Many ways to celebrate India

This Republic Day brought some happy announcements for the nonprofit sector. Dr. V Shanta was awarded a Padma Vibhushan. Dr. Shanta has been tirelessly working to make cancer treatment more affordable to the poorer sections of society. (Watch our blog next month for more updates on the work of cancer NGOs!) Dr. Shanta runs one of the ‘biggest and busiest cancer hospitals in India’, her enthusiasm unabated at the age of 87. Incidentally, she is also the grand-niece of Nobel Prize winner C.V. Raman! Madhu Pandita Dasa of the Akshaya Patra Foundation and Arunachalam Muruganantham (India’s sanitary pad revolutionary) were awarded the Padma Shri, as were several other accomplished social workers. Congratulations to them all.

HelpYourNGO facilitated several connections this month. We are happy to report that Art for Akanksha’s lovely calendars have found a place at the desks of one of our clients. CSR portal Sammaan is attracting attention from corporate houses. The “Be a Brick!” Campaign has seen donors commit over Rs25,000 in just one month. The nicest moment of our month was helping Cricket Club of India with their annual Republic Day event in Mumbai. Nearly 300 children and young adults with disabilities from various NGOs came together on the CCI lawns for an evening of celebration.

February is just around the corner; time for the Deshpande Dialogue. The Dialogue is the flagship event of the Deshpande Foundation set up by NRI millionaire Desh Deshpande. Desh’s vision is to build a Silicon-Valley like incubator for social entrepreneurship in India. Unexpectedly, it’s in Hubli, not Bengaluru, and hopes to back rural entrepreneurs and students; not the usual suspects that come to mind when one hears ‘entrepreneurship’. In its short life, The Dialogue has made a name for itself as a no-frills gathering of some of the brightest and most accomplished minds in the social sector. Members of team HelpYourNGO will be heading off to Hubli, so if you are at the Dialogue do say hi!

No Planet B!


November has been an action-packed month! Not all positive, though. The month has unfortunately renewed its association with terror – the Paris attacks on the 13th, were frighteningly similar to the horror Mumbai experienced in November 26, 2008.

Meanwhile, Paris continues to dominate headlines, this time because of the COP21 Climate Change Summit. Thousands of environmental activists have rallied in Paris, London, Sydney and elsewhere to draw attention to this cause. In Paris, Pope Francis and U.N. Secretary General Ban ki Moon donated their shoes to an art installation protesting the shutdown of environmental rallies! Bill Gates has tapped into the momentum of the summit to announce his Breakthrough Energy Coalition on the side-lines of the summit. The Coalition, structured as a venture capital fund for start-ups conducting research for clean energy solutions and technology, is backed by the world’s leading billionaires, including India’s Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani. Can this market approach save the environment? We’ll have to wait and watch.

Where do you stand on climate change – a cause that is hugely popular yet polarising in nature? Environmentalists point to the effects of climate change (changing weather, accelerated sea levels, melting ice caps) and call for massive action to reduce the human footprint on earth. Meanwhile sceptics argue against the notion of climate change itself, arguing that human footprint does not play a significant role.

We’ve had our hands full this November! Our NGO Pop-Up at Cricket Club of India kept us busy before Diwali. With sales worth Rs4.5 lakhs on one day, it was a great event for NGOs and buyers too. Meanwhile, we’ve also stepped up work on the BSE-CII CSR portal Sammaan. HelpYourNGO has brought in more than 200 NGOs from across India onto the CSR platform, and listed 200 deserving projects. We can’t wait for the site to become accessible to corporates who will be able to view a range of projects suited for CSR funding.

The end of the year is near! Have you started thinking about your New Year Resolutions? We haven’t yet, but we will be looking back at 2015 and making some predictions about the state of philanthropy for 2016 next month. Watch this space for more!

The Kindness of Strangers

A big thank you to all the donors who made our Daan Utsav campaign such a success last month. It’s a wonderful feeling to see complete strangers reach out to provide a helping hand to those who have no one else to turn to. We will always have hope when there are people like you around.

We saw the most interest in supporting food rations for cancer patients. This comes as no surprise to us. Battling cancer is indeed like battling a many headed beast. Imagine trying to survive the disease, undergoing a battery of tests, consuming debilitating medicine. Now imagine being a child fighting cancer far from home and all that’s dear.

The majority of cancer cases in India are treated in Mumbai. Most government hospitals across the country refer patients to Mumbai as they do not have adequately equipped oncology departments of their own. In Mumbai, most people are too poor to afford accommodation, so they end up sleeping on the pavement outside the hospital even as they are undergoing treatment. The cost of the medicines itself is so high that people don’t have money to spend on food.

Other causes which received donations included ISKCON’s Annamrita, the immensely successful midday meal program for children and the sponsorship of textbooks for Vidya Poshak’s meritorious high school students. Annamrita also ran a Khichadi Drive at our associate organisations – Quantum and Equitymaster. The Khichadi Drive aims at creating awareness about the program while raising funds for the children’s meals. We were glad to see them again after a successful (and delicious!) Khichdi Drive at our office last year!

