How to engage the Indian community in your fundraising efforts?
Is fundraising in Asia part of your global strategy? If so, how can you engage the Indian community in your efforts? Understanding the giving psyche of one of the largest global communities, could help in the development of your communications and outreach strategies. According to the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, the overseas Indian community (Indian Diaspora) is estimated at over 25 million and are spread across every major region in the world.
Here I focus on the Indian Diaspora in South-East Asia, presently the most economically robust regions of the world, with growth rates that far outstrip those of more established economies.
Indian cultural and religious relations with South East Asia predates the modern era. It is visible in the language and literature, religion and philosophy, art and architecture across South-East Asia. The famous AnkorWat and other Hindu temples in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Indonesia among others are very well known. While these influences were strong for over two millennia, large scale migration of Indians to South- East Asia took place only in the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly due to the colonial connections.
- The Giving Patterns
The profile of the diaspora reflects the focus of their charitable and philanthropic decisions.
- Economic migrants
During the period of 1862-1957, approximately two million Indians migrated to Malaya (now peninsular Malaysia and Singapore). Most of them served as plantation labourers. In late 19th and early 20th centuries, artisans, merchants and traders migrated from India to this region.
For these economic migrants, preserving Indian religious traditions was paramount. Thus, their charitable efforts were focused mainly on giving to temples and faith based institutions.
- Professional migrants
In the last few decades, highly educated, successful Indian expatriates and their locally-born children, have become the flag-bearers of ‘brand India’ in S.E Asia. They have created trust in the academic and intellectual capabilities as well as work ethics of Indians.
Given their background, institution building especially through education and healthcare ‘back home’ in India is the primary focus of their philanthropic giving. In addition, preserving Indian cultural traditions in their new homeland, which can be passed on to their next generation, is another important area where professional Indian diaspora provide support, both in terms of funding as well as volunteer engagements.
- Reverse migrants
India is attracting entrepreneurial talent from around the world, and that includes a rising number of children of persons of Indian origin, who left India decades ago. They are moving to India to take advantage of economic opportunities as well as their cultural connection.Figures for the UK, for example, show that a record 30,000 people left Britain to make a life in India in 2010, a figure which is likely to have risen since.
These foreign-born and returning ethnic Indians are also impacting the philanthropic eco-system. These professionals try to bring social change or accelerate it by focusing on the comprehensive development of their locality in India. Their efforts range from funding infrastructure development, education and employment, to fostering civic engagement. One such social enterprise initiated by returning Indians is WaterlifeIndia, founded by Sudesh Menon, former Country Head for Electric based in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.
- The Motivations
- Early migrants
‘Giving back’ was the main motivation of the early Indian diaspora, after witnessing poverty first hand in India.
- Recent migrants and their descendants
- The success of this group of professionals is the result of their emphasis on acquiring scientific and technical skills. Hence their philanthropic focus is mainly on education and healthcare.
- They are very involved in supporting social programs and causes in India, as it is seen to provide the best value and returns, both the in areas of need and impact.
- Additionally, Indians have a high trust in their own networks and personal connections ‘back home’. Hence India becomes the main part of their philanthropic portfolio.
- This also means that there is a geographic concentration of charitable contributions within India, focused only on locations where the diaspora communities have a link.
- They also begin civic engagements in their adopted homeland through donations and volunteering.
- Reverse Migrants
- These foreign-born or returning ethnic Indians wish to provide a cultural anchor for themselves and their foreign-born next generation.
- In the process, they help to improve the physical and social infrastructures of their Indian home-towns.They do so not just through charitable contributions but also through a hand-on involvement in the development and management of community programs in India.
- The Methodologies
- Combining charitable donations with in-memoriam and milestone gifts
- ‘Money-no-object’ weddings and anniversaries held in India or at destinations like Bali in the Indian Ocean or Jamaica in the Caribbean are becoming major fundraisers. The Diaspora Indian families use these grand events as an opportunity to share their blessings with causes of their choices. This provides friends and family an opportunity to join in their efforts. (Refer to the excerpt from an invitation card.)
- Including philanthropy into their cause-related portfolio as a progression from transactional engagements
- While their interaction with social causes may have begun at a transactional level through one-off monetary contributions, many Diaspora families have begun to take a holistic view of their philanthropic efforts by building relationships with specific causes and engaging in areas beyond mere ‘cheque-writing’.
- A major deterrent to engaging the Indian Diaspora is the scepticism of nature and effectiveness of charities in India. Therefore, they choose the organisations to support, generally through recommendations from friends and trusted sources.
- Many have also begun to engage with the local environment of the country where they live. In Singapore, the 2.5 times tax exemption for contributions to local causes provides a good incentive.
- Social Investments
- Social venture capital firms in India are increasingly investing in social start-ups. Over the past eight years about US$600 Million has been invested in India’s social enterprises.
- In April 2012, the National Association for Social Enterprises India (NASE) was formed by the enterprises themselves to create globally recognised standards, and act as a sector-agnostic industry body.
What has been your experience working with the Indian communities in your country? Do you see similarities or differences than what has been my experience?
Also do look out for the book, ‘Revealing Indian Philanthropy’ to be published soon by the non-profit and independent Alliance Publishing Trust (UK) and edited by UBS and the London School of Economics. This project will shed light on the heritage and successes of Indian philanthropy. I have co-authored the chapter on the Indian Diaspora.