Plan Your Philanthropy

HelpYourNGO spoke with Gaurav Mashruwala, Certified Financial Planner, about his views on philanthropy in the context of financial planning.

A key change that Mr. Mashruwala has witnessed within the social sector, is the increased willingness among Indians to talk about giving and raising money. While a few donors remain reticent, the Tatas for example, others are more vocal about the impact their charity has created. This change serves a purpose – it acts as a reminder to others that they should also give.

Donating is not charity. Rather, Mr. Mashruwala positions the act of giving money to a non-profit as a repayment of debt to society. His passionate advice: ‘If you haven’t been doing it till now, you should start donating from today. Consider any cause like catastrophes, climate, wildlife or children.’

How does one incorporate philanthropy in financial planning? Does it form a part of people’s financial planning or do people give spontaneously?

GM: Philanthropy does not really form part of people’s financial planning. However, I strongly recommend that you should allocate a certain portion of your financial wealth to repay to society. There are four ways of giving – physically by working, socially by being responsible (example: conserve water), emotionally through moral support and financially through donations. When a donor engages solely in financial giving, his ego may come into play. The donor tends to talk about his donation, tries to establish a level of one-upmanship with his peers, resulting in insecurity and comparison. The recipient retains his benefit though.

My belief is – it is important to bring a mindset change to the approach to charity. Think of your giving as repaying your debt and the thought will bring you calmness and serenity. The moment you think its charity and you are obliging someone, it hurts you.

Compare a person who earns Rs50 lakh per annum and sends a cheque for Rs20,000 to Kashmir, with another who has significantly less means, yet borrows money to get a ticket to cold, wet Kashmir and works there. Who has contributed more? We need to look at this giving in a philosophical way. One person could choose to give Rs10,000 as a donation to Rotary, get a photo taken for a magazine while another would help someone through a year of dialysis. The moment you say ‘I donated x amount to Tirupati, so I should be first in line for darshan’ – it becomes a case of ego.

Methods of giving

People tend to make one-time donations. Should one explore SIPs as a method to regularize an individual’s giving?

GM: SIPs are a good option for people who lack discipline. For most people an automated process works really well. Say you have a goal like saving for your daughter’s wedding. The SIP is the instrument you use to transfer an amount from your bank account on x date each month. You could use this methodology to create a corpus or large donation for an NGO. There was also a special mutual fund started by HDFC known as the Cancer Fund (HDFC Debt Fund for Cancer Cure).

The regularity of giving is also dependent on the person’s source of income and temperament. Some professionals earn erratic incomes – like film stars. They could plan their giving as a percentage of their pay whenever they get it.

My take is more on the philosophy of giving.

Another way to create greater discipline is to link giving to special days like birthdays, anniversaries and festive occasions. You could make a start by ensuring that you donate the equivalent of the amount you spend on yourself. During Diwali, for example, you could total the amount you spend on sweets, crackers, new clothes and gifts and give an equal amount to an NGO.

People struggle on a few counts to follow this philosophy – how much to give (how to quantify the amount), when to give, people procrastinate due to inertia. (Our HelpYourNGO Yearbook can help! Mr Mashruwala feels that having names and addresses of NGOs in one place could make it easier to give.) NGOs which have created a seamless automated process to receive donations, earn higher revenues through donations than the ones whose process is less simple.

How do you choose a good NGO to support?

GM: I would look at the balance sheet as well as understand the nature of work being done by the NGO. [You could look at the financial analysis that HelpYourNGO presents on NGOs]

I donate to the Ravishankar Eye Hospital near Nadiad – we send money around birthdays. We get back simple, neatly packed reports. No colour-coded fancy documents, the reports and simple and yet relevant. To me, this indicates a forward-thinking NGO which engages with its donors while continuing to do its fulfilling and meaningful work.