The month ahead promises to be a busy one for us! We are co-hosting an NGO pop-up along with CCI Mumbai, on November 8th. The club’s C.K. Nayudu Hall will see  20 NGOs (including Akanksha, Welfare of Stray Dogs, Om Creations, Trinayani) selling their products. We can’t wait to get our hands on cupcakes, lanterns, sarees and toys made by the NGOs. All proceeds will support the NGO’s work, so we’re happy to go home with heavy bags!

We’re sure many of you are gearing up to gorge on mithai, burst crackers and celebrate Diwali with friends and family. Would you like to spread some of your festive joy with those in need? A few hundred rupees could buy rations for an old couple for a month. Make Diwali extra-special for someone this year! After all, happiness comes from giving J

The coming of a “Made in India” revolution

It’s the end of another month and 2015 seems to be rushing by! Independence Day, celebrated on August 15th gives us cause to remember the struggles of the past to make India free. It’s also a good time to gaze into the future and see what India could be like for the generations to come. The Prime Minister’s annual speech from the Red Fort in New Delhi is a good starting point.

The Prime Minister mentioned his two pet projects – Jan Dhan Yojana and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, both aimed at improving the lifestyle of future generations. Swachh Bharat, launched last year, has frequently been in the news and resulted in corporates and individuals alike taking up the cause of sanitation with great enthusiasm. The consequences of this programme are far-reaching. A World Bank study recently estimated that poor sanitation costs India about $53.8 billion, or 2.3% of GDP!

Relatively less attention has gone to the subject of waste management and disposal. We can’t have clean streets without efficient waste management procedures. This is a revolution that many in the non-profit and social enterprise sector have been working towards for a while now, and it seems like their time to be in the limelight has come.

Waste to Wealth

It’s little wonder that Bangalore has stolen a march over others in a survey of India’s cleanest cities. It has in fact a strong network of non-profits and citizens groups that are working to improve the waste management processes. Much of the exciting work in the country is being developed by organisations like Hasiru Dala, a waste workers collective working with over 6,000 workers that recycles over 800 tonnes of garbage a month. There are social enterprises and startups like BinBag, Daily Dump and Green Power Systems. IT company Mindtree has supported the development of an online marketplace for waste management and recycling services called I Got Garbage. Is it the Silicon Valley spirit of the city? We can’t say!

A spate of recent announcements in this space indicates a rapid maturing of the sector elsewhere also. Early on in August, Indian Angel Network invested in Saahas Waste Management, the for-profit wing of waste recycling non-profit Saahas. Ah! Ventures and Intellecap Impact Investment Network recently invested in Sampurna(e)arth, an end-to-end waste management services company that works in collaboration with NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatana’s workers.  Last year, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group was awarded the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award for its pioneering work in recycling waste materials.

This is a development we should all be looking forward to. Most initiatives in this sector are by start-ups and nonprofits who want to ensure a better livelihood for Indians whose work goes unacknowledged (I Got Garbage estimated that waste workers’ income could double after joining their platform). As the sector burgeons, it will create more jobs, earnings and opportunities for waste workers, increasing the dignity of their work. The services provided by these organizations reduce the expense involved in collecting and recycling garbage, make our surroundings cleaner and reduce health risks due to polluted surroundings.

It’ll be a revolutionary Made-in-India that benefits a large number of our citizens and creates a cleaner and greener future for us all. Isn’t that an India we want to celebrate on August 15th, 2025? We can’t wait to see it happen!

The month that was

This month featured what we believe is, hands-down, the most audacious philanthropic bet for the future. Russian billionaire Yuri Milner announced a pledge of $100 million to Breakthrough Initiative, a non-profit organisation that conducts research on alien life. Milner wants to determine whether we share this Universe with other lifeforms; perhaps reach out to them to say Hi! He’s not alone – Stephen Hawking is supporting his initiative, while Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin have been on the Board of the Breakthrough Prize for scientists.

The hunting and killing of Cecil, a beloved lion housed at a protective settlement in Zimbabwe by an American hunter who had paid to shoot a lion led to loud cries of outrage across the world. Big-game and trophy hunting, where hunters keep the skull, skin, tusks and other animal parts remains highly popular, even though it attracts international furore. On Friday, the United Nations passed a resolution aimed at tackling wildlife trafficking.

In other NGO news, the Magsaysay Awards were announced this week. Two Indians featured on the list after a gap of four years. One of them was Anshu Gupta, founder of Goonj.. (view their profile on HelpYourNGO). Gupta’s moment of truth happened when, as a journalist interviewing a cremator, he heard about the story of a cremator’s daughter, who during cold Delhi nights would keep herself warm by hugging a corpse. This drove home to Anshu Gupta how little the poor have, and how difficult their lives are as a result. It provided the seed for his clothes recycling programmes, and the rest, as they say, is history. If you would like to help Goonj.. deliver better disaster relief services, sanitary napkins or support their operations, click here to donate.

Congratulations to Sanjiv Chaturvedi, the other Indian to win the Magsaysay award. Known to be incorruptible, he is being sought after by the Kejriwal government to work in Delhi State.

HelpYourNGO has been in the news too! Moyna Manku over at Live Mint has written about the importance of credibility of Indian NGOs in the eyes of corporates. HelpYourNGO has been featured as one of several organisations that are trying to increase transparency and accountability in the sector, and give deserving NGOs the attention they need. Check out what our CEO Pradeep Mahtani has to say.