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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 11, March 16, 2024

Philanthropy of Ordinary People | Bharat Dogra

Friday 15 March 2024, by Bharat Dogra


Philanthropy is generally associated with rich people, but some of the best work for the poor can be done with the help of small donations given by ordinary people. One reason for this is that unlike extremely rich people, ordinary people are much more likely to identify with issues of justice and equality. Secondly, as they have to really squeeze their personal expenses to find the money for giving, they are likely to take much more interest in trying to ensure that their precious donation is used wisely.

So promotion of philanthropy of ordinary people is a cause that deserves much more attention than it receives generally. It is also a cause dear to this writer, and having pursued this very sporadically earlier, in my elderly years I’ll like to give more attention and time to this.

One of the calls I like to give is for ordinary people to donate just about 2 per cent of their net income. Thus an office assistant or a teacher earning about Rs. 50,000 a month can also donate Rs. 1000 a month or Rs. 12000 a year. As this is so doable, when a very large number of people do this, this can lead to a very a significant sum of money reaching the poorest very regularly.

The way I visualize this, these donors are encouraged to get involved with any poor households who live or work near them. Several of such donors can form a group to donate for any cause that helps the poor in their area. In my scheme of things, centralization of sending donations to any one place is discouraged, as I would like donors to retain a living contact worth people they are trying to help.

However in those cases where the donors insist they need help in identifying to whom they can send their donation (one reason could be that they do not see extreme poverty close to where they are living) someone like a sincere voluntary organization can be contacted or even a writer like me, who has been regularly visiting places where extreme poverty still exists, can be contacted. Even in such a situation, I never receive any money myself but merely direct the donors to those groups or organizations, mostly in remote areas but sometimes also in cities, who can utilize their donation properly and in the right spirit.

We have been trying to identify several types of work which can be supported. One is to set up a food bank in a village where during the lean season of low employment people can borrow some food grain and return it in better times, so that no one goes hungry in difficult times. Here in India this costs about Rs. 18000 to Rs. 20000 to set up and become functional. If difficult times drag on and returns are low, then some addition to stock may be needed later, but otherwise this can continue with returns equal to borrowings. During serious drought years there may not be much hope of returns because of the extreme distress of people. As the entire idea is to help people, they cannot be asked to return grain in times of acute hunger. In such difficult times the same donor or some other donor must be asked to fill up the storage box anew.

The second idea we are trying out in those villages where a significant number of children from poorest households are still out of school. So villagers are encouraged to build a small hut, and a village youth is encouraged to more or less volunteer for teaching work. However Rs. 1500 are given to him or her just as a little encouragement. Now our village school is ready to function for as little as Rs. 18000 per year, but we add Rs. 500 each for a small feast on four festive occasions in a year, and our budget goes up to Rs. 20000.

However a few suggestion came that keeping in view that most children are from very poor families, we should serve a little to eat every day and when this is done every day, then the monthly budget comes to about Rs. 5000, and the annual budget goes up to Rs. 80,000.

These are just a few ideas we are trying, and more will emerge.

(Author: Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071 and When the Two Streams Met. His web-site is and he can be reached at bharatdogra1956[at] )

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