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The India Giving Challenge raises the bar for benevolence

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October 6, 2012
Times of India
Joeanna Rebello Fernandes

MUMBAI:It's no blue ribbon equity fund, but both moneymen and the masses continue to back the India Giving Challenge stock, making it a consistent fundraising winner. The pistol first fired in 2009, when NGOs and corporates took off to raise within 15 days, funds for the social causes they championed. (The Challenge is literally a competition, with prizes offered to those who meet certain targets, and Give India closely matching those targets.)

That first year saw 5,000 donors raise Rs 91 lakhs. Then, recession darkened the forecast for philanthropy, but busting all expectation, the challenge took in a sizeable purse. Last year, the donor count rose to 9,000 and the total revenues were Rs 3 crores, an indication that donations were growing in value. The bar has been set higher this year, at Rs 4 crores, and the Challenge has already crossed the 1.25 crore mark. Apparently, philanthropy is determined to outpace a slow economy.

Harsh Arora of the non profit Sarthak Prayas - which runs a charity school in Haryana, and two remedial education centres in Delhi - says they've already raised Rs 3 lakhs (equivalent to last year's draw), and the finish line is still some way off. "Some of our regular donors have increased their donations by over 100 per cent this year," Arora says.

Teach For India (TFI), the nationwide programme to supplement the staff of government-run schools with competent young teachers, has also reported a spike in income. "We so far raised Rs 32 lakhs, that's twice as much as our gross last year," says Mridvika Mathur, a TFI coordinator, "this could also because we now have more Fellows in our network (180 our of 509 Fellows are part of the India Giving Challenge), and have expanded to five cities," she adds. The funds raised by TFI are ploughed back into the classrooms, particularly towards their end-of-year 'Be The Change' projects, which encompass field trips, the setting up of community libraries and staged musicals.

It's not the non-profits alone who aim to better last year's sweepstakes, corporate houses have also been pursuing tougher targets. Allscripts India, a healthcare software company, headquartered in Pune, is currently in fourth place, with a tally of Rs 2 lakhs to date. "We're raising money for SOS Children's Village and the National Association of the Blind," says Nitin Deshpande, company president. Deshpande believes that circulated stories of philanthropy spur his employees to up their own ante. "Moreover, an initiative like the India Giving Challenge makes it easy to give by streamlining the process and making it transparent and offering donors a range of NGOs and causes to which to donate," he says.

The sentiment is echoed by Balamurugan, CEO, Jardine Lloyd Thompson, whose company (only 900 employees on the rolls) has consistently made it to the Challenge's top five corporate donors. He hopes the competitive spirit of the initiative will goad Jardine's employees to beat last year's Rs 6.5 lakh record. For the sake of the greater good, all eyes are on the prize.

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