New ways to support NGOs!

Who would have thought that 'sugar and spice and all things nice' could put money in the hands of those working to change the world? Or that a shopaholic's spending could help lift women entrepreneurs out of poverty? In this two-part interview series, we speak with The Bake Collective and Hand to Heart , who show us that people are wiling to support NGOs generously, yet fill their stomachs as well!


The Bake Collective, led by Kavita Gonsalves and Charlene Vaz, organises bake sales with all proceeds going to charity. They've raised money for nine organisations so far. This initiative connects an army of like-minded bakers, volunteers and supporters to supply brownies, cupcakes and biscuits for the sales.

KC: What was the driving force which led you to this initiative? Did you face challenges in bringing people on board with the idea?

TBC: The conception of 'The Bake Collective' all began as a Facebook chat – We (Kavita Gonsalves & Charlene Vaz) had a brainwave about having a bake sale to raise money for one of Milaap's causes. It made complete sense to us. We both loved to bake and wanted an excuse to do so. So why not do it for a good cause? That’s how The Bake Collective was born in 2012.

It started as a one-time event that did so well that we didn't have to work too hard to bring people on board with the idea. We had NGOs and non-profits, in the start-up phase, asking us to fundraise for their work. We also had many local and home bakers and volunteers asking us when the next event was. Thanks to that demand, we are now two years in the running and organise bake sales every 2-3 months for charitable causes.chocolate cookies

KC: Do you follow a process to identify NGOs to promote?

TBC: Most of the time, organisations hear of us and get in touch. To make things easier, we have an application form to help us decide which NGOs we want to work with– we brainstorm over their targets or urgent requirements, organise our baking goods/ chocolate requirement and schedule the bake sales. Our criteria for picking beneficiaries depend purely on the causes and the impact TBC can make.

KC: Product-based sales are a great way to integrate societal impact with people’s lifestyles. Do you notice a shift in perception towards charity due to this medium? Are people more positively inclined to consume because proceeds are going to charity?

TBC: We find that most people are generous by nature and only want to make sure that their contributions are making a difference. As TBC has been around for more than 2 years now, its not too difficult to convince people of the power of the cupcake as they can witness the change their contribution makes via our Facebook page.

Most of the people who buy TBC's yummies are mostly in it for the dual benefit—–Buy a cupcake and make a difference while gobbling it up.

Follow The Bake Collective on Facebook to stay updated with their work!



 The Urban Poverty Eradication Cell of the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai focuses on economic upliftment of the marginalised. Through the Cell's initiatives, thousands of women have come together to form Self Help Groups and start micro businesses. To ensure the success and sustainability of businesses started by these groups, it is important to provide market linkages for SHG products.The Hand to Heart initiative began as an attempt to introduce  SHG women and their products to a potential market. We spoke with Shreya Hariyani, who works with the Hand to Heart initiative, about her thoughts on giving and the reasons for the initiative's success.

KC: What was the driving force which led you to this initiative?

HTH: In my capacity as a Consultant with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai for Corporate Social Responsibility I came across the efforts taken by the UPEC MCGM Officers, the work and lives of women in these groups and as well as the quality of the products. We, at the CSR Cell then began introducing the cause of SHGs to various Corporates we came across in the course of our work who also felt the products and the groups deserved a platform. Many Companies therefore invited us to put up exhibitions in their office premises. The initiative hand-to – heart was therefore born with the aim of integrating SHG products into corporate gifting and a wider market.

KC: Do you follow a process to identify NGOs to promote?

HTH: Our aim is the welfare of all self-help groups in Mumbai. At present we take products from various groups that we feel will be ideal in a corporate-setting as well as. We also give feedback to the groups on how to further improve their products based on our feedback from exhibitions. We also aim to give more and more groups a platform and hence attempt to give a chance to newer groups in each exhibition. If the products of the newer groups are not up to the mark we arrange further training for them, sometimes training is provided by older more experienced groups.

