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Indian Americans volunteer at double the national average but give less financially, says survey

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NRI Pulse Staff Report

Atlanta, GA, July 24, 2018: Indian Americans volunteer at nearly double the national average but give substantially less financially, ultimately leaving significant social impact on the table,  according to the Indiaspora-Dalberg Community Engagement Survey. The community’s particularly keen engagement as philanthropic volunteers is encouraging but their lack of financial donations is disappointing, especially given that Indian Americans are among the highest earning groups in the US and have tremendous influence here and abroad. The study was designed and implemented by Dalberg Advisors with input from academic advisors Dr. Devesh Kapur (Johns Hopkins University) and Dr. Karthick Ramakrishnan (University of California Riverside). The survey serves as a tool to understand the philanthropic behavior of the Indian American community at large. Twenty-eight non-profit, community organizations helped Indiaspora disseminate the survey to their constituents.

The survey’s initial findings were discussed on July 17th during the Indiaspora Philanthropy Summit at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. We answered whether Indian Americans are good givers, and whether we give in alignment with the causes we are most passionate about. The survey paints a rich picture of the motivations and self-reported giving behavior of the Indian American donor community.

Said Indiaspora Founder, MR Rangaswami, “Today, we are discussing what lies next for Indiaspora in our role as a philanthropic catalyst, which is one of the core pillars of our mission. We are in the early stages of strategically planning what we should do to move the needle – which is to say, increase the amount of Indian American philanthropic giving in America and to India, and make it more effective.”

Added Dalberg Advisors’ Regional Director for the Americas, Joe Dougherty, “At over $3 billion dollars annually, the giving potential of Indian Americans is enormous. To put it into context, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation distributes $4-$5 billion across the entire globe every year. Imagine the kind of impact the diaspora could create if they met their giving potential. We hope that the results of this study help galvanize philanthropic efforts among this important—and influential—community.”

We find that the community is passionate about social impact, has a diversity of interests, are careful screeners and prolific volunteers. An Indian American donor typically volunteers 220 hours each year, far exceeding the U.S. national average of ~130 hours annually.

However, the community must not get complacent – the Indian Diaspora has a long way to go before we can call ourselves good givers. We find there exists a large “giving gap” in the realm of at least $2-3 billion. Further, we find a “passion-donation gap”, which means that the community does not necessarily give to those causes which it collectively claims to be most passionate about.

Moreover, women and men do not always rank the same causes in the same order of importance. For example, 59% of women listed gender equality as an area they are passionate about (tied with education as their top passion area) whereas only 26% of men said the same (only 6th on their list of passion areas). Finally, the community tends to view its business and investment activities as being almost entirely independent of their philanthropic engagements.

We also find credible evidence buttressing the pervasive notion that Indian Diaspora donors often lack trust in the philanthropic organizations they might wish to give to. In other words, donors harbor a “trust deficit”.

Indiaspora’s Philanthropy Summit event included keynote remarks from senior U.S. government officials and inspirational philanthropic leaders from India and various parts of America. Additionally, we had panel discussions on collaboration among philanthropic organizations, on-the-ground philanthropy in India, and social impact investing. Over 150 philanthropists, industry leaders, non-profit heads, government officials, academicians, policy experts, elected officials, students and members of the media attended.

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