Big gifts by big donors get worldwide attention—who can forget Warren Buffet’s bumper present? But this week’s cover story, from The Wall Street Journal, is about a relatively newer phenomenon in the US. It’s about “stretch” gifts or gifts from “normal” individuals that often require donors to make sacrifices. Like the retired General Electric executive who donated $1 million (Page 12). We also have an accompanying story (Page 13) by columnist Shoba Narayan about some Indians who came up with their own unique Big Ideas and have never looked back.
Sure, not everyone can be Warren Buffet (or even Anil Agarwal, the NRI who said he would donate some $1 billion to establish a university in India), but most of us feel the need to give something back. Often, what stops us is that we never know where or how to get started.
I had a great chat with Sanjay Bapat, an MBA who spent 12 years in advertising before he founded the website IndianNGOs.com.
Here are some of Bapat’s super easy tips, especially for Mint readers:
1.) Okay, so you may not have the time to volunteer, but you’re online all the time. At the bottom of every email you send out, under your name and designation (where it usually says Confidential Information…), insert a line about a cause you believe in, such as “Save the girl child”. It takes 30 seconds to share an important message with everyone you interact with over email. If you want to do this as a company, the line could say, for instance, “Glaxo supports primary health”. If you’re supporting an NGO, make that a simple “Visit Akanksha” at the end of all emails. You can change the message every month.
2.) Bapat thinks most people underestimate the toll that a high rate of infant and maternal mortality takes on the economy. Many NGOs have schemes that require you to invest Rs3,000 a year to provide for the nutritional needs of a child. Bapat believes that if every employee of every company takes care of one child, we can take care of the nutritional needs of the country.
3.) Go to people who don’t/can’t come to you. Most NGOs in Mumbai and New Delhi know how to raise money. But if we spent, say, 30% of our CSR funds on the worst 25 districts in the country, the impact would be bigger. So why not ask your CSR head where the company puts its money?
4.) The first thing every corporate citizen should do is to understand the social and developmental canvas of their country. “Most of us don’t even know the basic numbers,” says Bapat. What was that AIDS figure again?
5.) Teach your children to save critical resources such as water and energy. If you, as an MBA, a CA or a lawyer, can’t do it, don’t expect the rest of India to do so.
6.) If you have time and can volunteer, utilize your core competency. If you’re an IIM grad, don’t teach slum children English and Maths. Instead, teach the NGO how to lobby better, to create campaigns, to invest its money better.
7.) If you earn lots of money, please invest a fraction of it in the social sector. Don’t wait for the government to impose a 2% cess on you, says Bapat. Why not get together a group of people and sponsor a district? Don’t support a project for an unlimited time; provide the seed capital, build social entrepreneurs, take them up to first gear and then move on to the next project.
So why not get started (after you finish reading Lounge of course).
(Write to firstname.lastname@example.org)