A gift that keeps on giving!

It’s the end of the wedding festivities, and Rita and Ashok (name and details changed on request) are ready to fly off to Koh Samui. However, theirs was a wedding with a difference – their ‘happily ever after’ now includes the happiness and welfare of marginalised children studying at a music school in rural Karnataka. Rita and Ashok both share an interest in classical music and dance, and felt that their wedding would be the perfect occasion to celebrate their common interests while giving back to society. They encouraged friends and family to replace ‘gifting meaningless presents’ with a donation to this music school charity.

Rita and Ashok are not alone. Many couples, individuals, corporates or clubs now look to ring in special occasions by supporting a cause, an individual or an organization doing good work. Whether it’s a wedding, birthday, anniversary or memorial, the occasion can be made more meaningful by asking people to donate to a charity of individual choice as a gift.

Help Your NGO’s Charity Registry allows you to do just that. We create a customised page for the host to share with friends and family for this purpose featuring your special occasion and the cause you may choose to support. Guests who are sent this link would be able to donate to the NGO in the name of the host. Help Your NGO will co-ordinate all payments between the donors and the selected NGO. Other support features include a thank you letter from the host to each donor and co-ordination of tax deduction related paperwork.

We know that selecting a deserving NGO can be a challenge, especially for the growing number of socially conscious adults who are unable to ascertain the genuineness of the charity and the people running the NGO. HelpYourNGO.com has been established to promote transparency in the social sector so that people can give their money to organizations doing good work.

We follow a stringent classification process, and detailed financials of over 530 NGOs are listed on our database (over 50 of these are analysed). Users can choose from NGOs across 12 sectors that span the fields of arts and culture, children, education, governance. You can also compare NGOs by other performance categories like funds spent on beneficiaries, number of people helped, fundraising expenses or even programme costs.

There’s no better way to make a special occasion even more memorable, and create a ripple of goodwill that benefits someone in need. Giving to charity is truly a gift that keeps on giving!

The best kept secret in town!

The Bombay Community Public Trust (BCPT) and HelpYourNGO organised a talk on Community Foundations (CFs) in association with Ms Bibi Patel, Vice President of the Community Foundation of Ottawa, Canada. The talk introduced the concept of Community Foundations to an Indian audience. While CFs are not unknown abroad, we have to agree with Ms. Patel when she said they have often been called ‘the best-kept secret in town’!

Philanthropy through CFs was conceptualized in 1914 when Frederick Goff set up what is now the Cleveland Foundation in the USA. They represent an organised form of philanthropy that pools funds provided by donors and grants them to organisations working to support communities in that region. They have been growing in numbers and reach ever since, and are particularly popular in developed economies. There are over 1,700 CFs worldwide. In the United States, for example, CFs form 1% of all registered foundations and have an asset size of $64.9 billion.[1] They were estimated to give $5.5 billion in 2014. The Community Foundation of Ottawa itself manages over 700 individual funds set up by a variety of individuals, and gave out almost $66 million dollars in 2013. The Bombay Community Public Trust (BCPT) in Mumbai remains one of the few CFs in India. Set up in 1992, BCPT has assisted 342 projects run by 142 NGOs in the past 15 years.

A sustainable and democratic structure

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Mr. Richard Bale, Consul General of Canada in Mumbai with Ms. Bibi Patel at the event

CFs typically work within a geographically defined community, though they can support initiatives elsewhere depending on donors’ preferences.

They offer donors the option of pooling funds with other donations, thereby increasing the total value of grants being awarded. The CF route presents an ideal option for donors looking to direct funds to causes of their preference without starting an organisation of their own. Other funding agencies often may not be able to accommodate a donor’s interest, while NGOs working in a single core area may not appeal to donors who want to have a wider impact on the community. In 2013, The Community Foundation of Ottawa’s grants went out to education camps for children from low-income groups, purchasing an MRI machine for a hospital, and supporting a school in India.

On occasion CFs manage and invest donations by turning them into endowments. Interest earned on the endowment is distributed as a grant to organisations working for the benefit of the community. This route ensures that funds are available over a long period. CFs can decide what percent of the endowment fund will be spent each year, with figures ranging from 1.5 – 4%. Alternately, if donors choose to have their funds reach the community directly, CF’s will honour that request as well. CFs’ funds are professionally managed, as are the grant-making and donor advisory processes, making them an ideal option for someone who wants to organize their philanthropic activities.

