Calling Upon the Indian Donor and Philanthropic Community to Join Hands Against the Pandemic  

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Mumbai, April 8, 2020: Three respected leaders from the field of philanthropy and corporate sector in India have issued a joint appeal to the CSR Foundations, funding and philanthropic organisations to urgently come together and focus their efforts in protecting the most vulnerable people—the elderly, the sick, the physically challenged, the poor and informal sector, migrant workers—affected by the COVID-19 crisis in India. 

The joint appeal, signed by Rishad Premji, Wipro Chairman, Rohini Nilekani, a well-known philanthropist and Founder-Chairperson of Arghyam, and Vidya Shah, CEO of EdelGive Foundation, has called for extraordinary and urgent measures to address the emerging crisis in the immediate term and over the long run. 

“As funders rally around the public health response and drug development, we must also help workers and their families ensure they can continue to put food on the table, economic opportunity on hand, have the ability to stay home from work when they or a loved one are sick and weather the economic and social storm that lies ahead,” they stated in the joint appeal. 

“This will call on all of us — philanthropy, government, the business community and non-profit groups — to act in extraordinary ways, calling on muscles we have not used since the Great Depression, Global Financial Crises, or perhaps never have in recent history,” the appeal further states. 

The appeal strongly underlines the need for CSR foundations and philanthropic organisations in India to join hands for a two-fold response to the global health pandemic. In the immediate term, it invites the large donor community in India to pledge for providing more effective support to and strengthening of their civil society partners by introducing flexibilities and undertaking measures in their grant-making and monitoring mechanisms.  

The flexibility measures include things like loosening or eliminating the restrictions on current grants, converting project-based grants to a framework funding or unrestricted support, accelerating payment schedules, and not holding grantees responsible if conferences, events, and other project deliverables are postponed or cancelled. It also called for making new grants as unrestricted as possible, so non-profit partners have maximum flexibility to respond to this crisis. 

“In these uncertain times, it is critical for us in the philanthropic sector to come together and support the most vulnerable. The ‘National Philanthropic Community’ will give us a platform to work towards a common goal today and for the future,” said Vidya Shah, CEO, EdelGive Foundation.

“We strongly welcome this as it is precisely the kind of action needed from big names of Indian industry, philanthropies and foundations for the long term battle against COVID-19 and its economic and social consequences once we are able to flatten the curve and be ready with the immediate challenge of health and lockdown,” said Amitabh Behar, Oxfam India CEO, who was involved in the process of drafting the appeal on behalf of the civil society. 

In the long-term, beyond COVID-19, the appeal envisions the formation of a collective forum called National Philanthropic Community (NPC) as a close-knit platform for peer-learning, knowledge creation and exchange of opportunity, leadership, and tools needed by philanthropic organisations to expand, deepen and sustain their missions and programme goals.  

This may involve setting up a limited pooled rapid reserve fund to focus on the near-term need to support vulnerable communities and workers as much as on supporting policy and strengthening non-profit organisations to promote sustainable economic recovery beyond the health pandemic. The appeal identifies technology-based innovation and solutions as playing an important role. 

“This flexible, coordinated and quick response to the current and future crisis is what the people need on the ground today. It is indeed far-sighted on behalf of the leaders to also envisage the need to join hands for supporting policy development for long-term economic recovery and building resilience,” said Jagadananda, Founder of the Centre for Youth and Social Development (CYSD).