Championing the grant in India

Alison Bukhari

I read with interest and enthusiasm the special feature on grantmaking for social change. The organization I work with, Dasra, champions the grant so I was happy to read that many people agree with us that its reputation needs some polishing. I was particularly interested in stories explaining the importance of grantmaking in emerging economies such as Turkey and Brazil, and would like to support these stories with a viewpoint from India.

The idea that grantmaking is no longer useful worries me. It is particularly dangerous in India, where we are currently building a philanthropy ecosystem. There is no more important time to champion grantmaking.  Last autumn the Indian government announced a new bill mandating that companies over a certain size must allocate 2 per cent of their profit to CSR. This could apply to around 16,000 companies and unlock between $2.6 billion and $3.3 billion annually. If we listen to the narrative that grants are no good, what will happen to this funding?

Already many donors in India have an innate mistrust of NGOs. The overwhelming trend is for philanthropists and companies to set up their own operational foundations, as they tend not to trust anyone else to spend their money. This leads to duplication, fragmentation and a chronic lack of local philanthropic funding for NGOs – and the NGOs that miss out on funding are often the ones undertaking the most innovative poverty reduction work. It would be sad if those billions of CSR dollars were donated into new operational foundations, lacking in experience, with the potential of accountability being lost.

The funding unlocked by the new CSR bill has to benefit the NGO sector. Despite my evangelical support for strategic philanthropy and my admiration for the successes of much catalytic philanthropy, the people who know best in India are generally those closest to the problems, and it is their organizations that are being starved of funding because of a lack of grantmaking. There are some wonderful companies across India that have great potential to create social change. We need to present them with a vibrant, high-impact non-profit sector and the power of the grant!

Alison Bukhari
Director of Business Development and Partnerships, Dasra

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