Giving in India: Treading a Rocky Terrain

In India, for a majority of mango people, the very idea of ’giving’ would make them uncomfortable. Their responses for acts of generosity would range from “Will my tiny contribution even matter”? to “This seems like a fraud”! or “This is India, nothing will change here”. Their pessimistic attitude towards donating could be attributed to their lack of understanding of the concept of collective giving. This  usually deters them from doing their bit towards the needy. The testimony to the gloomy picture painted above is The World Giving Index, which aims at ranking the most charitable countries in the world. In the 2015 rankings, India lies at an abysmally low rank of 106 out of 130 countries surveyed. Also, India had a steep fall from 2014 and 2013 rankings, which were 69 and 93 respectively. These daunting statistics makes one ponder on the reasons that hold the common man back from donating.

Scepticism or Lack of Awareness?

Scepticism comes naturally to Indians, which further gives rise to a perception that NGOs lack credibility. Bain and Company, a leading consultancy, in its India Philanthropy Report 2015, states that 50% donors surveyed could not find a credible organization for their donations. This probably also throws light on the fact that individuals are either not aware about the functional charities in their vicinity or unclear about how can they help these organizations. Thus, people prefer to donate directly to the beneficiary. For all those who doubt the credentials of registered NGOs, what makes them believe the authenticity of individuals? This hesitance ultimately results in a push back for the potential NGOs.

Bhagwaan ke naam pe…

More than lack of awareness or intent, people’s belief in donating to religious places acts as a restraining force in directly reaching to the needy. Donating huge amounts of money to their respective place of worship is people’s way of relieving themselves from the bad deeds they have committed. India Philanthropy Report 2015 showcases that 27% of donors preferred donating to religious places.

Although digging deep into how the donated money is spent is a herculean task, it will not be an exaggeration to say that the amount, if donated to a well-intentioned (registered) NGO, can usher in better results.

Not for Everyone?

It is also believed by many that donating is an elitist activity. Only developed countries and financially stable societies can spare surplus funds for the betterment of the needy. However, we have witnessed that people have gone out of their ways to bring lasting changes in the lives of the underprivileged. The recent example being that of the Chennai floods, where the country stood by the people of the state and helped re-build it, brick by brick! Our campaign with Bhumi aimed at raising funds for those affected by the floods, received an overwhelming response as we raised more than Rs. 1 Crore in about a week.

Going Forward…

It is undeniable that there are lots of bottlenecks in embracing the giving culture in India. Donors and NGOs need to work hand in hand to create a mutually conducive environment for generosity to blossom. Charities must be transparent and receptive to donors’ needs. Also, donors need to be more liberal and smart while making donations and should give equal weightage to verifying the credentials of the non-profits. Probably, when people realize that even small contributions could make a big difference in many lives, would they step up to contribute and spread the culture of giving in India. It is only step by step can we get rid of the societal stigmas. All that is required is everyone to come together and extend their hand towards the poor and the under privileged.

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