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Don’t fundraise in India, train fundraisers in India

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In this post, guest blogger John Godfrey shares his thoughts on fundraising in India. 

John is a fundraising consultant and trainer in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and India. As well he is a PhD candidate at Swinburne University, Melbourne researching HNWI philanthropists in India. He blogs and writes articles for fundraising publications including NPQuarterly Newswires. He wrote the book Artful Major Gift Fundraising.


Don’t fundraise in India, train fundraisers in India!

Daryl Upsall recently blogged on 101 fundraising “How many Fundraising Directors of national charities that have international programmes have been challenged by their CEO or board members to go out and raise funds in countries where their non-profit spends its money?” I’d like to propose any other solution.

Bernard Ross was one of a handful of Western fundraisers, myself included, who gave workshops and presentations at the Resource Alliance IWRM conference in Delhi last month. At the conference wind up the conclusion was that there was “great potential in Asia but not enough of fundraisers because of lack of capacity building” and “There was an urgent need to address this aspect as a priority”.

I have been giving workshops for fundraisers in India now for several years. More recently I have been investigating Indian philanthropy for a Ph.D. For those of you whom I still encounter, whose jaws drop at the phrase “Indian philanthropy” – yes, “Indian philanthropy” has existed for millennia and is strongly rooted in the subcontinent culture. Indeed, there is not a single nation or race in Asia (or any part of the world) which does not have a tradition and culture of philanthropy. What is missing is a professional approach to asking for philanthropic support, a.k.a. “fundraising”.

India, as I’m sure you know, is a land of ‘huges’. It has a huge population, it has huge needs; it has a huge gap between the wealthy and the poor; it has a huge (and growing) educated, middle-class. It is the world’s hugest federal parliamentary democracy. It is also a land of manys. It has many languages; It has many races; It has many cultures; It has many religions; it has many histories.

Add to that, the fact that it has many charities. A recent count suggested that there is an NGO for every 400 people. In fact, that was one of the first things that I discovered when I started working with people in the charity sector in India. So many people I met and worked with are connected with small charities, founded in response to the many immediate, visible needs for relief and progress. Many of my friends in India have created their own personal charities. Philanthropy and volunteerism, to repeat my earlier point, have deep roots in the subcontinent. Giving, volunteering and helping others are integral to the religious cultures of the region – Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and their sub-branches.

Charities Aid Foundation produced a 2012 report which covers what I’ve just described in greater detail. Amongst other findings it discovered that 84% of Indians had given money to a good cause at least once in the previous year. However, in essence it underlines my main assertion that there is a lack of sustained, professional fundraising in India (and I’m pretty sure that this argument can be extended throughout Asia and other parts of the developing world). Another key finding was that “only 27% of donors had given specifically to a charitable organisation. Giving directly to individuals, and giving in the course of following one’s faith, were the more common ways to contribute to society”. In other words people are giving either directly to beggars or to temples, priests and religious institutions. As someone else once said if only India’s fundraisers could be as successful as her priests at attracting donations.

What’s next?

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