better to light a candle than to curse the darkness


White Ribbon Movement

Besides Rohena Gera’s  TV campaign, stop the hatred we also created the “diwALI RAMzan” press media and poster campaign urging people to be secular. We also organised various programs like music concerts, movie premieres, national bike rides called “Aman Yatras”, kite flying festivals. We associated with MTV with a mission of sensitising young adults and implemented the White Ribbon Campaign. Herein various MTV VJs including the late Nafisa Joseph wore white ribbons similar to the red ribbons associated with HIV Aids. These white ribbons were worn by various people as their support for oneness, peace and secularism. 15th August was promoted as independence and Sadbhavana day. This also became a successful campaign and various people all over India wear and distribute the white ribbon every year on 15th August as solidarity for the victims of the Gujarat carnage.

Karma Mitra street face2face fundraising campaign

In September 2003 we launched the Karma Mitra program. With this, we for the first time in India, promoted social giving through DIRECT SELLING and MLM with a huge sales force. It was an “in the face” direct dialogue fundraising approach. Working people were met at the offices by the Giving Consultants. People were first shown a film introducing them to absolutely invisible marginalised communities from Rural and Urban India. People were sensitised to their issues and then people were asked to make a contribution. In November 2004, around the time iCONGO was taking shape, we planned the street face 2 face campaign for the homeless community of Chennai. Herein we trained and empowered communities like sex workers and homeless youth to go on to high traffic areas and raise funds for their communities. This pilot project proved highly successful. The middle class of Chennai reached out to the homeless and marginalised communities and started accepted them. We raised over 60 million INR for the homeless community. Over 60,000 people got involved in Chennai with the cause. Various people even made donations ranging from Rs. 5,000 to 25,000 although we were asking for a minimum of Rs. 100/- only.

The learning

This basically taught us that people will give if asked for. People will give if they find the cause and the issue credible. People are ready to take a stand and reach out. It’s only about how we get them involved. The idea was and is to promote sustainable giving and not just one of giving. The idea is to promote philanthropy for social justice. The idea is to promote giving with involvement and understanding of the cause and how your money is being utilised. The idea is about how you and I can make a difference and bring about change. The idea is to create a just, responsible and caring society together.

The gap in the social giving market place

We have only 400,000 donors in a country with a population of 1.1 billion and over 50 million taxpayers today. The gap is huge. Less than 1% of the tax paying universe is actually giving for social causes. This is dismal in a country which has been traditionally a giving place right from the Vedic period. So what’s the issue?

Why? Most giving in India is for religious purposes -over 90% - without realising these funds mostly get used for communal reasons. Out of the 400,000 people who give for social causes on a sustainable basis mostly give for children without any involvement and are happy just taking a tax receipt and claiming benefits. They do not bother to understand that one cannot improve the life of the child without addressing the issues impoverishing and marginalising the community.

Most people do not give for social causes because they are cynical about the charity sector and rightly so. The charity sector has not been very transparent and accountable and issues of mismanagement of funds have been rife.

The need of the hour

It is important to increase the giving base. People will give if they are asked to give to a credible, transparent and accountable NGO. People will give if they know their funds are being invested in the right manner for bringing about social change. People will give if they know what’s the long term change we are planning for the issues at hand. People will give if they know that the administration cost is going to be bare minimum and not run up to 85%. People will give to the right NGOs. Most people will give if they are told that they need to get involved and monitor the funds as they should look at this as an investment that creates a just and responsible society.

We the people need to understand that it time to do our bit and take a stand to right every wrong happening towards vulnerable communities. We need to take a stand to help them achieve their basic rights. We need to INVEST and not just GIVE a little money and feel we have done our bit. INVEST is the right word as like we monitor our shares, fixed deposits, mutual funds, bank accounts we need to monitor the fund we invest to create a better life for the child and the community. We need to understand the big issue because we have a privilege and a need as a democratic citizen to practice true democracy by understanding the issues plaguing our great nation. We need to see beyond the child’s face and understand the issues plaguing the child and the community. We need to create a legacy of a better society by being socially responsible and doing our best for bringing about social change. We need to get involved and understand issues. We need to make the time to involve ourselves with some social action. After all it is an important part of our existence.

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