At 24, I had next to zero experience when I assumed the role of Executive Director of the Rosy Blue Foundation (RBF), the corporate foundation for the Rosy Blue Group in India. My exposure was limited to one Masters’ dissertation, watching my family members, especially grandparents, engage with giving, and a couple of volunteering stints. It was your proverbial blank slate, coupled only with the intent to make a difference.
I realised quickly though, that now was the best time to enter this field. Today, in India, there are over 3.3 million NGOs, most of which are doing great work in their various niche areas. There are NGOs spanning causes from education to advocacy, research to conservation. 90% NGOs report satisfaction with their impact. Despite this, in 2013, 78% of all donors’ attention went to food and clothing provision.
Most people, including me, are of the initial belief that social giving has to be monetary, and therefore best engaged with once you’ve earned a lot of it. Money is undoubtedly an enabler, but the value of human resource is infinitely greater. Philanthropy is about solving problems, and this can be as effectively done through the donation of your time and skill. People tend to cite lack of time or ability as barriers; in reality, the dynamism of this space circumvents this. By choosing to work on finite projects requiring specific skills, it is easy to align both time and ability, and balance them with the demands of a professional career. Whether you are an engineer who can build websites, a consultant who can create a pitch, or a photographer who can contribute to branding, your potential for strategic philanthropy is enormous. In America, time-based volunteering has saved the development sector over $3.8 billion in resource costs in the last decade, and 80% of volunteers have reported immense satisfaction with their engagements. Unfortunately, only about 21% of the Indian adult population volunteers time.
I believe that when there is such a vibrant landscape, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead what all of us should be asking ourselves is what can we do to make this wheel roll smoother? The truth is, new ideas are not integral to success, but implementation certainly is. How do we leverage good intent, and transform it into effective action for maximum impact?
Being a philanthropist is not an exclusive job. The skills we develop over our lives are transferrable, and can constantly be refined and developed; they add and receive as much value to the philanthropic field as they would for any other field. By starting early and getting engaged we can build our own capacities as we try and build capacities for causes we feel passionately about. Ultimately, in terms of a rewards to risk ratio, I doubt any field would yield results as gratifying this one. Get connected now; there is actually no prerequisite to be a philanthropist other than deciding to be one.
Get connected now: www.connectfor.org