Home > Reflections > The Circle of Giving

Happy holidays everyone! It’s been a few months since I’ve written and my silence in the blogosphere is conversely proportional to how busy I’ve been working for RDF in Hyderabad. As the Public Relations and Development Manager, I’ve been editing and designing our annual report, spearheading the Sponsor a Child program, project managing a documentary on RDF, giving fundraising presentations, and all sorts of other exciting but time-consuming projects. When trying to decide what to write about in this blog post, I initially wanted to focus on the challenges of raising funds in India—yet the more I dug around and reflected upon the challenges I have had, I realized these challenges are much more systemic and complex than I initially thought.

It comes down to the circle of giving. Giving not just money, but time, energy, and other resources. The more that I reflect on my fundraising challenges in India, I realize they aren’t unique to money but all elements of giving. Not only does RDF have challenges fundraising in India, but also trouble recruiting local volunteers and gaining in-kind donations.

Giving money

It is clear that this is reflected globally with the recession and budget cuts, but looking further, it is more than that. Giving is really a societal value, one that is reflected in the types of widespread programs and opportunities available to those who give their time and resources. And being here, it has become clear that the ways people give in India are quite different than the ways in which they give in the West.

For example, when fundraising for dollars, a major struggle has been routing money from individuals to causes rather than to religious institutions. Although I realize that this is a gross generalization and that of course many Indians donate to social causes and human development, it seems at least from the trends I’ve personally encountered that people here seem much more willing to give to their temples, mosques, and churches rather than to the local nonprofit. Of course with 40% of the population living under the poverty line, it’s no wonder that giving in general is an issue. It’s clear though, that even out of those who are living financially abundant lives in India, many have strong beliefs about where to allot dispensable money and RDF, at least, isn’t at the top of their list.

Giving time

Another challenge is that of giving time. Many of RDF’s volunteers come from all corners of the world to give their time in Hyderabad as well as the village schools, often wonder, why aren’t there more locals doing this same work?

The answer from the CEO was multifaceted: part of it clearly is the lack of effort put in so far to FIND viable candidates locally, part of it is the work ethic and global perspective RDF enjoys from foreign volunteers, and part of it is the lack of a volunteer culture in India. Many of us were asked, ‘Why do we volunteer?’ ‘Well, because we are fortunate to have the resources to take some time off and gain international experience and because it adds value to our work history moving forward in our careers.’ Programs like the Peace Corps and hundreds of volunteer programs in the U.S. make it clear that our society is garnered to reward volunteering, whether it is through better jobs in the future or better admission into grad school. In India, on the other hand, I’ve gotten reactions like ‘Why are you wasting your time??’ and ‘Why don’t you get a real job?’ Again, gross generalizations, but there is something to the consistent reactions in this manner here that has me thinking.

Changing the circle

How do we embed the values of giving in our day-to-day lives such that more people are rewarded for their giving habits? Grad school admissions and tax cuts for donations are great, but I strongly believe it’s up to us as an upcoming generation to mold the way for a new paradigm of giving. That we encourage each other to give on a regular basis, that we teach our children the values of giving during the holidays, that we emphasize the different methods of giving—that it’s always possible to give, even when money is tight.

In particular, I love Jolkona’s Social Portfolio – a way to share how you give with your network. This holiday season, I encourage all of you to discuss with friends and family how you plan to contribute to the circle of giving. The more we are rewarded for our giving habits, the more we will give, and the more we are all contributing to the greater good.

How have you experienced or changed the circle of giving?

P.S. As a shameless plug, if you need an idea for a particular place to give, Day 5 of Jolkona’s 12 Days of Giving is a great place to start. Happy giving everyone!

Photo Credit: Mindful One

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