KC: Product-based sales are a great way to integrate societal impact with people’s lifestyles. Do you notice a shift in perception towards charity due to this medium? Are people more positively inclined to purchase an item because proceeds are going to charity?

HTH: The knowledge that purchasing a product will contribute towards social welfare is definitely a significant factor in the decision-making process of a customer. But it is also felt that the need for the product itself to be appealing and of good quality and use is a significant underlying factor for a costumer. Charity will only prompt costumers to look at the products and give them a chance, the ultimate purchase is made when the product finds some use in a costumer’s life. Conversely, if a customer really does like any of the products but finds it a little too expensive for what it is, they may end up paying for it knowing that money will go towards charity.


Watch this space for the second part of the interview series next week! Get in touch with us at to find out more about the initiatives.

#Kashmir floods – what you can do to help

Days of incessant rain have led to the worst flood situation Kashmir has seen in 60 years. The damage unleashed by the floods has been unprecedented, and until the rains slowed down, completely unanticipated. Entire villages in hilly areas have disappeared, taking people’s lives with them. Urban areas haven’t been spared as well, with roads hidden under several feet of water. Those who made it out alive watched helplessly as their lives are washed away before their eyes.

It will be a long time before life is restored to normal in Kashmir. Those of us sitting at home cannot imagine what those hit by the floods must be experiencing. Yet we feel the need to reach a hand out to those in need. Disasters like these are rarely man-made, but man can definitely rise to the occasion to deal with the aftermath. We’ve put together a few things that you too can do to bring some hope into people’s lives.

  1. Use the internet to help share information: Check out  an independent website bringing volunteers, donors and technology to the aid of those in Kashmir. A number of organisations including Uday Foundation, Google India, Cipla and others are coming together to gather resources and set up collection centres to source items urgently required by those on the ground. They’re receiving support from IndiGo Airlines to send this material to Kashmir. You can use the site to see what resources are needed most urgently on the ground, collection centres for donations and many more details.
  2. Track missing people: Google has a nifty tool call the Person Finder, designed for emergency or disaster situations like this one. Set up after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, this open tool allows users to share their own information if they are in a disaster zone and able to access internet/telephony services. Third parties can also enter details of people affected by disasters. Users can also use the list to search for a missing person or ask for information about someone in the disaster zone. The list of information includes details like the last time of contact, whether the person has since been rescued and specifies the type of relief needed. Since the Person Finder is continually updated, chances are someone will have entered information about the person you’re looking for. If not, it alerts those in the area and relief volunteers to the fact that there is a person in need who hasn’t been tracked yet.
  3. Donate Relief Material: NGOs like Goonj.. are encouraging people to donate urgently needed essential relief material. If you have water purification tablets, medicines, dry foods, disinfectants or other items, get in touch with their collection centres across the country. To see a full list of their collection centres, click here.
  4. Sponsor relief kits: Plan India has put together food, shelter, cooking, water and hygiene kits to be distributed in relief camps. You can sponsor these kits by going to their website here. ActionAid is trying to provide tarpaulin sheets, dry food rations and hygiene kits to women and girls.
  5. Donate money: Cash and cheque donations are of great use as well. You could consider donating money to any of the earlier mentioned NGOs, or the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund here to support their work.

India’s answer to the Ice Bucket Challenge

What do Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have in common with Akshay Kumar, Ritesh Deshmukh and Sidharth Malhotra? They’ve all taken the #IceBucketChallenge, where individuals drench themselves using a bucket of ice water. The challenge was initiated by the ALS Association in the United States as a bid to raise funds and awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.

While the challenge has achieved its objective for the organisation, several people have begun to point out that the terms of the challenge result in a huge wastage of water. In a country like India, where access to clean drinking water is a luxury for many, this particular activity seems a bit counter-productive.

Happily, someone has provided a better alternative, and designed a new version that Indians can participate in. It’s called the #RiceBucketChallenge, and is being hailed as India’s answer to the IceBucket Challenge. Started by Hyderabad-based journalist Manju Latha Kalanidhi, the challenge requires you to give a bucket of cooked or uncooked rice to a hungry person or a person in need. You can also give money to a charity that does similar work, sponsor medicines at a government hospital or adapt the challenge as you wish to benefit people.

