Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Business of NGOs

The Business of NGOs






(Source: <>  )


Many Indian NGOs have become little more than fund-chasers. They will have to re-examine their founding ideals if they want to drive real change.


Gandhi was not just the father of the nation but the father of India’s NGO movement as well. He showed us how ordinary citizens do not have to accept the world as it is but can change it with sheer grit, powerful thoughts and action. It is only when we consistently do this that India can truly become the world’s largest democracy.


There are now 1.2 million registered NGOs in India, but this number is cause for both happiness and alarm. Many NGOs do exemplary work. Take the Water Organisation Trust (WOTR — pronounced ‘Water’). It successfully converted the drought-affected barren land near a village called Darewadi near Pune in Maharashtra, into fertile land using only natural resource management techniques, on a budget of just Rs 80 lakh. For the first time in my life I actually saw inward migration, where families that had once fled the village returned to restart their farms.


But despite the good work such NGOs are doing to fill the gaps in social services that stem from poor governance, it is also true that many Indian NGOs are hoaxes. They focus only on chasing down funds from anyone and everryone who might be handing them out. In fact, ‘NGOs’ has become a four-letter word because some NGOs are nothing more than giant money laundering operations.




This has happened because provisions like 35 (AC) and 35 (1 and 2) of the Income Tax Act give 100 per cent tax exemption to rogue money donors from large corporations. These organisations dole out crores of rupees, more to earn tax breaks than to actually benefit a cause. This is also why the donors never hold their beneficiaries accountable for the funds they give them. There is also a huge government-NGO nexus where official funds are transferred to NGOs registered by relatives of ministers and bureaucrats.


More significantly, even many genuine NGOs are failing to accomplish much. While India’s NGO movement can be a great force for change, it cannot agree on what that change should be. NGOs raise issues, talk about problems, attack corporations and governments, but somehow fail to provide solutions. So, I do not blame people for thinking that we in the NGO sector fail to walk the talk.


The Problem Lies Within


Part of the problem is that the sector does not focus on efficiency. It sees itself as an angel doing good work and doesn’t focus enough on practical management issues. Big brand NGOs in India often have no answer when asked about their administration costs. Often these are as high as 85- 90 per cent, meaning just 10 per cent of the money donors give these NGOs actually reaches the cause for which the money was given.


We, in the NGOs, project a ‘holier than thou’ persona. But have we ever introspected and tried to find out the real reason for our existence? It is easy pointing fingers at the corporates, but have we tried to learn from their best practices and efficient business models? Most NGOs love to use the sweet innocent child’s face to raise funds through child sponsorship — it’s one of our most time-tested fund-raising tools. But have we ever really tried to get people involved, sensitise them to truly build a movement of citizens, and work with us to lead the change?



Our awareness campaigns are focused on evoking emotion purely to raise funds. How often do we try to build up society’s values by asking people to understand the social issues and speak out for them? That’s the reason why people have become cynical of the NGO sector — because we are inefficiently managed, we incur huge administration costs, and are accused of scamming funds and money laundering.


I, too, am a fundraiser, but fundraising is not just about the money for me. It is about telling people about the cause I work for. I talk about how they, as citizens, can get involved with transparent, accountable NGOs that can lead change. People need to understand the real issues that are plaguing the country and not just passively donate money to cool-sounding NGOs.


But many of the most efficient and effective NGOs in India do not sound cool and their work is never discussed at cocktail parties. Consider the Sampada trust, a micro finance lender whose interest rates are lower than those offered by multinational and national banks. Or Akshaya Patra, which delivers mid-day meals to under-served children at less than Rs 5 a meal! Akshaya Patra is now partnering with state governments to provide mid-day meals in various places, with the government paying 30 per cent of the cost, and the rest coming from companies and people like you and me. This is what I call the classic public-private-people partnership model. Ordinary citizens – the people — will and should remain at the heart of the NGO movement.




I have called this piece ‘The business of NGOs’ because it is now up to us in the NGO movement to fight the urge to become mere fund chasers. We have to find a good business model, and work with full transparency and accountability, which will inspire confidence in donors. Good governance is not the just the domain of government. Nor does social responsibility apply only to businesses. We as citizens of our country work in various sectors, and if we, the people, are not responsible for developing the country, then no sector can be held solely responsible.


The Answer Lies In Our History


As India faces a new future, it is up to all of us as citizens to resolve our own problems. Working with credible NGOs is a great way to do that. They stand up, speak out and practice our core values — which are all encompassed in the pledge we, the people, adopted on 26 January 1950, when our Constitution was formally adopted.


The NGO community should be proud of its vocation. We are a force that the ‘powers that be’ have come to reckon with. If we do things the right way, with the right spirit and for the rights of citizens, I promise you that we can make a difference, even if we start from scratch. My mantra is that God and passion for the cause is our budget.




