PODCAST: Be outcome-centric to engage better with individual philanthropists

There has been as much as a 6-fold increase in the last 5 years in philanthropic funding from private individuals, as per Bain & Company’s ’India Philanthropy Report 2017’.

While that figure has made for much news and all good from a non-profit’s point of view –  the Resource Alliance India’s Listen In Podcast team interviewed Anant Bhagwati, Partner at Bain & Company and one of the authors of the report, on what this means for the non-profit sector in actual terms.

In this podcast interview, Anant provides critical insights on how non-profits must be prepared to focus on stakeholder relationships, greater expertise and awareness and concrete outcomes, if they are to attract the right individual philanthropists to their resource mobilisation efforts.



RA India: Anant Bhagwati thank you very much for speaking to Resource Alliance India’s Listen In Podcast Series

Anant Bhagwati: Great to chat today

RA India: Ever since Bain and Company started studying Philanthropy in India– what are some of the game changing or major shifts in the sector that you have witnessed?

Anant Bhagwati: This is the 7th edition. It’s been a while we have been looking at this sector. I think there are 2 or 3 pretty important trends which are playing out. I think the first one really is; there has been a significant uptake on private philanthropy in India and this has been you know a very consistent theme and if anything, this trend is actually intensifying and accelerating now. I think a second one is really people are getting more conscious about outcomes and in a while initially it was much more action and effort focused, now there is increasing conversation both amongst philanthropists as well as among NGOs around outcomes centricity.  And, I think the last one is, and this is the latest trend, which is I think is a game changer, people are starting to think about the ecosystem view while trying to solve a problem. And for example, in adolescent girls it is not just enough to give money to an NGO but think about the infrastructure, the teacher quality and how the community thinks about the adolescent girl and I think that’s a third very important shift or trend which you know we are seeing right now.

RA India: And I know the report is from the givers point of view (the latest report) but looking at it from a non-profit’s perspective – what would be the ideal approaches that they should take if they want to partner with these individual philanthropists?

Anant Bhagwati: A great question. As we did the report, we also work a lot with non-profits and to get their perspective. Our view is from a non-profit’s sense one needs to start becoming best of breed in a particular area. Gone are the times when one is going to be very generic and is not going to have focused expertise, focused capabilities and focused relationships in a particular area. So, if I was a non-profit founder, really choosing that one or two areas, which could be a combination of a cause and a geography, where one is really going to be deep in and then thinking through all the stakeholders that I need to interact with, including the government to actually drive outcome, I think would be great. And then thinking about who are the individual philanthropists who are passionate about that area and who are the ones who are likely to become passionate in that over the next 5 years will actually be, quite valuable.

RA India:  What should they (non-profits) keep right up front when looking to raise money or even time or partner with these philanthropists?

Anant Bhagwati: So I think they will have to be segmented. So, for example if one is a non-profit which is already established, one of the things that we are seeing is there are different kinds of philanthropists which are there in the market today and there are those who are deep into a particular topic whether it’s around education, whether it’s around health or even around environment, if one is trying to partner with those philanthropists one would really have to push the boundaries on impact and ecosystem impact. Having said that, there is also a group of philanthropists who are starting off their journey and a large part of the what the NGOs should be doing is education and creating awareness and almost sharing war stories and best practices. So, a little bit of a segmented approach, where one thinks about what is the maturity level of that philanthropist and changing the messaging across that, would I think be very valuable.

RA India:   Interesting, there are very interesting pathways and there is a graphic that you have in the report where you map the nature of giving and engagement with the sector – can you elaborate more on that aspect?

Anant Bhagwati: Sure absolutely  and right before as mentioned in the report, there is no right or wrong and there is no better or worse. This is not a capability maturity spectrum, but having said that what we are finding is because of personal passion as well as because of their time availability as well as based on what they bring to the table, there are 4 quite distinct cohorts which are emerging in the space today. So, if I could spent a minute on what these are; there are those who are starting the journey and you know some of these are third generation of business families who are aware of what their parents and grandfather have been doing around philanthropy but want to discover their own philanthropic mission. There are others who are CEOs or CXOs or senior people in corporates who have time, may not have as much money, but really want to bring skill into the NGO world. Then there are those who have capital, who really invest a lot of money and want some returns for that from a social perspective but do not have the kind of time or in some cases don’t want to get as hands-on as some of the others. And then lastly there are those who are so passionate that they not only give money but also want to use their own voice to further the cause of a particular issue and that could be around advocating with the government, it could be around creating voice with other philanthropists, which we are calling as evangelists. But you know what we are seeing which is quite interesting is, there are some of them who actually move from one to the other over a space of 3 to 5 years. But there are others who actually specialise in an area, are comfortable there and stay there but are extremely effective in that particular cohort. So in a way reflecting what is the cohort that one belongs to, learning from the very best in that cohort and then also thinking about where one will be 3 to 5 years from now, could actually trigger a very useful set of actions from a philanthropists’ side.

RA India: And interestingly you just alluded to something you said in the report ‘No such thing as a right way to give’, what is it that non-profits can take away from this?

Anant Bhagwati: This is one of those, where non-profits have to buck the trend a little bit. One of the things which happens especially when you are an early stage giver is one sometimes gets caught in an analysis paralysis and in the hunt for finding that perfect cause and the very perfect NGO, one starts pushing so much into analytics and so much into getting more and more data overload that one just doesn’t get started. On the other extreme NGOs also sometimes pander to this and don’t call out the fact that at some point you have to start the journey to start getting smarter there. So I think the message we want to give is ‘look no one has jumped to a sophisticated philanthropist from day one’. They’ve started the journey somewhere and then they have either matured there or they have moved on, but getting started is actually critical and that’s why trial and error, getting started and learning from that process is I think very critical. Which is what we are trying to call out.

RA India: Alright, Anant Bhagwati thank you very much for speaking to Resource Alliance India’s Listen In Podcast Series

Anant Bhagwati: Wonderful. Thank you for your time.

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