I have always wanted to help those who find it hard to help themselves. I have been involved with a few charities in the past but it has not always been a great experience. First of all, it is overwhelming to choose a charity out of all the options that we have today. And every charity or NGO has similar claims of working for the people or surroundings who need support. These claims add to the confusion that I usually find myself in when choosing a charity . I am reasonably satisfied with my material life, what I wish now is a more meaningful existence. One of the avenues in my search is to stay connected with those who are making a difference on the ground supporting a neglected set of people or environment. However, the dilemma of choosing the right institution never goes away and I am sure it's an issue with many like me.
Couple of years back it was mentioned that the central government has released a list of “blacklisted NGOs” to help donors with information regarding performing and non-performing NGOs in their area. This list came after the government had already barred 1,000 NGOs from receiving financial aid from foreign countries saying that they were mis-utilising these funds. These facts add to the perceptions making it tough to move forward.
While for individuals, there are no standard steps to follow to conduct due diligence, some key considerations can help.
Match the agenda: It is important to make sure that the charity you are finalising is making a difference in an area that interests you. This can help having a higher engagement later on. So if you are passionate about helping homeless people, you would want to support a charity that works in the same area.
Research is the key: Assimilating all the information about the charity you are going to support can include visiting their website or getting in touch with them to request more information. If it is a local NGO, you can even visit their office and talk to them about their goals and everything else that you think is important. These discussions can include information gathering around their programs and activities to gauge the impact. Seeking financial statements to understand the history can help those who can make sense of accounting entries to assess the efficacy of operations.
Above is a theoretical guidance and people who are inclined to go by the book can choose above guidelines. However, Aradhana Kulkarni here shares some practical wisdom on the subject, demystifying the word “due diligence” itself. Coming from the development sector she is an authority in what she recommends. Aradhana is a Certified Trainer (MEPSC, Government of India) and Certified Auditor in Social Compliance (SA8000) by Social Accountability International, USA. She is also a subject matter expert in grant management for the non-profit sector, and has helped a number of NGOs in improving their grant management skills. She has been involved in a number of CSR projects, employee engagement projects, and volunteering projects amongst others.
Her tips :
According to Aradhana, these things are more than enough for individual donors to decide whether to go ahead or not. She also says that genuine NGOs respect nano donations, time donations and in kind donations. They provide receipt for in kind donations also, and an individual donor shouldn’t hesitate to ask them to prepare receipts immediately.