March 20, 2012

US to launch website to help donate funds to Indian NGOs

Washington, Mar 19, 2012, (PTI)

To ease concerns over some NGOs in India misusing foreign aid, the US is set to launch an online portal that will help Indian-Americans to safely donate funds to non-government bodies back home.

At the initiative of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department is in the final stages of launching the ambitious website.

It would change the way Indian Americans and others make donations back home at the click of a mouse rather than going through a combursome bureaucratic process and getting rid of the strain of identifying the kind of genuine NGO that would help them deliver the money and services to the targetted group.

Following months of research and series of brain-storming sessions both in India and the US, the State Department is slated to launch website in late April or early May.
"Right now there are a lot of people, who want to help, want to give back, but it's not as easy as it should be," Mitul Desai, Senior Advisor for Strategic Partnerships in the US Department of State's South & Central Asian Bureau, told PTI in an interview.
With the help of Guide Star India, the State Department is working on the website which would put together all the genuine non-governmental organisations working in various parts of India in different field, Desai said.

All these NGOs, he said, would be certified by a third party and FCRA complaint.
This is designed to make it easier for Indian Americans, in fact any Americans, to support an NGO in India, he added.

Through a user-friendly interaction, the website would help individuals sitting in the US to identify NGOs working in various regions and various field of their choice to whom they can collaborate or send money for the work they want to get done, he noted.

Entrusted with the task, 18 months ago, of engaging all non-stake actors including foundations, non-governmental organisations, private sector and the Diaspora, Desai said initially it would start with donating money online, but overtime it could be actual tangible things and services too.

Hopefully it would become a hub for education, he said."Educating Indian American community about the importance of strategic giving, strategic philanthropy. India is a very big place, when you think about giving to India, think beyond the place you came from – think broadly what India needs, how do that really need, the concept of strategic philanthropy, which I think the Indian American community can help advance," Desai said.Precise data on the amount of charitable giving to India by Indian-Americans specifically (as opposed to giving to India by major foundations like Gates Foundation) is not readily available.

The estimates of total annual giving from the United States to Indian NGOs ranges from USD300 million to USD400 million, but this includes giving by major foundations like Gates, Ford, Dell and Rockefeller.

Desai hoped that this would become a place through which a lot of donations to India are given, but not necessarily the only one.

"There are so many different ways to contribute. Ultimately the sector itself has to decide," he said adding that the State Department is just adding to the conversation and letting the donor in US and NGOs decide what is the best.

Science and technology is another area of diaspora engagement.Indian Americans from the Silicon Valley have been brought on board of the India-US Science and Technology Endowment Fund, which decides on funding to major science projects.
Working on a major health project in Tamil Nadu with private partnership, Desai said health is another major area identified given the huge potential of the Indian American community in this field.

The members in India's Upper House of parliaments have recently said that the Centre should put in place a strong surveillance network to monitor inflow of foreign funds to NGOs, besides creating a database in the interest of national security

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