Friday, 27 January 2017

Evolution Of Philanthropy – Progressive Or Regressive

The not-for-profit sector has evolved exponentially over the last three decades. New challenges have accompanied the changing attitudes, priorities and models within the sector as a whole. New initiatives with a modern approach have proved to be a setback for some older and more traditional initiatives. In this issue we shall debate whether steps taken forward have proven to be steps taken backward in some cases

In a country with over 1.2 billion people and several thousand NGOs, social causes are numerous and there is enough space for ideas & projects across charitable & developmental areas. At some point, donors need to sit back and think through the pros and cons of supporting purely charitable versus developmental organisations, India's social sector evolution needs to be balanced and mature. Within chosen core sectors, a donor should maintain a healthy mix of both; at the H T Parekh Foundation, we strive to maintain this balance.

Ziaa Lalkaka, Head - CSR
The H T Parekh Foundation
The CSR law is still new to India….it will take another 5-7 years to truly evolve, show impact and become a game changer, provided corporates continue to invest in the social sector at the current pace. With a massive pool of CSR funds available today, emphasis on professionalism in the operations of the non-profit sector is definitely required, albeit with a healthy balance between time and cost spent on ‘professionalizing a non-profit’.

It is also important to understand that at the end of the day it is a grant and not a commercial investment. Whilst regulation is needed, too much regulation can stifle both the donor and donee, taking away from the time that could have been invested in efficient programme execution & monitoring.

While CSR compliance for eligible corporates is mandatory today, there is still a large amount of untapped individual wealth and family offices operating in India. We have a long way to progress to emulate philanthropy in the West, where wealthy individuals have ‘voluntarily’ donated a significant sum of their personal wealth to a private trust set up to undertake global developmental work.

At the end of the day, I personally believe what is important is the act of GIVING itself, whether it is driven by a thinking mind or a generous heart ! 

The H T Parekh Foundation is the corporate social responsibility arm of HDFC Limited
During the last few years we have seen the impact of the CSR Bill in terms of more funds, greater emphasis on processes, governance etc. These changes are very much required and necessary for the healthy growth of the social sector.
Vipul Jain, President,
 Catalysts for Social Action
However, corporates want projects that neatly fit into buckets of “health”, “education”, “livelihood” etc. and which impact “large” numbers of people. Alas, if only all problems and solutions could be so neatly sliced and packaged! And what about changing one life at a time? Further, corporates are not going to fund anything that might be perceived as anti-government or “activist” …so causes around citizen empowerment, accountability and transparency in government, will be left out from the gravy train. Ironically, these causes may be the ones with greatest impact and the highest ROI.
Coming from the corporate sector myself, I know that we believe that resources, technology and a project plan can solve any problem! Will such an approach make a real difference …or should I say , a sustainable difference ? Humility, openness, empathy, compassion ….without these qualities, many social enterprises will become another self-serving and soul less machinery, just like the government, and just as ineffective!

Catalysts for Social Action (CSA) works for A Brighter Future for Orphaned Children. They run programs to increase adoptions and enhance care and outcomes for children in orphanages across the country.
I celebrate the increased professionalism in the development sector, which is helping mainstream social issues – through a common language and increased visibility - and also enabling the participation of greater financial and human capital than ever before!
Dipti Goyal Bhadra, Associate Director, 
Talent Management, Dasra
However, while the direction is absolutely right, it becomes critical to safeguard from ‘form overtaking substance’ and ‘head engulfing heart’. Striking the right balance requires that we stay vigilant, and simultaneously build our capacities (both individual and collective) to impart critical insights gained, from having been in the sector, to new entrants (donors and others).
Two examples of potential pitfalls could be: (a) too narrow a definition of a donor’s focus areas, without realizing the inter-relatedness of social issues eg: sanitation and education; (b) prioritizing ‘scale’ and ‘ROI’ without cultivating an ‘impact-first’ mentality.
A good example of a positive innovation could be the ‘Dasra Giving Circle’ (DGC), which enables longer term, unrestricted (vs programmatic) funding for NGOs, while providing a unique, collaborative giving experience to donors.
 In conclusion, here’s a memorable quote from Robin Sharma, on the topic of evolution / change! - ‘Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.’ 

Dasra, meaning ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit, is a pioneering strategic philanthropic organization that aims to transform India where a billion thrive with dignity and equity.

Our goal is to save lives. This is achieved by setting no prior limit upto which funds are disbursed per patient (a usual practice of many NGO’s).Every disbursement is followed up with rigorous post care support to ensure a changed human being. Character Education is another stated goal of Karo, yet to be realised. 
In my opinion, the motivation of entering the field of philanthropy must stem from a genuine intrinsic desire to change the quality of existence of human beings. The most important measure of success of an effort is the existential change brought about in a human being. This demands clear goals, an organizational capacity to fulfil those goals- with an emphasised focus on delivering ‘quality’- change in the condition of a human being. For a long term impact, it must be sustainable.
Kabir Malhotra, 
Trustee, KARO Trust
 Certain new laws & policies have become obstacles to realize the above:- The New CSR Act stipulates that not more than 5% of a company’s CSR budget can be spent on administrative expenses- This negatively impacts the sustainability of CSR programs(as it negatively impacts organisational capacity).
 Though in all practical terms - CSR is not mandatory, there is an implied obligation for companies to participate in CSR. Philanthropic activities must be backed by true sentiments, and not imposed by an outside authority. These companies are forced to form partnerships with other NGOs, even though their goals/values do not fully match with the NGO’s.
 Having formed these partnerships, the focus is then on quantity (which usually compromises quality), in the pursuit of gaining maximum goodwill (as quantity is an oft but wrongly used metric for success). The focus has to shift from quantity to changed human experiences. Too many controls, audits, and new laws can dampen the true spirit of philanthropy and deter many potential philanthropists from acting out their inner noble intentions.”
 KARO is a public charitable trust set up to provide holistic healthcare support (beyond financial aid) to people in need across Mumbai.

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