We know of several organisations that run schemes to feed the poor and hungry. It would be great to support organisations that already do this good work and help them continue this work. The NGOs mentioned below currently run programmes that benefit those in need. All the NGOs listed below are registered with HelpYourNGO, and if you would like to read more about them just click on their names.

So consider yourself nominated for the #RiceBucketChallenge by us, and do keep these NGOs in mind while giving!

  1. Akshaya Patra: The Akshaya Patra Foundation is renowned for its mid-day meal scheme. Their industrial-sized kitchen serves more than 1.2 million children in schools across the country every day. They’re trying to reach out to 5 million kids in the future. Read more about their work and get in touch with them here.



    Vegetables being readied for preparation at Akshaya Patra's kitchens
    Vegetables being readied for preparation at Akshaya Patra's kitchens
    Vegetables being readied for preparation at Akshaya Patra’s kitchens[/caption]

  2. Goonj..: One of the areas in which Goonj.. works is disaster relief. They’ve intervened during the floods in Uttarakhand, and are currently working for communities affected by the floods in Orissa and West Bengal. Goonj.. will accept dry rations for communities who have been badly affected by the floods. You can donate rice to them or donate money that they will use for their flood relief efforts. Contact them at or check out their work at
  3. ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF): IFRF believes that ‘no child should go hungry’. They’ve received an ISO22000 certification for the staff in their 18 kitchens across 7 states. Get in touch with them at 022-23531530 or at
  4. Prem Seva Mahila Mandal Kalyan: PSMMK runs a regular mid-day meal programme for the children they reach out to. They’ve put up a chart that outlines how much their food and supplies cost, so this handy guide will give you an idea of how many children you can impact. If you’d like to give to them, contact them at 251-2207464 or
  5. Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled: Samarthanam’s ‘Vidyaprasad’ programme was launched in 2002, and serves 250,000 mid-day meals each month to children in 54 government schools in Karnataka. Email for more details, or check out their website at

Click here to learn more details about the #RiceBucketChallenge!

Thoughts About the Board

Having a Board that throws its weight behind an organisation divides the NGO world into the haves and the have-nots. Organisations with Boards who support new initiatives or introduce new reforms are aware of how to channel the Board’s support. However those whose Boards are not as attuned to the value their role carries find it difficult to communicate as successfully with their Board Members.


Experienced Board members can offer support to organisation leaders, increase their professional knowledge and introduce them to new management techniques. Suresh recommended drawing out a relationship with one’s Board in order to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. He also felt that conducting a needs and expertise mapping would be a valuable exercise. This is particularly true if one is looking to replace a member, or add a member to the team.

Suresh flagged off important and often unasked questions related to the Board’s contribution to an organisation:

  • Are your Board members too comfortable with each other?

Organisations need to question if their Board members are really distinct from each other. Very often Board members tend to know each other for long periods of time and are very comfortable working with one another. This can block growth and learning for all members concerned, and often result in an organisation losing out on valuable learning.

Is your organisation falling behind the competition or facing the same challenges that it has over the years? This might be a sign that you need to bring in a new Board member with different suggestions on your work.

Empty Boardroom

  • What are your Board members bringing to the table?

Is that all you need? Existing Board members may have strong connections with organisation staff, but perhaps the organisation needs someone who is better connected with the donor community. Suresh added that organisations may need people who are good networkers and can provide tangible help such as growing the organisation’s corpus fund. Make sure members’ strengths are maximised to meet the organisation’s specific needs. If necessary, you could bring a new person in as well.

  • Long-term perspective:

Ensure that your Board addresses the organisation’s current, short-term and long-term needs as well. The Board can step in to fill the gaps in the requirements you may have. It also helps the organisation as a whole to have clearly articulated ideas about its growth four years in the future, and ahead of that as well.

