Deval Sanghavi talks to us about developing with fellow investment banker Neera Nundy a philanthropic investment model, Dasra, to bring rigour and discipline to the NGO sector

To run an NGO professionally is as important as working for an excellent cause, states Deval Sanghavi. U.S.-returned Deval worked on this insight along with fellow investment banker Neera Nundy a good 14 years ago to carve out Dasra, a philanthropic investment model that instils a highly focussed professional order in the NGO sector, something new in India then.

“Dasra means ‘enlightened giving’ in Sanskrit. We set it up based on our theory of change,” says Mumbai-based Deval during a visit to New Delhi. “We believe that if philanthropists and social entrepreneurs are equipped with the knowledge, funding opportunities and people to make their work more strategic, then the social sector in India will be transformed dramatically. Non-profits and social businesses will be able to create far more impact and benefit the maximum number of people faster,” he states. To drive home his point, he highlights statistics, that there are 3.3.million non-profits in India today, “which is one non-profit for every 400 people”. However, “only 500 non-profits have a budget.”

Dasra, he states, “has several niche initiatives to help both philanthropists and social entrepreneurs at various levels in their journey towards bringing about social change.” He names some — the NGO portfolio services, Dasra Giving Circle and Indian Philanthropy Forum (to encourage a dialogue on giving and generate funds) and Dasra social-impact programs (to train social entrepreneurs).

“We usually concentrate on NGOs which get funding between Rs. 1-5 crores. It is not just to help them handle funds better but also to give them managerial and strategic support so that they reach the next level of excellence in the field. So our job is not a one hour conversation with an NGO but going hand in hand with it after learning from it as to where it wants to go,” he says. “It typically takes about 6 to 9 months of creative support.”

An important aspect of the model is connecting the right philanthropist with the right NGO. “There is no dearth of philanthropists and with two per cent of profits of corporate houses now mandatorily required to go to CSR initiatives, it is even better. But the pattern has been that funders donate the money to someone they know…even if they are not the top rate change makers in the field because they don’t want to be cheated,” points out Deval. He feels the potential of creating a culture of philanthropy is immense in India. “India today has 127,000 millionaires which is expected to double by 2015. But only 25 per cent of giving in India comes from individual/s whereas that is 75 per cent in the U.S.”

So to create multiple stakeholders to accelerate social change in the country, Dasra — comprising a team of 40 now — collates comprehensive reports after researching various sectors and sub-sectors. It generates knowledge, maps and evaluates NGOs, their potential to bring about social change among other details. “So far, we have 14 such reports in different fields including one on NGOs that are using sports to draw out young people from the margins of society,” states Deval. “Last month, we launched such a report on generating livelihood for our craftsmen at a Fab India store in Mumbai. The report has reviewed 260 non-profits and identified 11 organisations with the potential to strengthen the livelihood sector. It is an important report considering we have 200 million artisans which is 20-25 per cent of the population,” he says. A similar report on anti-sex trafficking is underway, he adds.