When Disaster Strikes

2014 was a year of natural disasters and calamities for India. Various parts of the country were affected by cyclones, floods, overflowing rivers, landslides and more. How do NGOs working in this area prepare to deal with disaster situations? What does the situation on the ground look like? We spoke with Murali Kunduru, Senior Manager – Disaster Risk Management and Lead of Plan India Emergency Team (Roster) for a professional’s perspective.

How soon do you decide to intervene when a disaster hits an area?

Five years back it would take us 3-4 days to reach a disaster hit area. However, in the past couple of years we have been able to conduct a needs assessment on the ground and step in within 24 hours. When Cyclone Hudhud hit Orissa on the 12th of October, for example, we were able to intervene quickly.

DisasterR

What prompts your decision to start work?

We operate on a humanist principle – our aim is to reach affected and needy families/communities and provide them with what they need. We provide them with whatever support they need at the time – it is not necessarily always food. It could be rescue services, information, evacuation, medicines…whatever they require.

We follow a ‘no regrets approach’. If a disaster is predicted to hit an area within the next 72 hours, we are ‘in’ the field in advance with our teams ready. Whether the disaster strikes or not, we make sure we are prepared to respond immediately.

Technology plays a major role in our decisions. We are able to classify the nature of the disaster – Category 4 strength or Category 3. Cyclone Hudhud was Category 4. It was estimated to be travelling at 210 kmph (kilometers per hour), and was capable of causing devastation in half an hour’s time. Once we know the scale of possible damage, we can act as needed. With Hudhud, evacuation was a priority, not just food. After the cyclone has passed, people can go back to their homes. The important thing is to move them away from the storm.

How was the situation in Kashmir different from Uttarakhand or Orissa?

Kashmir’s level of preparedness was low, the area had not experienced such intensity of rains in over a hundred years. People were not evacuated in time. Our priority was to start evacuating people.

Can you describe the ground work you do before deciding to run an intervention? How do you assess what the most urgent need is?

Each situation varies. When Phailin hit, I was in Poonch myself. I deployed available staff to the area as soon I could.

We preposition stocks that could be distributed to people in the area. This includes non-food stocks like water and sanitation kits, wash kits, bed sheets, toothpaste, utensils, medicines and other supplies. We have supplies of water purifier tablets (one tablet can purify upto 10 litres of water), baby food and dry ration with us.

Timely Needs Assessment is essential to ensure that we have an accurate picture on the ground. Time accuracy is equally important. We conduct a Rapid Needs Assessment within the first 72 hours to determine the most pressing need. In coastal areas for example, people are better prepared for disaster situations like storms. Often they have their own supplies of water tablets which are urgently needed.

We also work with local populations, community groups and NGO partners on the ground to ensure that we deliver all required services to the nearest possible centres.

The needs could be related to shelter, nutrition and eventually livelihood options. Communities often need more support in the long-term when they are rebuilding their lives. We support them for three to six months after a disaster. Most people look to volunteer within the first 10-15 days.

Children’s issues come up in this period. Children tend to be the worst affected by disasters, especially those who have lost their parents or homes. We find that traffickers operate in these areas at the time, so protection of children becomes a priority. Children suffer from traumatic stress; we provide counselling and moral support to enable the children to articulate their fears and doubts. We provide help in fulfilling their needs for education, play areas and more.

Working with volunteers

We have to be careful in screening volunteers, also keeping in mind their own safety. Our volunteers are put through a rigorous training process and are accompanied by senior staff on their first few trips to the field.

Donations

What are the most useful donations and the least useful donations at the time of a disaster?

I’d like to start with some don’ts:

  • (Heavily) Used clothes are not the best idea: We treat the beneficiaries with dignity and respect, so do ensure that the clothes sent are of a decent standard.
  • We discourage people from sending us cooked food like rice, pulaos and dals. The reason for this is the fear of contamination – we have to transport the food and distribute it within the first 24 hours. The same applies for supplies like milk powder. We’re often not sure of the quality of water used to manufacture powdered milk, and don’t like to pass the risk on to the target population.

Useful donations:

  • Money: This enables us to purchase whatever the community might need at the time. We also communicate what your money was used to purchase and how many families it reached.