The HYNGO Knowledge Centre recently did some research on how NGOs engage with their Boards:

Donor relations: Abhivyakti Media for Development’s Board handles the organisation’s donor relations.
Funding support: Deval Sanghavi is currently a Board Member at Magic Bus, which received funding from Dasra, an organisation that Sanghavi co-founded.

See more ways in which Indian NGOs engage their Board members!

Impact Investing

Impact investing is the process of investing in people or organisations that solve social and economic issues affecting those in need. At the same time, unlike charities or NGOs, some of these organisations also look to generate financial profits. Impact investments, in addition to social benefits provide a potential financial return to the investor.

Impact investors are generally divided into “impact first” investors and “financial first” investors[1]. “Impact first” investors are driven by the aim to create change, and are willing to overlook financial gain in the process. “Financial first” investors expect returns on their investments while also working for social or environmental gain.

‘Financial First’ Investments

Vishal Mehta, co-founder and Managing Director of Lok Capital, a prominent Indian venture capital fund that invests in bottom-of-pyramid businesses stated that, in India, “Impact investors have primarily focused on investing in early stage companies that have a strong low income focus.[2]

A Capital Logic study of 50 fund management firms and 120 funds found that financial services, renewable energy, affordable healthcare and housing were the areas to which a majority of funds were directed[3]. Financial first investors like mutual funds and corporate pension funds were found to invest in funds that focuses (sic) purely on financial returns’, and expect a return of above 25% per annum.[4]

Vishal quoted the Unitus Capital India Impact Equity Investment Report 2013, saying that “over half of the impact investments last year have invested under $2 million, across seed to series A rounds.[5]

The financial services sector sees the largest number of investments. Intellecap’s report on the impact investing space in India found that “over 50% of all impact investments have been in the microfinance sector, with the top 15 MFI (Micro Finance Institutions) accounting for 87% of all investments in the sector.[6]”This bias is understandable when one considers the professional background of the investors, the chance of generating profits, and the large market for these services. Tapping this market can mean a huge payoff for first movers.

Other unusual sectors receive attention as well. India has long been the world’s largest producer of milk, and a series C raise of around Rs80 crore in Milk Mantra Dairy Pvt Ltd drew eyeballs in June 2014. Aavishkar India Micro Venture Capital Fund, a reputed early-stage investment company focused on rural enterprises had earlier invested in this company, and this marked their exit.

‘Impact first’

Another category of investors chooses to aim for social impact ahead of financial returns. The Omidyar Network, for example, invests in for-profit and non-profit companies. In the past, they’ve supported organizations like Teach for India, Akshara Foundation, Association for Democratic Reforms and Janaagraha. Jayant Sinha, then partner and managing director of Omidyar Network Advisors India said that “Like a series A investor or an early-stage VC firm, our stake in for-profit companies varies between 10-15% and 25-40%. For non-profit, we will not support any organization for more than 25-33% of its funding. We want to make sure that there is a robust donor base supporting them.[7]

Funders like Acumen believe in ‘patient capital’, “a debt or equity investment in an early-stage enterprise.[8]” This money is raised through charitable donations and other funding sources, and benefits enterprises with a social impact. Acumen believes in exiting in seven to ten years; so far they have invested $31 million in the Indian social sector. Their investees include Edubridge, Hippocampus Learning Centres and Labournet.


Impact investment seems poised to transform capital and put it to work for the benefit of society and investors. For those who believe in the transformative power of capitalism, the successes of impact investing provide a new way to engage with social change and perhaps get rewarded for it as well!

[1] Impact Investing,, April 4, 2014, accessed on 30th July 2014


[3] Impact Investments in India, study by Capital Logic, Artha Platform,…, accessed on 30th July 2014

[4] Impact Investments in India, study by Capital Logic, Artha Platform,…, accessed on 30th July 2014


[6] Highlights of the Study, Invest. Catalyse. Mainstream. The Indian Impact Investing Story, Pg 2,