Strategic giving for impact

Charity has become more strategic in 2015-16, moving beyond a meal or a blanket, say experts

Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

New Delhi: Philanthropic contributions from both corporate entities and individuals have been rising over the last couple of years, but it has not become an established trend yet. While some organizations recorded a jump in donations during the last fiscal year, others showed a drop. Experts say one reason could be that some wealthy philanthropists want to ensure sustainable results by doing more than just giving money away.

Donations at GiveIndia, the country’s largest online charity portal with more than half a million registered donors, fell in fiscal year 2016 from a year ago even as the number of donors increased slightly. The organization attributes this to a shift in its focus on common donors and away from wealthy philanthropists.

GiveIndia received Rs28.8 crore from more than 537,000 donations by 102,078 donors in FY16. This compares to Rs30.7 crore from 488,266 donations made by 100,413 donors in FY15.

Vikas Puthran, GiveIndia vice-president for corporate alliances, said while data may indicate that donors have risen only marginally, it does not reflect an overall trend as the organization chose to focus on donor engagement and consolidation rather than expansion during FY16. He said GiveIndia had moved its high networth individuals (HNIs) portfolio, comprising 25 active donors, to Dasra—a strategic philanthropic organization earlier this year.

“This fiscal, we have eliminated HNIs because we want to focus more on individual or retail donors. We felt that we need to encourage more common people to give rather than the HNIs who give in bulk,” Puthran said, explaining the decline in collections at GiveIndia this year.

The organization counts individuals who give Rs5 lakh or more to charity as HNIs. 

Puthran said HNIs require more customized and personalized philanthropic services, which stopped being a part of the GiveIndia portfolio beginning FY16.

He said the decline in funds is not because philanthropy has lost flavour with the wealthy—be it individuals or corporate entities—but because philanthropists want to make a greater impact and do more than just donate funds.

Sonali Pradhan, head of wealth planning at Julius Baer India, a Switzerland-based wealth management firm, said, “Increasingly, I have observed that wealthy individuals would like to share their time and expertise with non-profit organizations, social enterprises or other entities in order to help them make a social impact, rather than make traditional donations of money alone.”

On the other hand, the team at Ketto, another online giving portal, was focused on expanding outreach in FY16 and this helped it increase the number of donors as well as donations. It raised Rs30 crore from 50,000 donors in FY16, compared with Rs4 crore from around 8,000 donors the year before.

According to Ketto founder Varun Sheth, “A larger number of younger people are eager to give money for social good but in a more organized manner as compared to before. It is no longer about just helping your housemaid or the man on the street, people want to give via organized structures like Ketto in order to be able to track progress and measure impact.”

The assessment is echoed by Noshir Dadrawala, chief executive officer of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, a consultancy for non-profits. “The move towards funding social development via philanthropic foundations is on the rise because those giving money are keen to see the maximum impact and most effective use of the funds,” he said.

Dadrawala said foundations provide professional mechanisms with qualified sector experts who are at the helm of planning and executing projects that utilize donated funds. However, India currently does not have a centralized mechanism for recording and monitoring charitable donations.