Money Matters: How to give it away | brunch | Hindustan Times
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Money Matters: How to give it away

Giving to charity just to avoid tax? Make sure your money works as hard as you do.

brunch Updated: Dec 08, 2012 18:25 IST
Rachel Lopez

Whether you give out of the generosity of your heart or because your income tax adviser asked you to, we doff our hats to you. But what if your hard-earned money isn’t working as hard once you’ve given it away? It doesn’t take much to become a smarter donor. But for the ones who receive it, it makes a world of difference. We show you how to go about it:

First, pick a sector
“Whether you’re a middle-class person or a high-net-worth individual like Bill Gates, you need an area of focus,” says Deval Sanghavi, a partner and co-founder at Dasra, a strategic philanthropic foundation that, among other things, helps non-profits manage resources better. Child care, women, senior citizens, rural poor, urban poor, health care, education, disabilities, street dogs or trees? “Every sector needs help,” he explains. “If help is not targeted, help cannot be provided effectively.” Pick a cause that is close to you, so you are more motivated to give.

Then pick a charity

Say you want to help children. Should you sign up for the first non-profit featuring cute baby photos? Bad idea. Your money works hardest when you know how exactly it will change a child’s life so find out what activity a non-profit is dedicated to. They say they care about kids’ education. But is your donation better spent on one NGO’s classes for kids in municipal schools, or another’s project that trains the school teachers to teach better? "You want to pick an intervention that will create the most value," Sanghavi says. "Most people limit their funding directly to kids, but often that’s not the most helpful." Training teachers will reach out to more kids than those after-school lessons would.

Concentrate your efforts
There are several organisations out there doing good work. But if you’re thinking of writing one cheque to a different non-profit every month, think again, advises Sanghavi. Why help 12 charities halfway (a twelfth of the way, really) when you can use the same amount to help a single group see their project to completion? Aim to aid fewer people completely than several people whom you will eventually abandon. Diversification is great for your investment portfolio, not your philanthropy.

Think long term
“If you want to make an impact, never write a one-off cheque,” Sanghavi says. “One cheque in one month means the organisation will need to find a new cheque the next month. That doesn’t help the person who is accessing the aid.” Your one contribution can make someone’s day easier. But several contributions over time, even small ones that add up to the same amount you initially decided to give, will ensure that a person’s life is easier as well, and you are able to keep tabs on the non-profit’s progress too.

Don’t give it your all
If you’re large-hearted (and large-walleted) enough to cover a single NGO’s entire annual budget, should you? Sanghavi says no. “Give only 50 per cent,” he says. “You don’t want them to be dependent solely on you.” He suggests footing the bill halfway on one condition: the non-profit should have a larger budget the following year. This helps them focus on their own growth and pushes them to raise the remainder of the money elsewhere. And what will you do with the rest of the money you wanted to give away? This time, it’s all right to help out another organisation, with the same clause, of course!

Respect your charity
“Give them the flexibility to decide where the money goes and how, and whether rent helps someone better than food,” Sanghavi says. Most charities already know how far your money will stretch and how many people can be helped for how long. Don’t impose your demands – or your charity might offer ineffective solutions that please you more than they help others. And don’t expect immediate results. Change needs your patience as much as your money. “It’s less about protecting your money and more about solving a problem.”

To find charities within your sector of interest and for more information on specific charities, visit,,, and in kind too

Just because you signed over a hefty wad of cash to air-condition an old-people’s home doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to contribute. Several groups are just as happy to receive your old, but useable clothes, recyclable goods, books, toys your kids have outgrown, furniture, time and skills. And you never know who might need it – a school for hearing impaired might want your old cellphone so students can use SMS to communicate. A dog shelter might want your old books for a garage sale to raise money for a sterilisation drive. A disability group might just need your marketing skills for their exhibition. And the blind may simply need you to read out a textbook to they can make a copy in Braille. Every action that prevents an NGO from using its own funds helps. So give away!

How to hide it
In the freezer
Because the goons or Income Tax men who conduct raids never head to the fridge.

From HT Brunch, December 9

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