It is very easy pointing fingers at others, but very difficult to look inwards to reinstate the faith in the NGO sector, which can do a lot to influence policy and ensure equal rights for all in the Great Indian democracy. To conclude, we as citizens need to love and respect the legacy given to us by Mahatma Gandhi and think of how the inquiry he initiated can be furthered. Not to the letter or the word, but in its spirit. We don’t have to try to bring back lost glory. But we must try in our own way, to be the change we want to see in the world, as Gandhi himself said. Let us not be the ones who carry the burden of guilt, of not knowing, not following our Mahatma’s values — the values that ask us to take a stand as concerned citizens. The values that make us speak out — “to RIGHT every WRONG.”


The author is founder of iCONGO and the ‘RIGHT every WRONG’ citizen movement


Monday, March 1, 2010

Some Eco Facts

Ice caps are white, and reflect sunlight, much of which is reflected back
into space, in turn cooling Earth; but with the ice caps melting, the only
reflector is the ocean. Darker colors absorb sunlight, further warming the
Earth.Scientists blame global warming for the declining penguin population,
as warmer waters and smaller ice floes force the birds to travel further to
find food.Stressed by cyanide fishing, harbor dredging, coral mining,
deforestation, coastal development, agricultural runoff, careless divers,
and now global warming, there is a devastating loss of coral across the
world.With accelerated global warming, and the ice covering melting, the
earth would be absorbing more sunlight, and is on its way to becoming hotter
than before.Due to global warming the polar ice cap in the Arctic region is
shrinking and rupturing; if this continues, summers in the Arctic would
become ice-free by the end of this century.Everytime we burn oil, coal and
gas to generate electricity and power, we produce the heat trapping gases
that cause global warming.Deforestation is one of the main causes of
atmospheric carbon dioxide; burning and cutting millions of acres of trees
each year, it is responsible for 20-25 per cent of all carbon
emissions.Water vapor is the most prevalent and most powerful greenhouse gas
on the planet; it holds onto two-thirds of the heat trapped by all the
greenhouse gases.Every week about 20 species of plants and animals become
extinct!Rainforests are being cut down at the rate of 100 acres per
minute!One-third of the water used in most homes is flushed down the
toilet.A single quart of motor oil, if disposed of improperly, can
contaminate up to 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water.Plastic bags and other
plastic garbage thrown into the ocean kill as many as 1,000,000 sea
creatures every year.A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to
decompose — and even longer if it's in the landfill.Recycling one glass
bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four
hoursEnergy-saving lightbulbs last around ten times longer than ordinary
lightbulbs- over 10,000 hours.A laptop is more environment friendly than a
desktop. It consumes five times less electricity.An aluminum can that is
thrown away will still be a can 500 years from now!A single tree will absorb
one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Shade provided by trees can
also reduce your air conditioning bill by 10 to 15 per cent.Tissue paper is
a major source of waste. It takes 60,00,000 trees to make 1 year's worth of
tissues for the world.A ton of recycled paper equals or saves 17 trees in
paper production.A plant on your desk acts as a natural filter, absorbing
airborne pollutants and computer radiation while replenishing oxygen
levels.Lawns only need watering once a week, post rain only after two weeks.
Do watering early morning for minimal evaporation and water
conservation.Crawling traffic contributes eight times as much air pollution
as traffic moving at regular highway speed.Avoiding just 10 miles of driving
every week would eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a
year!Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth and soaping your hands. This
can save around 16 litres a day. That's 11,000 litre of water per person per
year.A dripping tap can waste over 20,000 litres of water every year.

