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The road map to strategic giving

LiveMint logoLiveMint 04-10-2017 Deval Sanghavi

The seriousness, scale and complexity of India’s development challenges—from rising inequality to extreme poverty and climate change—are quickly outpacing the ability of our government to single-handedly address them. In a country where over 35% of the population lacks access to a private toilet, and which has a higher global share of maternal and newborn deaths than any other country in the world, the need for the private sector and individuals to supplement the government’s effort in accelerating India’s development is more pronounced than ever before.

The good news is that Indian philanthropy has matured significantly over the years. According to the India Philanthropy Report 2017, private donations made up 32% of total contributions to the development sector in India in 2016, up from a mere 15% in 2011. Philanthropic funding by individuals, in particular, has grown exponentially—it has recorded a sixfold increase in recent years, with the top 27 philanthropists in the country giving a cumulative amount of more than Rs50,000 crore in 2014-2016.

However, this exponential rise in philanthropy comes with increased responsibility to ensure that the philanthropic capital is disbursed in a way that creates maximum impact and moves the needle on key development indicators. This may be easy to say, but in reality this requires a great deal of strategic thinking and planning by the givers. American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, who has informally been named “the father of modern philanthropy”, famously said, “It is more difficult to give money away intelligently than to earn it in the first place.”

While there is never one “right” way of giving, the term “intelligent giving” is often used to signify philanthropy that is conducted through a well-thought-out plan which ensures alignment between the giver’s interests, goals, approaches and ultimate impact on the ground. Carnegie’s reference to the difficulty in giving strategically speaks to an experience that several philanthropists commonly face—questions often arise such as “How much should I give?”, “Which cause(s) should I focus on?”, “How do I distinguish between the credible and less credible NGOs out there?”

As an increasing amount of philanthropic capital is directed towards India’s development, there is a need for philanthropists to seek expert guidance that helps them navigate such questions and build an effective plan for their philanthropy. Your Philanthropy Roadmap, is the first in a series of guides published by Dasra in collaboration with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors with support from the erstwhile non-profit Sampradaan to fulfil this need. For the Joy of Giving Week, we look at five key milestones that philanthropists must consider along their journey of strategic giving. These milestones are presented as guiding questions that philanthropists (or anyone interested in giving) are encouraged to work through, to ultimately create a giving plan that aligns most closely with their own values, goals and capabilities.

The first milestone along the road map poses the question, “Why are you giving?” Because giving is more likely to be sustained or successful when it addresses the values and motivations of the giver, the guide recommends that givers first identify and clearly articulate what drives them to engage in philanthropy. These may include factors such as faith, legacy or experience, among others.

The second milestone puts forth the question, “What do you want to achieve?” and focuses on the importance of givers defining a specific vision and goal(s) for their philanthropic programmes. This may begin with identifying a broad area of interest, narrowing the focus and then defining the outcomes a giver seeks.

Once a giver has outlined a specific vision of the change he or she wishes to see, the next step is to answer the question, “How do you think change will happen?” by systematically identifying the most suitable approach to achieving the desired change. This exercise requires the giver to actively understand the root causes underlying the problem at hand and interventions currently being implemented to address it. Additionally, identifying an approach also involves determining the nature of one’s support, which may go beyond monetary contributions to include the giving of one’s time, networks, or voice to philanthropy.

The fourth milestone in the road map focuses on the question, “How will you assess progress?” While the levels of rigour and ways of conducting such assessments are numerous, the guide encourages philanthropists to consider assessment as an important tool that enables constant learning and adjustment of one’s approach towards ultimately creating maximum impact on the ground.

The final milestone poses the question, “Who will join you?” and emphasizes the value of involving others in one’s philanthropic journey to enable greater access to resources, knowledge and best practices, which ultimately helps amplify one’s impact.

With the increasing availability of tools and the rising number of philanthropy advisers across the country, it is up to each and every philanthropist to do their part in leveraging these resources and ensuring that their giving is conducted with utmost thought and planning in a way that helps create sustainable impact at scale. As Rati Forbes, head of Forbes Marshall Foundation and one of the pioneers of the philanthropy movement in Pune, said, “Given the scale of India’s development challenges, it is critical that we move from ad hoc giving to a ‘strategic philanthropy’ approach. Givers need to be supported with the right set of tools, best practices and examples to be able to do this.”

Deval Sanghavi is co-founder of Dasra, a strategic philanthropy foundation which works in the area of social change by forming partnerships with funders and social enterprises.

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