Opinion: A Survey Of 200 Indian NGOs And 10 Big Takeaways

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One of the largest charities in America, ‘Feeding America’ has raised over $4 billion by 2022. India’s largest conglomerate has raised around $0.07 billion. Putting aside the comparison with a much larger economy and philanthropy, consider the scale of demand in India. There is much that non-profit organizations can achieve and help accelerate India’s progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda – if they can grow and achieve their potential impact.

What’s holding back Indian charities? We have several million of them – NITI Aayog’s Darpan portal shows over 1.75 lakh registered NGOs, and elsewhere estimates go as high as 3 million. Societies, trusts, section 8 companies and others come in many guises governed by various laws at the central and state levels. There is no one government agency or regulator that governs them all, monitoring the health of the sector. We lack reliable and up-to-date information on size, funding patterns, sector trends, growth or anything that can help make informed decisions from philanthropists or policy makers to make the sector work better.

As a first step in addressing this glaring gap, we attempted to measure 200 non-profit organizations in India based on their annual budgets, sole purpose and certified (signed by auditors) publicly available (annual reports). Assess the size of the organization.

We saw a unique nonprofit organization—one with its own mission statement, at least part of its work being implemented, raising funds from multiple funders, and not primarily supported by a single donor. This is the kind of impact-oriented non-profit that you and I donate to or the CSR groups we participate in. This scope excludes most corporate CSR foundations, philanthropic/HNI/family foundations mainly funding agencies, multilateral institutions, and large educational institutions and hospitals in operations.

Some tips from the survey:

  1. The top 200 non-profit organizations in India have an annual budget of Rs 10 to Rs 800 crore.
  2. They generate about Rs 8,000-9,000 crore in funding per year (about $1 billion).
  3. The source of this capital is divided equally between domestic and foreign funding each year.
  4. Over the three years we looked at – 2019-2022 – this group’s total capital stock remained largely unchanged when adjusted for inflation and Covid-related increases.
  5. Children, community development, education, health care and livelihoods are the main areas in which these organizations work.
  6. About 18% of the companies have an international origin/connection, and they received 30% of the total funding.
  7. On a cumulative basis, nonprofits have a year-end profit margin of 4% to 7% of total funds raised each year.
  8. Finance is flexible. By 2021-22, nearly 20% saw more than 50% change in revenue.
  9. The headquarters of these large NGOs are clustered around the centers of corporate and commercial activities in India. Underdeveloped areas benefit from the presence of locally headquartered non-profit organizations that can mobilize and deploy large amounts of aid for local development.
  10. Most of the largest organizations today were started in the last two decades. Several factors play a role in the success of a relatively young non-profit – the flow of professional talent, new philanthropists with a different vision, the changing regulatory environment, and above all, the nature of society’s problems due to the economic and technological progress that India has made.

Beyond these 200, there are thousands of organizations that do great work but unfortunately lack scale. Their environmental impact is still important, but meaningful measurement is not always possible with their subscales. Growth alone shouldn’t be the focus of every organization, but for those with measurable impact models, it has a lot of room for emphasis.

What can help?

Regulatory and policy reforms are urgently needed to develop non-profits of all kinds through small-scale measures, support from philanthropists through non-programme grants, and concerted efforts to build capacity and trust. Attention.

Today, it is India’s largest private sector company spending on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) single-handedly on social impact, as well as the largest donor-supported non-profit organization in India. Less than half of corporate India’s mandatory CSR spend of Rs 25,000 crore goes to independent non-profits every year.

In order to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth as envisioned by SDG 2030, it is important for impact oriented non-profits to grow with the Indian economy and the private sector.

(Vrunda Bansode is passionate about providing actionable data for decision-making in the social sector, and has worked on several pioneering data products at Sattva Consulting, a leading impact consulting firm.)

Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.



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