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Breadwinners for causes

More NGOs mean there is need for more fundraisers... but there’s competition looming over the sector as big businesses take to CSR, writes Rahat Bano.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:46 IST
Rahat Bano

At some time or the other, you may have received calls, snail-mails or emails asking you to donate ‘X’ amount of money for someone’s medical treatment, children’s education, senior citizen’s care and other activities. There are also fairs, exhibitions, plays, concerts, and other celebrity events, the proceeds from which are supposed to support a cause or group. Some dedicated people are behind these to raise funds so that their non-government organisations (NGOs) can sustain their projects.

One such is Anirban Chakrabarti, territory manager (fundraising) of international campaigning organisation, Greenpeace, in Kolkata. However, Greenpeace has different major streams of fundraising: face-to-face meeting with strangers on the road, tele-calling followed by one-to-one rendezvous, contacting references given by existing volunteers or supporters and reaching out to working people. “We don’t take any financial support from corporates or governments. Therefore, our whole sustenance comes from the fundraising department,” elaborates Chakrabarti, 30, sitting at Greenpeace’s Delhi office. “We stand on the streets to talk to random people (as part of what we call Direct Dialogue or DD), and also go to companies to create awareness about environmental problems and how to stop them. People, who listen to our talk and show interest, enrol as financial contributors or supporters of our organisation. Student or others supporting some cause enrol as volunteers or join our cyber campaigns.”

According to him, the expanding NGO sector means a need for more fundraisers who can raise funds locally. “One, the number of non-government orga- nisations is growing in India. Two, a lot of multinational NGOs are coming to India. And to run an NGO you need good fundraisers. It’s the bread (winner) of the organisation, he says, adding, “How- ever, we don’t do our campai-gns to raise funds. We raise funds to run our campaigns.”

But there’s a big challenge to NGO fundraising in general in India. “Earlier corporates used to get tax exemption for advertising in (NGO) souvenirs. But it’s now considered an investment,” says Sanjai Bhatt, professor of social work, University of Delhi. Secondly, the increasingly-important corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a direct competitor to NGOs, according to Bhatt. It may not be a threat to organisations like Greenpeace which do not take corporate gifts but what about those who do? Companies dole out big sums in one stroke as compared to individuals. “If you raise R100 from a person, you have to spend Rs40 to Rs50 for it,” says Bhatt. In contrast, by spending Rs5,000, you can bag Rs50,000 from an affluent philanthropist-businessman. But why will business houses loosen their purse strings for others when more and more of them are establishing their CSR arms or foundations?

“The CSR bill is coming. If it is passed, there will be limited scope for people to raise funds in NGOs.” He adds that incentives in the form of tax rebates can make companies interested. “Their money can be multiplied if the government gives more tax exemptions (to corporate donors).”

What's it about?
As the name suggests, fundraisers raise money for their non-government organisations. Fundraising, however, does not always involve directly asking for donations. The fundraisers organise charity events, celebrity dinners and shows, where patrons buy merchandise/ products or donor-passes, and funds get raised

Clock Work
The average day of a (direct dialogue/ face to face) fundraiser:
10 am: Team meeting on current campaigns
11 am: Visit a company, where the NGO has set up a stall in its cafeteria, to speak to employees and build awareness
2 pm: Take a lunch break
3 pm: Work on the street — distribute pamphlets
5 pm: During the hour, catch as many people as you can for direct dialogue (which is for creating, say, environmental awareness)
6.30 pm: Head home

The Payoff
The pay package would depend on different factors such as the NGO you work for, location, etc. A fundraiser with an international campaign organisation can start at a salary of Rs11,000 plus incentives (performance-based) a month. A city head can make about Rs35,000 a month

Skills
. Have passion and drive for the work
. Good communication and networking skills
. Be innovative and persistent
. Planning and budgeting ability

How do i get there?
There’s no specific qualification required to be a fundraiser though a qualification in social work and management (for senior-level positions) may come handy. A sales background for some positions may help. The most important differentiator here is passion and drive for this work

Institutes & urls


MSW and MBA degrees are offered by a host of universities in India, including


.

University of Delhi


www.du.ac.in


.

Indian Institutes of Management, multiple locations


www.catiim.in



Pros & cons


.

Your efforts can sustain a worthwhile cause and possibly change lives


.

Work may involve considerable outdoor activity


.

May have to travel


.

Low pay scales (if you care about it)


.

Competition from corporate CSR arms/foundations

My work indeed did enrich me

A fundraiser talks about how the work changed him as a person

Tell us about your work.
We are a campaigning organisation. We campaign on pressing environmental issues that the world is facing, such as climate change, e-waste, deforestation. We don’t take any financial support from corporates or governments. Therefore, our whole sustenance comes from the fundraising department.

We stand on the streets to talk to random people (as part of what we call Direct Dialogue or DD), and go to companies to create awareness about environmental problems and how to stop them. People who listen to our talk and show interest, enrol as financial contributors or supporters of our organisation. Student or others supporting some cause enrol as volunteers or join our cyber campaigns.

It’s not just about fundraising but also about reaching out to a large number of people and trying to change their perspective and inspiring them to alter their lifestyle, for instance, by car pooling, by replacing an incandescent bulb with a CFL etc and thus, collectively helping conserve the planet’s ecology.

How did you get into this?
I used to freelance as a copywriter for some advertising agencies and websites in Calcutta. I came to know that Greenpeace had opened an office in Calcutta in 2005. I went there to explore if I could do some work for them. I didn’t look for a structured, corporate-kind of work life. I wanted to see how a big international organisation works. I asked if I could be a part of it – anyhow, it can be a job or as a volunteer. At that time, they were recruiting for DD, which involves face-to-face interaction. Greenpeace selected me and I decided to join.

How has your experience been so far?
On the positive side, DD has made me a different person. It has helped me to come out of my various mental blocks, deflate my unhealthy ego, overcome my superiority complex, and build my communication skills. Initially it was not easy to stand on the road. There were hurdles, like one of those days when no one is stopping to listen to you. Then I learnt to take it in my stride – if a person does not stop, that’s his problem and I don’t let his reaction affect my day.

When people do listen, there is plenty of appreciation, too, from strangers on the roads. You get to know so many kinds of people — doctors, engineers, singers, musicians, hopeless people,
hopeful people…

It enriched me. It opened my way of looking at the world. I learnt to take things easily.
I don’t see any drawbacks to it.

Anirban Chakrabarti, territory manager (FR), Greenpeace, Kolkata Interviewed by Rahat Bano