The UnLtd approach to changing the world!

It’s the age of the entrepreneur in India. Twenty years ago, IT companies brought in a new wave of organisations that changed India’s landscape. Today, young entrepreneurs heading e-commerce startups are showing the way for a new and exciting future. Social entrepreneurs are not far behind. While there have always been individuals going against the grain to create social change, this is perhaps the first time that there are systemic efforts to support their work.

UnLtd India is one such organisation that provides incubation support to help early-stage social entrepreneurs and organisations reach their potential. In the past eight years, they have supported over 180 early-stage entrepreneurs running more than 120 organisations across the country. A list of their entrepreneurs gives you a glimpse into the hidden world of social entrepreneurs – whether its Vijaya Pastala and her enterprise Under The Mango Tree (a social enterprise to improve farmers’ livelihoods by promoting beekeeping), Dhruv Lakria and Mirakle Couriers (a courier service managed by the deaf), or Mansi Shah and Abhishek Tatiya at Happy Feet Home that provides palliative care to children in a municipal hospital in Mumbai.

We spoke with Ratna Sinroja – Senior Associate at UnLtd India to learn more about their programmes and offerings for social entrepreneurs who are just starting up. Several of HelpYourNGO’s NGOs like Toybank, Arpan, OSCAR Foundation, QMed Knowledge Foundation, Masoom and New Resolution India have received incubation support from UnLtd India in the past.

What is the story behind UnLtd’s model and work?

UnLtd India was co-founded by Richard Alderson and current CEO Pooja Warier in 2007. Inspired by UK-based UnLtd’s model where they worked together; they resolved to bring the UnLtd model to India when they recognised that Indian start-up entrepreneurs faced a dearth in support.

We find, fund and support the development of exceptional individuals who have the ideas, passion and entrepreneurial skills to bring about long-term solutions to India’s social problems.

UnLtd India is an Entrepreneur First Launchpad, meaning that the needs and interests of the entrepreneur are at the heart of what we do. Because we work at very early stages, we believe our greatest leverage point for creating high-impact ventures is through supporting the development of the entrepreneur. We recognise that ideas may fail or succeed, but that entrepreneurs can be made for life so we place a lot of emphasis on the personal growth and leadership development of the individual entrepreneur.

Our Incubation Program works with social entrepreneurs at various stages in their lifecycle. The Growth Challenge programme, for example, is one of our flagship offerings. We invite applications from organisations under 5 years of age that have a proven model on the ground and are looking to scale their work. We provide our investees with comprehensive support in the form of seed funding, personal and strategic coaching, access to experts, access to other funders/investors, peer learning and leadership development. We are both sector agnostic and model agnostic, and support for-profit, non-profit and hybrid approaches to solving a social issue since we believe that not all problems can be monetized.

What are some of the common mistakes that early stage entrepreneurs make?

When entrepreneurs are first starting out with their social ventures, they often want to create a change overnight resulting in them trying to do too many things at once. However they don’t realise that trying to cater to many different target groups or providing too many offerings makes it more difficult to remain focused and be truly effective in addressing the chosen issue.

Tell us more about the way you coach investees who are part of the Growth Challenge.

Each entrepreneur is assigned to an associate on our incubation team with whom they meet at least once a month. The initial meetings are spent understanding their personal and organisational challenges, clarifying their vision by doing the Theory of Change exercise with them and setting quarterly milestones for the coming year of incubation. We place a lot of emphasis on helping entrepreneurs hone a clear vision and Theory of Change at the outset. This helps them narrow their focus and develop a more systematic approach.

We help our investees map their value chain, understand where they fit within it and which other stakeholders are important to the delivery of their offering. As they embark on executing their model, part of our job is to keep them on track with their mission and impact by setting clear, specific and targeted goals for their ventures.

After the initial meetings, meetings are customized to the entrepreneur’s needs. It involves a combination of updates, brainstorming, setting priorities, identifying gaps and making relevant connections. Overall, we try and build a one to one, trust-based relationship with the entrepreneur so that they feel comfortable reaching out to us for any problem they face.

