sharing was tremendous, with both international and local examples flowing freely. The Indian (and also Pakistani, Afghani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan and Nepalese) NGOs were enthusiastic and hungry for more.

But what struck one was the absolute uselessness of this exchange. It is an old known fact that much of this capacity building will come to a cropper, as majority of these non-profits will never be able to put this to practice. Quiet a shame for all the effort put.

No, not because these non-profits are unwilling and laid back. The scourge here is the lack of investment funds to kick-start fundraising. Yes, capacity building is important but what is paramount is the availability of seed funds.

It is not difficult. The government, financial institutions, philanthropists, development agencies and fundraisers all need to come forward to provide sustainability to the sector. It is not difficult at all. The following may be worth considering:

1) The government provides funds for social development to scores of non-profits. These funds are earmarked for welfare programmes. What is needed is to allocate a part of them for building donor base and hence sustainability of the organization.

2) The financial institutions are able to offer soft loans for fundraising and non-profits are allowed to access them. The RBI and the Charity Commissioners need to facilitate the procedural permissions.

3) The philanthropist and funding agencies give specific grants for building fundraising teams and operational budgets for up to 3 years. We already have a success story in CRY, which got a grant from Stromme Memorial Foundation to start their Direct Mail fundraising. Rest is history.

4) Finally all the Fundraising capacity building organizations of the country and all the fundraisers and their associations need to gather and pool a fund that gives grants to deserving projects and hand-holds them to success.

The sector badly needs angel investors. All the donors to the sector will do a greater service if they support development of fundraising and not only programmes. Every rupee donated will convert into 4 rupees over 2-3 years time and make the project going till it is needed.

But the converse may cause our favorite charitable project to collapse sooner or later. The choice totally rests with us.

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