Pollution: Each kind of pollution- air, noise, water- has significant
impacts to our everyday lives, affecting all living and non-living factors
in the biosphere and the atmosphere and also involve socio-economic factors.
These impacts have caused significant changes to the environment we are
living in.Deforestation: They are the earth's largest depository of natural
resources and house half of the planet's dryland species. But man's greed is
putting a saw through the fragile ecosystem and over the years half of the
world's forests have been transformed into a concrete jungle. Indiscriminate
felling of trees for fuel and timber or for housing and agriculture purposes
has gone on unabated despite the clichés mouthed by environmentalists and a
line of successive governments.Soil Erosion: Floods and soil erosion are two
of India's greatest problems. Neither is new, but there can be no doubt that
in recent years floods are taking an increasing toll on crops and the rapid
progress of soil erosion in different parts of the country has caused grave
concern. India is thought to be losing 4.7 billion tons of topsoil a year,
mostly through water erosion. Its monsoonal climate, with the concentration
of rainfall during a few months of the year, leaves its exposed soils
vulnerable to erosion. About 60 percent of soil that is washed away ends up
in rivers, streams and lakes, making waterways more prone to flooding and to
contamination from soil's fertilizers and pesticides. Soil erosion also
reduces the ability of soil to store water and support plant growth, thereby
reducing its ability to support biodiversity.Land Degradation: Decline in
land quality caused by human activities has been a major global issue during
the 20th century and will remain high on the international agenda in the
21st century. The importance of land degradation among global issues is
enhanced because of its impact on world food security and quality of the
environment. High population density is not necessarily related to land
degradation; it is what a population does to the land that determines the
extent of degradation. People can be a major asset in reversing a trend
towards degradation. However, they need to be healthy and politically and
economically motivated to care for the land, as subsistence agriculture,
poverty, and illiteracy can be important causes of land and environmental
degradation.Waste Management: Urban India is likely to face a massive waste
disposal problem in the coming years. Until now, the problem of waste has
been seen as one of cleaning and disposing as rubbish. But a closer look at
the current and future scenario reveals that waste needs to be treated
holistically, recognising its natural resource roots as well as health
impacts. Waste can be wealth, which has tremendous potential not only for
generating livelihoods for the urban poor but can also enrich the earth
through composting and recycling rather than spreading pollution as has been
the case. Increasing urban migration and a high density of population will
make waste management a difficult issue to handle in the near future, if a
new paradigm for approaching it is not created.Increasing Energy
Consumption: India faces a huge energy deficit: till 2001, only 44 per cent
of Indian households had access to electricity. But consumption's galloping:
between 1947 and 2001, India's per capita power consumption rose from 15 to
592 units. If India has to move ahead economically, it must find ways to
bridge the deficit.High Carbon Emissions: Carbon dioxide emissions are
causing the Earth's climate to change and warm, which will have catastrophic
results if we do not act to reduce them. Carbon dioxide emissions in our
atmosphere are at their highest levels in recorded history, spanning over
650,000 years. The effects of climate change can be seen now. Temperatures
are increasing, glaciers are receding at unprecedented speeds and storms are
becoming more frequent and severe.How to go green
"Going Green" doesn't have to be a daunting task that means sweeping life
changes. Start by planting a tree in your backyard or neighbourhood. It's
good for the air, the land, can shade your house and save on cooling and
they can also improve the value of your property.When taking a short trip,
choose to walk or cycle. This reduces carbon emissions considerably.Staying
within the speed limit and smoothly accelerating can save upto 25 per cent
of a vehicle's typical gasoline use.Switching off one bulb for one hour
saves upto 22,000 watts per year.Lighting an empty office wastes enough
energy to boil water for a 1000 cups of coffee and doubles a company's
annual electric billPlug your computer, monitor and other home appliances
into a power strip and turn them off when not in use- don't leave them in
sleep mode. Sleep mode adds immensely to the electricity bill and
unnecessary greenhouse gases.Recharge your batteries. Batteries contain
heavy metals, such as mercury and cadmium, which have become a major source
of contamination in dump sites. They either break apart and are released
into the soil or are incinerated and the deadly heavy metals are released
into the air.Plastic bags are not biodegradable. Even if they say they are,
they do not decompose fully. Also the ink is made up of cadmium, and is
highly toxic when it is released. Whereas paper bags are reusable and
biodegradable. If your purchase is small don't take any bag, this alone
could save hundreds of millions of bags. Bring a cloth bag when you shop, or
use string bags.Our oceans provide the earth with most of our oxygen,
moisture, and weather patterns. To keep our oceans clean we have to start
with our beaches. When you go to the beach you can help by bringing a trash
bag and spend a little while picking up litter, or you can join a beach
clean-up crew.As little as ten years ago there were over 1.5 million
elephants on the earth. Today there are only 750,000. By the year 2,000 they
may become extinct. Over 80% of the ivory that is taken, is from elephants-
Americans buy 30% of it. Over 6.5 million dolphins have been killed by tuna
fisherman. To help you can: not buy endangered animal products.Do not dump
oil, grease, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers, paints, cleaners, and
other toxic household products down the storm drain. These drains, found in
the gutters on the sidewalk, are not treated by the sewage treatment
plant–they go straight into rivers, lakes, and maybe even the ocean! By
putting these toxic chemicals down the drain, there is a great biological
threat to marine life.Use CFC free products. ChloroFluoroCarbons destroy the
ozone layer, which protects us from harmful UV rays.One less meat-based meal
a week helps the planet and your diet. For each hamburger that originated
from animals raised on rainforest land, approximately 55 square feet of
forest have been destroyed.Recycling just the Sunday papers would save more
than half a million trees every week.You can reuse gift bags, bows and event
paper, but you can also make something unique by using old maps, cloth or
even newspaper. Flip a paper grocery bag inside out and give your child
stamps or markers to create their own wrapping paper that's environmentally
friendly and extra special for the recipient.Nearly 90% of plastic water
bottles are not recycled, instead taking thousands of years to decompose.
Buy a reusable container and fill it with tap water, a great choice for the
environment, your wallet, and possibly your health.Brush without running
your tap dry. You'll conserve up to five gallons per day if you stop.Adjust
your thermostat one degree higher in the summer and one degree cooler in the
winter. Each degree celsius less will save about 10% on your energy use!If
you must water your lawn, do it early in the morning before any moisture is
lost to evaporation. Have a few weeds? Spot treat them with vinegar. Not
sure if you should rake? Normal clippings act as a natural fertilizer, let
them be. If you've waited too long, rake by hand — it's excellent
exercise.Most lighters are made out of plastic and filled with butane fuel,
both petroleum products. Since most lighters are considered "disposable,"
over 1.5 billion end up in landfills each year. When choosing matches, pick
cardboard over wood. Wood matches come from trees, whereas most cardboard
matches are made from recycled paper.

Weekly Archive of Events


Fun-o-Fun | Make Money Online