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As the second wave of COVID-19 rages through the country, thousands of NGOs are at the forefront, showing up for the communities in which they work. They need your help and while where you choose to park your resources is your decision, these pointers can help you make an informed decision about where to donate, before you do.
How do I pick a cause or organisation to support?
While our social media feeds are full of desperate pleas for oxygen and medical supplies, it is well worth your time to identify and support organisations that are responding to the many other critical dimensions of the pandemic in India. Across the country, whether in cities or rural areas, in addition to providing access to healthcare, NGOs are also providing food and other essential rations, and helping those whose livelihoods have been affected. They are supporting survivors of domestic violence, identifying vulnerable children and ensuring that they are protected, delivering mental health counselling, and more. All of these are worthy causes that need immediate support. Spending some time on an organisation’s website or social media handles is a great way to learn about what they do and how they impact the communities that they work with.
How do I know that the NGO that I want to support is legitimate?
In India, NGOs are registered either as a charitable trust, a society, or a Section 8 Company. Organisations that have a website will usually list this information online, alongside information about whether you will receive a tax exemption (under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act) for a donation that you make.
Organisations that are listed on crowdfunding platforms will typically have gone through some basic due diligence, so you can donate to them without having to do any further checks yourself.
If you do come across a lesser-known NGO or social organisation, you could also choose to verify whether it is legitimate by checking if it is listed on platforms such as Guidestar India (a searchable database of certified NGOs), HelpYourNGO (helps donors compare NGO financials across multiple parameters and make donation decisions), or the government’s exhaustive but clunky portal—Darpan. These platforms will also indicate whether an organisation is eligible to receive funds from outside India. Any NGO registered in India that wants to raise donations—in cash or kind— either from individuals or organisations outside India, must have an FCRA (Foreign Contributions Regulation Act) licence.
Is it better to donate directly or via a crowdfunding platform?
Platforms such as Ketto or GiveIndia offer a convenient way to make a donation, but it’s worth recognising that smaller, community-based organisations in remote parts of the country may not always have the resources needed to run well-designed and targeted campaigns. Do your homework before you donate. If you have friends, family members, or acquaintances that work in the social sector, reach out and ask them if they can recommend organisations that are in need of funds. Here’s one such list with over 150 organisations crowdsourced by India Development Review, where I work.
I’d like to know how my donation is being used. Can I ask an NGO for updates on my donation?
It is not advisable to ask an NGO to provide you with an update while they are in the midst of responding to a crisis.
Most NGOs that people recommend to you or those listed on the above-mentioned platforms are credible organisations that are doing valuable work on the ground. During times of disaster, all their resources are devoted to responding to the needs of the community that they serve. Keeping individual donors updated diverts scarce resources of time, energy, and money away from their crisis response.
Many NGOs however do update their websites and social media handles with the activities that they are involved in and the impact that it is creating. These are a good proxy to understand how your money is being used.
If it is important to you to receive an individual update on your donations, consider giving through a crowdfunding platform or to an organisation that lets you know upfront that they will be able to provide updates to individual donors.
How do I choose how much money to donate?
No amount is too small. You could choose to give as little as the amount you’d spend on a cup of coffee, as much you’d spend on a weekend away with friends, or more. Any amount that you choose to give is helpful, so give as much as you can.
While most people start by giving smaller amounts as and when they can, it can also be helpful to identify how much you save on a monthly basis and then set a goal for a percentage of your savings that you can donate to organisations and movements that need support.