What do investees say is the biggest benefit they got from UnLtd India?

Investees have found the networks, going through the selection process and moral support to be the most useful services provided by UnLtd India while the personal coaching appears to be the most highly valued offering.

One of our current investees, Apni Shala runs sessions to develop life skills like empathy, communication, problem solving, critical thinking etc. in children from low-income communities.  They are currently in their 3rd year of support with us, and the founders Swetha Ranganathan, Anukriti Goyal and Amrita Nair say that “given we’re a non-profit, our associate’s insights about pricing and ‘being confident’ during this scale-up period has been extremely useful, and something that we’ve put into practice.

Another investee, Mimaansa recently graduated after 3 years of support and has joined our pool of alumni. Founder Poojaa Joshi shares her take on UnLtd India – “UnLtd India’s support helped in the entire journey made by Mimaansa from the onset. They helped Mimaansa grow with a strategy. The hands on mentoring and coaching ensured that every little query and problem was taken care of. The financial support helped us recruit skilled educators which led to the impact that we have had so far. Mimaansa would not have been able to reach out to its beneficiaries without UnLtd India.”

Do investees remain engaged with UnLtd India after their mentorship? Do investees reach out to other investees from prior years?       

Given the close relationship built with their associate, many investees stay in touch with the individual team members they worked with and continue to remain part of the UnLtd India community. We are currently in the process of structuring an alumni engagement program that will allow them to continue to access our networks and resources. Some alumni who have grown in experience have joined our expert pool and give back to UnLtd India by sitting on our selection panels, mentoring current investees and making their networks accessible to other early stage entrepreneurs.

Can you describe one of UnLtd’s success stories for us?

One of our most successful Growth Challenge investees is the Equal Community Foundation (ECF). ECF is based in Pune and seeks to end gender-based violence and discrimination, but what makes ECF’s model unique is that they are doing this by engaging with men. Through their Action for Equality (AfE) program ECF provides training and develops male mentors who can serve as role models to successive generations of men, helping men use their power and privilege to promote safety and respect for women. These mentors and ECF staff work with groups of men to help them re-evaluate their paradigms around women and identify and change harmful behavior in a safe and supportive environment.

Now that its model has proven very successful in and around Pune, ECF is expanding its reach by building the capacity of other organizations that are working for gender equality.

ECF has gone from being supported and coached by UnLtd India to now supporting, incubating, and training other organizations across India in just four years. That’s the kind of impact acceleration that can happen when social entrepreneurs receive support in the early stages.

What advice would you give someone looking to start their own social enterprise or non-profit? 

  1. Invest a lot of time in understanding the feasibility and potential impact of your proposed enterprise! Do market research, engage with potential beneficiaries as much as possible to really understand their needs and judge if your solution is appropriately addressing their requirements.
  2. Draw out a value chain to understand the gaps and, hence, the challenges in delivering your solution. Further, understand the important stakeholders for your solution and build partnerships to help cover the gaps
  3. Stay focused. Understand that change doesn’t happen overnight and that trying to do too many things at once, especially in the beginning, will ultimately make your venture less effective. Focus on a few core things and that will help you determine almost everything else.
  4. Recognize what skills you have and what skills you don’t and actively seek to hire someone who brings those skills or past experience to the team. This is especially important for organizations that are in the process of scaling because as your team grows, you will want to bring on people whose skills and strengths complement your own and hence create a strong, well-rounded organization 

UnLtd India’s is currently accepting applications for its Growth Challenge incubation programme, which is aimed at social ventures which have a proven model and are now looking to initiate scale. This is a great opportunity for organisation which are less than 5 years old, have a clear Theory of Change and strong evidence of impact. If you are the founder of such an organisation and would like to apply for their support, please fill out the following Expression of Interest form. Applications close on 5th August, 2015. For queries write in to growth.challenge@unltdindia.org

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.