The Indian Diaspora – Willing and Wanting to give back – where is the opportunity they ask?

The Indian Diaspora – Willing and Wanting to give back – where is the opportunity they ask?

December 29, 2014 | Author: Dhaval Udani, Formerly with GiveIndia

Recently I had the opportunity to be in Singapore and met about 75-80 of the Indian diaspora out there – they had been in Singapore ranging from just over a year to those who had been there for more than 10 years –there were however 2 things in common amongst them:

  1. They were largely from the banking and financial sector and had a degree from IIT/IIM. In fact later came to know that there were more than 1000 IIM alumni in Singapore with 500+ alumni having passed out 15 years ago. That has to make Singapore the most densely populated IIM alumni city – probably even rivalling the campuses themselves! J
  2. There was a strong belief in all of them that they had earned very well for themselves and there was a strong need to give back to society in a purposeful manner.

We had meaningful and engaging discussions with 75-80 people who were interested in learning more about giving back to India and came to gain more awareness on how GiveIndia could help them. I thought it would be interesting to share the common questions and doubts that the diaspora has with the readers of this blog who also form part of the Indian diaspora.

  1. What is the most important cause to give to? Where is the greatest need?

In the context of India, this question can probably be answered very easily at one level – each cause is so deep rooted that every cause needs money and can do with more. However most people give emotionally – that is by far the first and most important impulse in giving – you give to what connects to you both in terms of cause and geography.

However at another level do remember that your donation is but a drop in the ocean – in India the government provides almost 10x the amount towards social welfare causes as does the private citizen – it yet is very very far off from solving any problems. Then your question may be – what indeed is the purpose of this giving? The purpose is actually very spiritual – to make you feel good – indeed to help you satiate that deep rooted need in your heart to do some good – to satisfy that most innate of needs and to experience the most greatest of joys – it’s the opportunity to contribute in the well-being of a fellow human being and our own little way of showing that we care for our human brethren. It is our small role in building a caring and compassionate society.


  1. How does one measure impact? How do I do something more impactful?

This was another favourite question – very simple to ask and yet difficult to find the answer for oneself. Lets take a couple of examples to understand the difficulty of measuring impact:

i)               Is it more impactful to provide a child with education or a person with sight?

ii)              Is it more impactful to provide a youth with vocational training or an elderly with daily rations?

iii)            Is it more impactful to help a girl attend school or rescue her from a brothel?

The examples and challenges in measuring impact are bountiful. Your next argument might be why not measure impact in a similar field like education. Here I would like to give the example of 2 organizations in India (without naming them) – one offers basic ability to read and write at $20 per annum. Another educates a child as good as yours and mine (someone capable of understanding and reciting Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar on stage) for $600 p.a. Which is more impactful? Are you looking to provide basic literacy to 300 children in $6,000 or educate 10 children in an advanced level of English. Clearly the answers are not simple and straightforward – that is where GiveIndia has maintained always that impact being difficult to measure is best left in the hands of the giver – he or she gives the money and he or she decides what is the most important impact.


  1. What is the right level of administrative costs of an NGO?

This was a fairly important question that was present in the minds of most people. They had heard stories of NGOs who had administrative costs as high as 50% and were worried about GiveIndia’s cost. So when they came to know that GiveIndia’s cost was 9.1% as compared to 30-50% of other similar organizations they were very relieved. These would be other intermediaries and not grassoot NGOs.

However bankers as they are, they peered underneath the veneer and raised the question of the additional administrative cost at the NGOs end given that GiveIndia was an intermediary – the answer to this is however a little involved. Typically a grassroots NGO has 3 types of costs – fundraising costs, administrative costs and programme costs. GiveIndia helps in making the fundraising costs as lean as possible and bringing in efficiency in that specific area.

However, the donors continued to have apprehensions regarding administrative costs of the NGO – here Venkat Krishnan (founder, GiveIndia) had a very insightful response – he said that measure the outcomes since what is measured gets done. He said ask whether your $1000 educated 10 children or 15 not whether 10% or 20% was administrative cost – for even if the administrative cost was higher but outcome was better it was a more desired end goal. He gave the example of everyday products and reminded people that we don’t worry about salaries paid when buying a mobile or marketing cost when buying a bag of chips – our approach should be similar while making a donation. Demand better outcomes and not lower costs.


Overall however the feeling of giving back amongst the Indian diaspora was universal – the thought of doing something more for their country of origin and the sense of Indian pride was overwhelming. It was a response unlike any that we had seen in India and we as a team came away even more enthused and fulfilled about the work that we do.