NGO Insights: Akanksha Foundation, The

Dated : 13 Mar 2014
  1. Sector and Positioning:

The Akanksha Foundation is an established Mumbai based NGO providing quality education to children from low income communities. Akanksha offers non formal (though its centers) and formal education (through schools) across Mumbai and Pune. Other than providing elementary education, the organisation focuses on developing skills and moral qualities that would enable children to lead empowered lives as they grow.

Akanksha is among the few NGOs that employs teachers who are well qualified and professional in their approach. Along with the dedicated support staff, the organisation collectively caters to 4,400 children across 15 schools and 25 centers across Mumbai and Pune. Teachers are trained at The Akanksha Leadership Institute to ensure that a uniform teaching pattern is followed across its centers and schools. They follow a very rigorous method of evaluating the performance of each child as well as teachers. The constant monitoring has helped Akanksha to improve quality of their teaching.

Akanksha’s focus on providing high quality education has reaped rewards. This is evident from a recent survey conducted by Pratham, an NGO in the education space. The survey stated that 30% of students in Grade 1 and Grade 2 enrolled with Akanksha were able to read at or above Grade 2 level; as against only 2% of students attending BMC or privately run schools.

Akanksha is among the best known Indian NGOs and is backed by large domestic as well as international donors.             

  1. Financial Parameters:
  1. Total Income: Akanksha posted total income of Rs194mn in FY13; marginally lower than Rs196mn in FY12. The decline in income from foreign sources (-4%) and individual local donors (-2%) dragged down the total income for Akanksha in FY13. However, foreign sources remained the major revenue contributor with a 65% share, followed by individual donors who contributed 25% of its total income in FY13.

Akanksha is among the very few NGOs in the education space in India that received over 60% of their total income from foreign sources in FY13. Akanksha has a dedicated and active fund raising team, also called as strategic partners in the US and the UK, who promote Akanksha in their respective countries.                                          

  1. Income from Sales: Akanksha’s self-developed designer products like office and personal stationery, wall hangings, paintings, greeting cards etc. has fetched them an income which accounts for 3%-5% of total income each year since FY10. These products are made by children studying at either the centre or Akanskha schools. Rs6.6mn in FY13 was raised by selling these products at various exhibitions and seminars.

These products were sold at five different exhibitions in FY13. Income generated from sale of these in-house designed products by children, not only encourages young boys and girls to come forward and showcase their creativity, but also serves as a platform to express themselves.

  1. Investments & Interest Income: Investments at the end of FY13 stood at Rs164mn, 37% increase from the previous year. Akanksha’s investment portfolio include 83% fixed deposit with banks and 17% with Mutual Funds. Investments have grown at a healthy 4-Year CAGR of 25% between FY10-FY13. 37% increase in investments in FY13 has significantly shot up the interest income in the same year. The Y-o-Y rise in interest income was as high as 46% in FY13, the highest in past 4 years.
  1. Total Expenses: During FY13, Rs166mn was incurred by Akanksha towards its programme and other administrative costs. 78% of total expenses was spent towards total direct programme expenses in both in FY13 and FY12. Akanksha’s spend on total direct programme cost in FY13 was above the sector average of 70%, indicating higher spending on beneficiaries than other NGOs listed under Education on our website.

The significant variance observed in FY13 v/s FY12 expense items like O/H, Staff Cost etc. (Refer Fig. 2) cannot be commented upon as the detailed break up was not made available to us for analysis.

  1. Trust Corpus & General Funds: During the year, Akanksha raised Rs9mn from local sources and Rs0.8m from foreign sources towards building a healthy trust corpus. The foundation has made continuous effort to build its trust corpus. This is evident from the 47% rise in the trust corpus in past 4 years. Trust Corpus in FY10 was Rs37mn and stood at Rs55mn in FY13.

General Funds was to the tune of Rs136mn in FY13; increased by an impressive 27% from the previous year. This was owing to the surplus generated in FY13.                                                  

  1. Sustainability Parameters:
  1. Income Growth Rate: Akanksha’s total income grew at a 4-Year CAGR of 18% for the period FY10-FY13; even though its income declined marginally in FY13. The major influencing factor to this growth is a sustained rise in donations from foreign sources.
  1. High Self Sufficiency Ratio: Self-sufficiency ratio indicates ability of an organisation to meet its operating expenses from its own funds like donations, interest income, sale proceeds, membership fee, etc. Akanksha’s self-sufficiency ratio for FY13 was 118% (including foreign donations), in line with the past three years. However, the ratio remains above the sector average of 69% for FY13.
  1. Backed by Financial Institutions: Donors, particularly financial institutions over the years have continued to extend their support to Akanksha, expressing their faith in Akanksha’s approach towards empowering young lives. Donors have often appreciated the efforts made by teachers at Akanksha and the performance of their students when compared to a student studying in a municipal school.

Notable donors include: The Akanksha Fund (US), Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (US), Kids in Need of Education (UK), Bain Capital, Thermax, Voltas, Ambuja Cement among many others. Some of these donors also act as strategic partners. A three year MOU is executed between large committed donors and Akanksha; thus ensuring regular cash flow for a minimum period of three years. 

  1. Sustained impact through parent’s involvement: To ensure high retention and attendance rate for the long term, Akanksha conducts weekly classes for parents where they are informed about the concepts taught to their children during the week. This involves their participation and encourages them to send their children regularly to school.
  1. Major Challenges:
  1. Teacher Recruitment: Identifying qualified teachers with requisite teaching skills is a major challenge faced by Akanksha. Despite Akanksha’s effort to match compensation expectations of Akanksha teachers, the NGO have been struggling to retain quality teachers. Currently there are only 300 teachers across all Akanksha Schools and centers. With new schools and centers in pipeline, Akanksha’s search for quality teachers remains a challenge.

Luckily for Akanksha, they have access to space to hold their classes and access to adequate funding.               

  1. Governance & Reporting Standards:

The Board of Akanksha is composed of people of repute from diverse fields; ranging from social work to finance to media. Ms. Shaheen Mistri, Founder of Akanksha, is a social activist and an educator. She is also the CEO of Teach for India since 2008. Prior to setting up Akanksha in 1991, she worked as a teacher in voluntary organisations like Happy Home and School for the Blind and the E.A.R. school for the Hearing Impaired.

Ms. Vanadana Goyal prior to joining Akanksha worked with Teach for India and Boston based NGO – Citizen Schools. She spearheaded The School Project of Akanksha and later graduated to become CEO of Akanksha.

Board members meet every quarter to review the performance and set the agenda for next quarter. Reports published by Akanksha are quite detailed; evaluating the orgnisation’s performance on various parameters. The financial statements are audited by Haribhakti & Co.

The trust is registered with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Give India, GuideStar India and is accredited by Credibility Alliance. Akanksha has been conferred with several awards for its best practices. Akanksha was recognized as the ‘NGO of the Year’ in 2012 for its programmes.

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