The how, when, and to whom of giving back

How do you decide which charity you want to volunteer for or contribute money to? Which cause should you support and when? Swades Foundation’s Zarina Screwvala answers the key questions that keep us from giving

Zarina Screwvala
Updated: Sep 24, 2021 11:45:19 AM UTC

Zarina Screwvala is the co-founder of the Swades Foundation & works full time as its Managing Trustee & Director. The Swades Foundation operates with the single-minded focus of empowering rural India through holistic and sustainable growth using its unique 360-degree model. The foundation has 270 full time staff serving 2000+ hamlets impacting over half a million people. Zarina was a co-founder of the media company UTV, where among other ventures, she created and launched several TV channels including Hungama, Bindass & UTV Movies. Zarina has a deep interest in philosophy and is a member of New Acropolis.

Small-donations-by-Zarina-Screwvala
Giving in kind, monthly donations, volunteering and being the ambassadors for organisations doing phenomenal work for rural development are a few ways of contributing to making rural India thrive. Image: Shutterstock

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston S. Churchill

This quote captures the essence of the impact that giving back can create. However, many of us face dilemmas that keep us from giving: does my small contribution really make a difference? How will my contribution have an impact? Which non-profit to trust? And so on.

No matter how small the contribution is, it has the power to create a ripple effect of change. Every donation can create an impact change at the micro and macro levels. For example, a donation of Rs 2,000 can contribute to yearly books for a needy student; ensure nutrition for underweight children in a village, or it can contribute towards larger causes such as rural livelihoods or much-needed drinking water.

Today, our rural farmers are struggling, unemployment in rural areas has increased, with more than 23 crore Indians making less than Rs 375 a day. They are dependent on welfare schemes to manage ration. The post-Covid-19 uptake in gold loans and credit cards indicates the distress caused by the national lockdown, unemployment and joblessness, pay cuts, and increase in medical expenditure.

Given the enormity of the problem, it is a must for the government, corporates and society to work hand in hand. Each of us can be an important pillar and integral part of the solutions to overcome disparities experienced by rural Indians. Giving in kind, monthly donations, volunteering and being the ambassadors for organisations doing phenomenal work for rural development are a few ways of contributing to making rural India thrive. But, as Aristotle said, “To decide to whom to give it, and how large and when, and for what purpose and how, is neither in every man’s power nor an easy matter”. While many want to embark on this journey, there are many mental roadblocks one faces.

Every donation is a catalyst for change
A small contribution can help a farmer kickstart his sustainable income cycle and earn better. That in turn, enables the farmer to pay for his children’s higher education and his family and achieve economic independence. A donor also becomes a part of the chain reaction, motivating, and inspiring other people in his network to be a part of social good. I also believe that you don’t have to be very rich to give, anyone can give. An ecosystem of small donors can truly make huge changes. It can create a mindset change and create hope in the hearts of people, allowing them to contribute to meaningful causes.

Volunteering – a precious opportunity
I truly believe the best form of giving is give yourself, your precious time, energy and positivity by volunteering for a cause. Corporates can use giving as a precious opportunity to rally and enthuse their staff to come together for a cause. Volunteering trips to villages help deepen their understanding of our country.

Whom should I give to?
First, I would say, believe in the cause. Next, do your research on whom to give to. Check which non-profits have a good advisory board and conduct annual audits. The majority of non-profits in India have recently transformed their strategy of operations. With sound compliances, monitoring and evaluation, one can track every rupee donated. Many online platforms like GuideStar and GiveIndia can validate the credibility of non-profits. The transparency of non-profits can forge successful long-term relationships with donors.

How will giving help me?
I truly believe that giving makes us happier and if you don’t believe me, there is enough empirical evidence that throws light on the fact that people who donate to non-profits are happier, healthier and express more gratitude.

It allows people to contribute to a fairer and happier world. Volunteering helps to connect with more like-minded people and learn new skills. And if it counts, charity also has tax benefits. For corporates giving back for social good, employee engagement, work environment and customer relationships are enhanced.

Remember we are all connected with each other, this is not a time to sit back and be indifferent. You can make a difference. Start today. Donors—big and small, donations in kind, in money or in time add to the happiness of all and can build a better, happier, more just India.

The writer is the co-founder, managing trustee and director of the Swades Foundation.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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