How To Ignite The Giving Potential Of The Indian American Diaspora Donor

The Indian American diaspora stands out as a group with philanthropic potential. Join Ashish Shah, a nonprofit leader at Indiaspora, for insights on who this growing population gives to, what motivates them, and what barriers they face in supporting causes they care about in India.


Ashish Shah

Community Relations Director, Indiaspora

Who He Is:

Ashish Shah is the Community Relations Director at Indiaspora, a nonprofit organization established to encourage members of the Indian diaspora to invest in meaningful causes worldwide. Ashish has a background in nonprofit management, consulting, and business development. He is also the founder of GivingRise, an online giving platform created to make giving to India from the U.S. simple and impactful.

Q. What makes the Indian American community an important group for charitable giving to nonprofits?

A: The Indian diaspora in the US is roughly 1 percent of the US population. The opportunity from these Indian American givers is tremendous and is expected to grow. In fact, one could argue that never before has this opportunity been so compelling. Consider these three factors:

1. Young and growing population: Of the three million people of Indian origin that live in the US, approximately two-thirds are between 20 and 35 years old. While these young, tech-savvy millennials may not be able to give large amounts, research done on giving patterns of millennials shows that, in general, about 60% of them give to charitable organizations.
2. High-income levels: The Indian-American household has the highest income level of any immigrant group in the US, more than twice the income level of the general US population.
3. Cultural and emotional ties: The diaspora in the US has strong ties with India. Many of them grew up in India, still have close family there and often turn to the country for their charitable giving.

These factors of age and population paired with disposable income and an emotional connect, arguably make the Indian diaspora uniquely predisposed to giving to Indian causes. People of Indian origin often work for big technology companies, many of which encourage a strong employee giving culture with generous matching programs as well.

Q.What is the annual giving potential of the Indian American community and how much of that reaches the Indian nonprofit sector?

A: In 2018, charitable giving by individuals in the US totaled an estimated $292 billion. If we apply these giving trends to the 1 percent Indian-American diaspora and assume that 40 percent of that giving is directed to India, that results in a giving of $1.2 billion or ₹7,800.

Q. Indiaspora and Dalberg worked together to conduct the Indian American Community Engagement Survey in 2017 and came out with many interesting learnings on the generosity of this community. For example, Indian Americans volunteer at nearly double the national average! However, financial giving was below average. Why do you think this is?

A: What was clear from the Indiaspora-Dalberg study was that while the diaspora is great at giving their time and volunteering, they lag behind in philanthropic giving even though they remain passionate about the causes. The primary reasons for this passion-donation gap can be categorized as follows:

1. Lack of sufficient information that provides reliable insight and perspective on the nonprofits they’re looking to support.
2. Skepticism towards nonprofits that results in a lack of trust in the donor community. Cultural attitudes that favor “informal giving” to friends and families over charitable organizations.
3. A sense that the community of donors is “underperforming” in the philanthropic giving space. This self-perception creates a negative feedback loop that means people end up giving less.

Q. What are some top tips you would give an Indian nonprofit that is looking at engaging Indian diaspora in their Daan Utsav – #GivingTuesdayIndia campaign this year?

A: A. Indian nonprofits looking to engage diaspora in their online fundraising campaigns should consider the following:

1. People are busy, make it easy: It is critical for nonprofits to design their giving campaign such that it is simple, yet compelling, and makes the giving experience easy and quick for the user.
2. Do not overwhelm potential donors with excessive information: Nonprofits should use the information on the campaign page wisely, with fewer words and more visuals (images, infographics, and videos) to effectively communicate the organization’s central message and the ask. Providing too much information on the campaign page might have little incremental value to potential donors and could, in fact, work against the organization by confusing and overwhelming donors.
3. Build trust: It is safe to assume that most first-time donors will have a reasonable amount of skepticism about the organization, especially when they are making the donation from thousands of miles away. The campaign needs to quickly establish transparency and credibility. Questions like “How is my money going to be used?” and “How will you keep me posted?” need to be addressed upfront and with clarity.
4. Ensure that potential donors can easily find you online: Once the online campaign is ready, it is best to customize the online outreach approach such that the nonprofit’s target audience, in this case, the Indian diaspora is easily able to find the campaign online. The more the organization understands who their primary audience is, the more effective they can be with their social media strategy and use of Google AdWords and other outreach tools.
5. Create champions, and use them smartly: This is perhaps the most effective way to increase outreach and raise funds for the organization. Nonprofits shouldn’t be shy to ask their network in the US (donors, supporters and friends) to champion their campaign and spread the word within their network. Having a few champions not only adds momentum to the campaign but also brings credibility and a personal touch to it. Also, creating a diverse group of champions–students, business leaders, social workers—in different US locations is ideal and something to consider as nonprofits grow their network.

GlobalGiving has partnered with over 700 vetted Indian projects spread across 21 states in the country. So, if you are looking to support the education of a child in rural Tamil Nadu, spread menstrual hygiene awareness in the heart of Uttar Pradesh, or support livelihood training of youth and women in the deserts of Rajasthan we have a project for you!

Find a project in your hometown to give back to until October 8, 2019, and help them earn additional matching through GlobalGiving’s #GivingTuesdayIndia – Daan Utsav campaign.

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Featured Photo: Empowering Villages In Rural India by Seva Mandir
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