The model is a donor-friendly structure, as it offers donors the flexibility of choosing a cause or sector of their choice. Donations can take the form of donor-advised funds, designated funds, scholarship funds and other options. A CF allows donors to stipulate the sector or organisation they would like to fund, or leaves it up to the discretion of the Foundation itself. Individuals looking to give smaller amounts also find place under the CF umbrella.

Drawbacks of the model

The lack of awareness about philanthropy through a CF can be said to be its Achilles Heel.

Given the large funds they marshal, CFs are ideally poised to support NGOs for several years in their lifecycle and help them sustain themselves. On occasion CFs provide gap-funding to meet small-ticket local, community-specific needs, which can be a drawback.

NGO capacity-building also emerges as another area in which CFs could do more.


[1] Preview of Key Facts on U.S. Foundations, 2014 edition, foundationcenter.org/gainknowledge/research/pdf/keyfacts2014.pdf, accessed on 20th October 2014.

Spread some light this festive season!

It’s the time of year when everyone is looking forward to celebrating Diwali with family and loved ones. Before you rush out to do your Diwali shopping for the year, here’s an idea that lets you give back to society while you gift! Many of HelpYourNGO’s partner NGOs create wonderful products like diyas, cards, lanterns, chocolates and other gifting items. Check out these options and do contact them if you’re interested! Double the joy you spread this Diwali.

  • Research Society: One of India’s oldest and largest not-for-profit organisations, the Research Society supports over 650 people annually. They serve the needs of mentally challenged people and provide their students with vocational training to help them lead a self-sustaining life. The proof of the training can be seen in their range of candles, diyas, cards, ornaments and other items. Call them at 022 24701231 / 2285 for more details.
  • OCHOCOLATE BOXES OM CREATIONSm Creations: Om Creations is one of those organisations whose chocolate-making reputation precedes them. A staple in many circles during Diwali and Christmas, Om Creations sells well over 3,000 kilos of chocolates a year. The organisation works with developmentally challenged girls, and use chocolate-making as therapy for them as well as an avenue of earning a livelihood. Their beautifully packaged gifts are an ideal gift for clients, co-workers or for family occasions. Get in touch with them at omcreationstrust@gmail.com.

 

Aastha Parivar2

  • Aastha Parivaar: Aastha Parivaar addresses the issues of sex workers across Mumbai and Thane. They are a registered body consisting of 13 Community Based Organisations (CBO) that work to empower sex workers and make them independent. You can help the CBOs achieve their goal by buying the delicious looking sweets, colourful diyas and decorative items they make. Get in touch with Anjuli at manager@aasthaparivar.org.

 

  • El Shaddai Charitable Trust: El Shaddai Charitable Trust cares for orphans, street and destitute children and provides them with food, clothing, shelter and education for a better future. The children that El Shaddai works with have created these lovely products themselves. If you’re interested in these products, they can be yours in exchange for a small donation.  Cards- Rs 130Contact Siddharth at 0832 6513286/87.

 

 

 

New ways to support NGOs – II

In this second part of our series, we conclude our two-part interview with The Bake Collective and Hand to Heart.

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

KC: Do you think NGOs recognise the value of such initiatives?

TBC: Yes- NGOs usually have a time or human resource restraint on fundraising, even though it an equally essential component of making their work possible. That is where we step in.

KC: Is there a pattern in the kind of people who purchase the products?

TBC: The only thread that connects the people that purchase TBC products is the ‘will to do good’ in one way or the other.

KC: Has social cause awareness increased through this medium? Do you think the use of social media also encourages people to engage with you?

TBC: This medium definitely helps give visibility to social causes on the street- people are attracted to the buzz it creates as well the fun element it brings to fundraising for social causes. We don’t want people to give contributions on the basis of pity but rather allow them to feel that they are empowering someone with their Rs.100.

Social Media has played such a big role in the emergence of TBC, so much so, that a good friend put it aptly that we were ‘crowdsourcing philanthrophy’. The word gets out to the general public via Facebook, Twitter & Instagram , and we also have the good old word-of-mouth doing the rounds.

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: Do you think NGOs recognise the value of such initiatives?

TBC: NGO’s do recognise the value of such initiatives and in some cases rely on it too much. In case of self-help groups these women do not view themselves as a social cause and think of themselves as entrepreneurs which greatly aids in their motivation to make good quality products and work hard to achieve good sales. In most cases women are not even looking at high profits and are just content to be running their own enterprise and being self- sufficient.

KC: Is there a pattern in the kind of people who purchase the products?

TBC: We have not observed any specific pattern. Men and Women (mostly) will purchase any product that appeals/is of use to them and the fact that it will go towards charity only aids their purchasing decision.

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!

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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!

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 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.

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