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If you are running an NGO or working for one, you will find opportunities and resources for your organisation.

If you or your organisation want to direct your time, money, products or services to NGOs that can can make the most effective and efficient use of your donations or grants, you will find this blog and useful to announce your offer to NGOs.

You will also get to read about statistics and issues concerning transparency & accountability of the Indian voluntary sector.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Did you make a difference this Diwali?

Shefali Anand of Wall Street Journal says "GuideStar India's website is a one-stop-shop to look up financial statements, annual reports and in some cases tax returns of more than 1,000 non-profits", in her article urging people to use online tools that are now available to make it easier for you to donate.

We are happy to share the WSJ article with you.

This Diwali, Stop Hesitating and Donate

Don't let laziness or ignorance hold you back from making this Diwali a day of giving to those less fortunate than you.
Gifts for your maid and driver or office boys are all good, but you can afford to be more generous. We are in a country where nearly 400 million people live on less than what it costs you to buy a can of Coca-Cola, or popcorn at a multiplex.

Recent studies have shown that we give away a much smaller percentage of our wealth than our counterparts in Western countries.

Don't be a part of this statistic. What's more, you can get tax breaks for your charitable giving.

Charitable experts in India say that individuals often hesitate in giving because they are not confident if a particular organization is legitimate and if their money will be put to good use. Also, while individuals sometimes have a cause in mind that they would like to support, they don't know how to find a legitimate organization which works in that sphere.

With more than a million non-profit organizations in India, that can be a tough task. But several online tools are now available to make it easier for you to share goodness.

To begin with, several large non-profit organizations like Child Rights and You (CRY), Smile Foundation, and HelpAge India allow you to donate money online using your debit or credit card, or through online banking.

If you want to help the smaller guys, websites of non-profit organizations like Mumbai-based GiveIndia and Samhita, and Delhi-based Charities Aid Foundation India, provide a range of options of charities that work in various fields.

These sites allow you to search by a cause – say education or children or the environment – and, based on your budget, you'll get a list of specific programs that you can fund. You can also narrow down options by region or by the tax benefits of the donation.

For instance, a search on for donation options under the broad umbrella of "Health" throws up choices like funding a month-long tuberculosis treatment center for poor patients in a slum by donating 7,000 rupees ($140) to Operation Asha, or paying 1,300 rupees ($26) for the cataract surgery of a poor person, administered by a non-profit named Jan Manas Vikas Sansthan.

GiveIndia currently has around 200 non-profits listed on its site. Chief Executive Officer Dhaval Udani says that charitable giving through their site has grown 30% to 40% over the last five years. "It's still very low compared to the potential," says Mr. Udani., launched in 2010, follows a model similar to GiveIndia and currently has around 100 non-profits on its website.

All these aggregators -- GiveIndia, Samhita and Charities Aid Foundation India -- do some basic due diligence into the legitimacy of the non-profits listed on their sites, primarily by assessing their financial and legal documents.

GiveIndia and Samhita also take care of a common question donors have: "Hey I gave the money – whatever happened to it?" says Priya Naik, chief executive officer at Samhita. Donors are provided a progress report on the specific project or non-profit they are funding.

Such feedback gives donors the security that "the money is being utilized well," says Mr. Udani of GiveIndia.

If you want to look for other non-profit options or want to donate on a larger scale, look up the websites of Credibility Alliance and GuideStar India, which work toward increasing accountability and transparency in the non-profit world.

Credibility Alliance, set up in 2004, gives accreditation to non-profits which meet certain financial, governance and transparency standards. Credibility Alliance verifies these standards based on the non-profit's financial statements, annual reports and other documents, as well as on-site visits. Non-profits either meet "minimum" norms or go a level higher of meeting "desirable" norms, by having a more independent board of directors and by publicly sharing details about staff salaries.

If a non-profit is accredited by Credibility Alliance, donors can have "a basic assurance that their money is not going to any wrong hands," says S. P. Selvi, executive director. See here the list of 250 accredited members. Ms. Selvi says 140 more are under review.

Meanwhile, GuideStar India's website is a one-stop-shop to look up financial statements, annual reports and in some cases tax returns of more than 1,000 non-profits. This is all self-reported data and GuideStar doesn't do detailed due diligence on the listed non-profits. For now, GuideStar is meant to "act as a repository of information," says Chief Executive Pushpa Aman Singh.

Ms. Singh and her team often work with large donors and companies, connecting them with specific non-profits and charitable programs.

Ms. Singh says that in recent years the option of "payroll giving" – in which some money is deducted every month from an employee's paycheck – has become popular. If your company provides such an option, sign up for it.

If you would rather help a charitable organization in your neighborhood and want to get some comfort about its activities, you can do your own due diligence by asking to see the organization's audited accounts, financial statements, and annual report detailing their activities. You might not understand all the financial stuff but if they are open to sharing the information, it should give you some confidence that they are willing to be transparent.

Whichever route you take to giving, it's more important you take action now.

I'm betting Lakshmi, goddess of wealth, whom we invite into our homes on Diwali, will be more generous if we share her bounty with others.

Happy Diwali to all!

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