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The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is notorious for his lack of tact when making public statements. A few months ago, he did it again, attacking Britain’s poor philanthropic culture, and praising the US culture of giving. “In America they have a different attitude. They believe that if you’ve made a lot of money you should do something for society”, he ranted.

But if you get beyond the bull-in-china-shop remark, is there a learning point here somewhere?

The World Giving Index is compiled by Charities Aid Foundation, using data collated by Gallup, and ranks 153 countries in the world according to how charitable their populations are. The higher the WGI score, the more charitable the nation. It is the largest study ever conducted, looking at charitable behaviour across the world. Interestingly, it found that happiness was a greater influence on charitable behaviour than how rich one was.

In the latest study (2012), Australia and Ireland jointly ranked first with a WGI score of 60%. The United States occupied fifth place, with a WGI score of 57%. 57% of Americans apparently give money, and 42% give time to charitable causes. The United Kingdom was just a few places behind, at eighth in the world.

And what of India? We rank 133th in the world, with a WGI score of 16%. According to the study, a mere 19% of our population give money, and 10% give time to a charitable cause. Interestingly, neighbouring Sri Lanka ranks incredibly high at 15th in the world, war-torn Afghanistan at 48th and Pakistan at 85th. Even Bangladesh fares better at 109, and Nepal at 115.

However, if one examines the same statistics and looks at the rankings by the number of people donating money, India tops the world list, at 165 million people, surpassing the USA at 143 million. The study elaborates: “Although India is ranked last in the (South Asa)region based on average participation, when the actual number of people is taken into consideration, there are more people donating to charity in India than in any other country.”

This is certainly heartening news. Bain and Company’s India Philanthropy Report 2013 concludes that “the need for philanthropy is greater than ever” in India. It states that private charity contributions as a percentage of GDP are just 0.4% in India (cf: 1.3% in the UK, 2.2% in the US). In the words of Nandan Nilekani, winner of Forbes India Philanthropy Award 2013, “Philanthropy should go where markets don’t and governments can’t.”

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) could revolutionise the charity sector in India. An increasing number of large corporations realise that CSR is not a money-drainer but important for promoting goodwill and enhancing their reputation in the public eye. Companies with a net worth of more than INR 500 crore or revenue of more than 1000 crore or net profit of more than 5 crore have been asked to spend at least 2% of their average net profits of the preceding 3 years on CSR. The new regulation means that the top 100 companies will spend INR 5611 crore compared with the 1765 crore they are currently spending, according to Forbes India.

Our El Sistema-inspired music charity Child’s Play India Foundation which works to instil positive values and socially empower disadvantaged children in India has been very fortunate in the start-up phase, with support from the local community and further afield, in the form of donations of instruments, etc. As our reputation has grown and evidence of the work we do becomes increasingly apparent, it has been heartening indeed to have support from organisations, embassies and corporate houses, and most touchingly, sustained support from private individuals.

However, as we grow, so do the operational costs to reflect that growth. An ambitious outreach collaboration project with the Symphony Orchestra of India (SOI) is on the cards, wherein two experienced music teachers (violin and cello) would be in residence in Goa for nine months each year. But this would also mean a huge increase in our expenses. But it would revolutionise pedagogy not just for our Child’s Play children, but for all youth in Goa. We could truly witness an El Sistema-like music revolution not only in Goa, but across India.

Endowment funds and programs are a commonly used form of funding support used by orchestras around the world. We have begun an ‘Endow a Chair’ scheme for our ensemble Camerata Child’s Play India, which is made up of young musicians and music students from the wider community who support our cause. In this scheme, corporate houses or philanthropic individuals could fund the salary for an experienced professional musician-teacher to occupy a Principal Chair in the ensemble. The Chair would then be named after the donor, or in the memory of a loved one. For example, a Principal Cello Chair would not only play concerts and train the cello section in the Camerata, but also teach our Child’s Play children and the wider community.

Such projects would yield huge dividends to the cultural life of Goa in the form of regular concerts of much higher calibre than presently possible, and world-class teaching to children in Goa across the socio-economic spectrum. For further information, do visit the website http://www.childsplayindia.org.

As Christmas nears, it is an appropriate time of year to contemplate the line in the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi: “It is in giving that we receive.”

 

(An edited version of this article was published on 15 December 2013 in my weekend column ‘On the Upbeat’ in the Panorama section of the Navhind Times Goa India)

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