What Is the State of Philanthropy in India?

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Why do you think there is so little philanthropy in India? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

India has long held a tradition to giving money to support spiritual and religious causes. It’s also had a long history of charity - basically giving to one’s immediate community, geography, religion, or to overcome distress. India’s history with philanthropy on the other hand is much shorter, starting with Jamsetji Tata in the mid 19th century.

The golden years of Indian philanthropy were actually in the mid-20th century - before and immediately after Independence. In fact, this period witnessed the establishment of a large number of foundations and trusts, with a much of the money going towards institution building – universities, research centers, and technical and medical institutions.

The practice of philanthropy suddenly died down in the 1950s; it has only now revived over the last 10 years. And we are now seeing India’s first-generation wealth creators come forward to engage in philanthropy in a significant way.

The response from India’s traditional business houses however, has been more muted. Some of it may have to do with preserving wealth for the successive generations. Since their wealth was inherited, there is a strong belief system that future generations of the family must be provided for as well, before giving to external, secular causes.

However, we still don’t actually know, empirically, how much philanthropy there is in India. This is because there is no data, apart from self-reported figures, and in some cases, certain lists like the Hurun list which make an attempt to capture this information, even if it is incomplete.

Similarly Bain & Company published a report in 2015 on philanthropy in India, estimating that the number of givers had increased by 100 million from 2009-2013 (this includes giving to individuals, nonprofits and religious institutions).

We also know that retail giving — small ticket size donations by individuals — has been around for a while and has single-handedly helped support some of India’s largest NGOs, like CRY, Helpage and others.

This article (Philanthropy in India: Where are we today?) published just this week on IDR provides an overview of philanthropy in India, with some numbers. It includes interviews of people working in this space, and there might be insights there that address your question.

Another good resource is Pushpa Sundar’s book —Giving with a Thousand Hands- The changing face of Indian philanthropy.

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