Giving Compass’ Take:
• Writing for India Development Review, Nimesh Sumati of Caring Friends discusses the importance of prioritizing the human element in development work, rather than worrying about sustainability or scalability over all else.
• Discover more about the missions and challenges of those whose passions are immersed in charity, and that will lead to better results overall. Funders would do well to always keep such a lesson in mind.
Most of the time when I used to accompany the founders of nonprofits to meet different funders, especially corporates, nobody was interested in the story and journey of the founders — the struggles they had gone through, the sacrifices they had made, the challenges they faced; all they cared for was sustainability, replicability and scalability.
But without understanding the founder’s journey, background and mindset, it’s hard to understand the nonprofit and what it will achieve over time. Once you understand the journey, of say, Dr Sunil and Jenny — a couple in Assam who founded The Ant — and understand what they are up against, your expectations will become more realistic. For instance, in the border areas where they work, there are three very different communities that co-exist, and natural floods and riots are frequent. They therefore cannot scale as a normal mainland organization would.
People who do not understand the context will look at their balance sheet and say, “they have been working for 12 years and don’t seem to have done much.”
Donors don’t always understand the local situation and its complexities and will judge the nonprofit by parameters that are applied in the mainland; they must realize that a worm’s eye view is as important as a bird’s eye view.
If you are looking for more articles and resources for Impact Philanthropy, take a look at these Giving Compass selections related to impact giving and Impact Philanthropy.
Invest in people, not in projects
At Caring Friends — the giving network Ramesh Kacholiaji founded and I joined about 13 years ago — we are not focused on any one sector. We invest in people and their passion, and we encourage our network of associates — smaller philanthropists, many of whom are first time givers — to also apply the same lens.
Go beyond the paperwork
The Caring Friends relationship with a nonprofit typically starts with a token donation from either Rameshji or me, and a few of our friends. We don’t believe in signing MoUs because MoUs don’t protect you from anything. If they are violated, what can you really do? Instead, it makes more sense to spend time with the organization, see the strength and potential of the staff, the quality of work, the region and circumstances the nonprofit works in.
Trust your nonprofit partner from the get-go
Projects can get delayed, costs can increase by, say, 10 percent; but integrity and honesty cannot be measured in percentages. A person is either honest or not. Trust cannot be conditional. I cannot say that I can only trust a nonprofit up to INR 20 lakh. If I don’t trust them, then even one lakh is too much to give. If I trust them, then even INR 10 crore isn’t too much.
Funders rarely look at staff and founder welfare; they look at capacity building and encourage people to attend workshops, but sometimes fail to look at people’s needs. This is particularly needed in older, more traditional nonprofits who do great work on the ground but are not necessarily able to present their work in a way that today’s funders expect.
Read the full article about putting people first in development work by Nimesh Sumati at India Development Review.
Are you ready to give?
In addition to learning and connecting with others, taking action is a key step towards becoming an impact giver. If you are interested in giving with impact for Global Development take a look at these Giving Funds, Charitable Organizations or Projects.