Making donating to charity everybody’s concern

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“Charity is a habit, and sometimes it takes more than a lifetime to adopt”

This quote has always been an albatross for all the social organisations and NGO across. In order to assist these organisations to fund themselves and carry on their good work, Give India came into existence. GiveIndia is a donation platform that allows you to support a cause of your choice from about 200 NGOs that have been scrutinized for transparency & credibility.

SINCE 2000, when it started, GiveIndia has raised more than Rs250 crore for charity from some three lakh Indians. The money has been used to pay for a whole host of causes-from repairing a village’s check dam to nets for fishermen, from walkers for the elderly to the college fees of underprivileged students. GiveIndia has also introduced new and convenient ways of donating, prodded NGOs to become more transparent, and vigorously promoted philanthropy in the country.

GiveIndia’s goal is to get all middle- and upper-class Indians to donate two percent of their annual income to the poor. And while it may still be very far from that target, its work has been widely praised. “GiveIndia is one of the most interesting innovators in philanthropy on the planet,” says Katherine Fulton, president of the Monitor Institute, an American social change consultancy.

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GiveIndia is the brainchild of Venkat Krishnan N., a remarkable IIM-Ahmedabad graduate who gave up a well-paying corporate career to work for the underprivileged.

It wasn’t a sudden decision. Even as a schoolboy, Venkat, now 44, was haunted by the inequalities of the world around him. “Some of my schoolmates lived in nice two-bedroom houses,” he says. “Others in a slum. It was so unfair.”

At the IIM, Venkat interned one summer with the government’s Khadi Village Industries Commission. But that only confirmed his conviction that joining the IAS was not his way to help the poor. Nor was it by living and working amongst them. He had to use his brains and management skills to find another way of creating a more just India.

“Donors want control over their money,” Venkat says. “They don’t like not knowing, for instance, whether it was used to pay an electricity bill or a teacher’s salary. You’ve therefore got to give them precise options. The option ‘To pay for a secondary schoolchild’s textbooks for a year’ will attract more donors than a vague ‘To pay for a child’s education’. ”

But NGOs were not used to offering such choices, so Venkat and his team had to do it for them initially. “We thoroughly sliced and diced each NGO’s budget and created credible options that donors could understand,” Venkat says.

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Venkat also insisted that every donor should receive a feedback report including photographs. “Seeing the face of the child whose books you paid for or the village well which was dug with your money,” Venkat says, “gives you confidence that your donation has been well used.”

In 2006, GiveIndia started i-Give, in which anyone can create their own page on the GiveIndia website. This has proved especially useful to individuals who wish to raise more than they can personally afford for a cause. Typical is Sudhir Kulkarni of Ahmedabad whose beloved elder sister died of ovarian cancer. In her memory, Kulkarni decided to collect money for an NGO that looked after poor women cancer patients. So he registered with GiveIndia, opted for an NGO on its list, and sent e-mails to everyone he knew offering to match whatever they contributed. He also posted the appeal regularly on his Facebook page. Within three months he’d raised nearly Rs7 lakh.

From early 2007, Venkat began saying he wanted to leave GiveIndia. “It’s extremely rare for the founder of an NGO to voluntarily resign,” says Ujwal Thakar, his successor as CEO. “But that’s Venkat for you.”

Venkat explains his reason: “For the first few years an organization can grow on passion and fresh air,” he says. “But once it’s established it needs to be run by a person who is more forgiving, less demanding. I don’t think I could be the CEO of a large company. I felt that the biggest obstacle to GiveIndia’s future growth was me.”

Whether or not that’s correct, GiveIndia has continued to flourish under Venkat’s successors. Meanwhile Venkat now spends much of his time promoting Daan Utsav or the Joy of Giving Week, a movement he started after leaving GiveIndia.

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