Philanthropy has played a significant role in driving social change in India, addressing societal challenges, and uplifting communities. In the past decade, there has been a remarkable upswing in philanthropy, with businesses contributing through Corporate Social Responsibility Rules under Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013, and individuals investing their wealth earned from the country’s expanding economy.
Social funding by the private sector, including corporates, families and individuals, stands at Rs 1.05 lakh crore in Financial Year 2022, according to a report by consulting firm Bain and Company. CSR funding by Corporates has nearly doubled from Rs. 14,000 crores in 2017 to Rs 27,000 crores in 2022, a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13%. Family philanthropy has grown 12% over the last five years to Rs 29,600 crores. Retail funding has grown by 6% to Rs 33,000 in 2022. High Network Individuals funding has grown from Rs. 15,000 crore to Rs 42,000 crore during the same period with a CAGR of 11%.
In the face of unprecedented challenges and opportunities, philanthropy is evolving into a more dynamic and influential force for positive transformation. Donors are becoming more aware of the complexities of the issues they aim to address, leading to more strategic, efficient, and impactful allocation of funds. The convergence of social movements, global crises, and visionary leadership is propelling philanthropy into a new era of innovation and effectiveness. Collaboration among philanthropists, policymakers, and stakeholders is crucial to leverage their collective resources and expertise in tackling pressing global challenges.
The looming climate crisis, artificial intelligence making several jobs redundant as well as rising inequality pose to be some of the challenges in the country’s development. However, if problem solving and critical thinking skills are honed among young people, these challenges can be looked at as an opportunity. This necessitates a paradigm shift in looking at development work as intersectional, beyond portfolios and will require philanthropy to foster the same.
In this context, the pioneering approach of renowned American philanthropist MacKenzie Scott stands out. Her trust-based giving, characterized by providing unrestricted grants to organizations, recognizes the expertise and knowledge of those closest to the challenges. This approach empowers non-profits to drive meaningful change, acknowledging that they are often best positioned to design and implement effective solutions.
Scott’s trust-based philosophy can serve as inspiration for the philanthropic landscape in India. Her substantial donations to over 1,600 non-profit organizations, totaling more than $14 billion in recent years, demonstrate a commitment to empowering change-makers through trust. Quest Alliance, among the recipients of a significant unrestricted grant from MacKenzie Scott, has benefited from the flexibility to invest in building internal capacity and implementing technology solutions for systemic change in the school-to-work ecosystem.
Philanthropy in India should embrace a fearless approach to unleash the potential of the country’s dynamic social sector. Complex problems require innovative and patient capital to experiment with localized and scalable solutions.
At its core, this model of philanthropy is driven by trust, providing non-profits the necessary freedom to experiment, adapt, and scale their initiatives without stifling creativity and responsiveness to evolving challenges. Fearless philanthropy fosters collaboration among philanthropists, non-profits, and government agencies, allowing for deeper sharing of good practices, insights, and resources to drive systemic change.
It is essential to address power dynamics and structures between the government, philanthropy, and civil society organizations (CSOs). Each operates from its own vantage point but it is important to listen and learn deeply to the realities on the field. True progress can be achieved when all stakeholders collaborate, acknowledging the value of diverse perspectives and expertise.
While the future of philanthropy in India holds tremendous promise, let us draw courage and inspiration from global philanthropists like MacKenzie Scott, who have disrupted the sector with their fearless approach. It is time for a resounding call to reshape the way we perceive and practice philanthropy. Empowering those closest to the challenges should be the guiding principle in problem-solving. While philanthropy rightly seeks results and outcomes, the process of achieving these goals should be entrusted to those already deeply engaged in the respective domains.
By embracing this approach, we can foster a more collaborative and effective philanthropic ecosystem, where expertise and insights are valued and harnessed. This shift in perspective will not only lead to more sustainable solutions but also enable the generation of a profound and lasting impact on the lives of those in need.
We should seize this opportunity to redefine the landscape of philanthropy, where partnerships are forged, and resources are directed towards empowering communities and change-makers on the ground. By doing so, we can collectively shape a brighter and more equitable future for all, leaving an indelible mark on the journey towards progress and social transformation.
(The author is Director, Fundraising and Strategic Finance of Quest Alliance, a non profit that works in the skilling and education sector.)