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Monday, March 24, 2008

Untapped Potential: China & India NGO Sectors

A recent article about India’s state of NGOs had an unsurprising quote: “Most of [our] NGOs suffer from [a funding] crisis. There are 1.2 million NGOs in India but less than one per cent of NGOs has professional fund-raisers and that too in the metros only, what about other cities? The potential of giving in the country is huge but we are tapping a mere fraction of it."

In the article, India could easily be replaced by the United States or any other country for that matter. All countries could make the case for greater funding going to the NGO, or nonprofit sector. One would be hard pressed to find a nonprofit that does not struggle with the need for more funding (we are not talking about charitable foundations, of course.) While the United States has long been admired by many other countries for its individual generosity, 99% of us could probably afford to give more to charity, but we don’t. So the potential for increasing philanthropy remains huge in the United States as well. While $295 billion a year in philanthropy in the United States is remarkable, there is certainly room to increase giving in a $14 trillion a year economy.

China and India have been grabbing headlines for the last 5 to 10 years for their explosive economic growth, and in particular the growth of many individuals that have become very wealthy. (The article states there are 87,000 millionaires in India today.) While cries for more money is certainly legitimate, I propose that more money is not the ultimate answer to achieving greater social impact. Yes, it takes money to get things done – paying a sufficient salary to staff, expanding programs, keeping the electricity and phones going – but it is not the only thing. It also takes a good plan, a well-structured organization, talented and dedicated staff, and a sufficient public policy environment for a nonprofit to succeed consistently.

As the economic boom in China and India continue with the rapid modernization of economic and business structures, the creation of wealth is happening. What follows is a witness of the infancy of the NGO sectors in China and India. For these countries, it is an amazing opportunity to build an NGO sector almost from scratch. The philanthropic outpouring, sooner or later, will happen. But it also takes strong leaders to build organizations and programs that will have an impact on society.

For Asian-Americans, to observe and see how things will develop is exciting. If you have the knowledge and talent to go and get involved in participating in this development, it may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. The potential for the Indian and Chinese NGO sectors, and not just the potential for giving, is just beginning to be tapped.
By Andrew Ho


Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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