How To Strengthen The Indian Nonprofit Ecosystem In 2019: A Conversation With Ingrid Srinath

Capacity-strengthening, bottom-up decision making, and solidarity will be key to breaking down roadblocks to progress in the Indian social sector in 2019, explains Ingrid Srinath, a sector leader with more than two decades of experience.


Indian philanthropy is going through an exciting phase with the nonprofit sector unleashing the power of the crowd more than ever before. But what does 2019 hold for the sector?

I interviewed Ingrid Srinath, the Founder and Director of the Centre for Social Impact and Philanthropy at Ashoka University, on her predictions and hopes for Indian philanthropy in 2019.

Ingrid has served as a passionate advocate for human rights, social justice, and civil society for the past 20 years. A graduate of the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, Ingrid transitioned to the nonprofit sector in 1998 where she has served as CEO of CRY (Child Rights and You), Secretary General at CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Executive Director of CHILDLINE India, CEO of Hivos India, and on a number of boards and advisory boards.

We discussed a few of the trends she expects to see in India in 2019:

Kavita: How do you envision philanthropy in India changing in 2019?

Ingrid: I think we can expect to see more Big Bang initiatives and commitments like Azim Premji Foundation’s against malnutrition, Tata Trusts cancer hospitals, Sunil Mittal university, CREA University, Central Square Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates education fund, as well as more public-private partnerships like the Piramal Foundation aspirational districts initiative. I expect we’ll also see more interest in new philanthropic instruments and new instruments from the broad social finance domain including development impact bonds, in addition to more risk aversion. However, I wish we could expect greater focus on root causes, more bottom-up decision-making, and attention being paid to building and strengthening the ecosystem.

Kavita: What are your thoughts around the desire for collaboration among nonprofits in India and the possible roadblocks to collaboration?

Ingrid: Collaboration will continue to be hard to achieve as long as we lack platforms and networks to build relationships, peer learning opportunities, and trust. Forcing nonprofits to operate on the very edge of survival results in unhealthy competition, not collaboration. A national network of nonprofits with regional/state chapters, which focuses on policy advocacy, peer learning, and solidarity would be an ideal solution. Failing that, an affinity group with a shared interest in the fundraising/comms/tech ecosystem would be a beginning. At the very least, funders could invest in convening their partners to achieve these goals on a smaller scale.

Kavita: What is one fundraising skill that nonprofits should invest in during the next year and why?

Ingrid: ‘Retail’ or individual fundraising—especially, but not limited to, digital. It’s the route to autonomy, resilience, public trust, and the attitude change that is the true goal of most nonprofit work. For the social sector at large to develop fundraising skills in India, I think it will primarily require a mindset change. However, India also lacks formal capacity building in all aspects of fundraising. Together, these are a powerful roadblock to change. The skill set required—market segmentation, positioning, communication, donor relationship management—is complex, but far from impossible to acquire if the desire to do so exists. In India, CRY, Save the Children, Helpage come to mind as success stories.

Kavita: What is your prediction for the growth of crowdfunding and retail fundraising in India in 2019?

Ingrid: I hope retail fundraising receives the investments it needs to achieve critical mass from both, funders and nonprofits. Right now, I think there are two primary missing pieces:

  1. Communication—There needs to be clearer communication from both nonprofits and crowdfunding platforms to donors and potential donors on the generic benefits of online giving. An industry/sector campaign on the lines of ‘Got Milk?’ might help.
  2. Capability—Nonprofits need a huge amount of capability and confidence building to embrace the transition to digital. This will be a slow and expensive task that is best accomplished collaboratively.

Making investments in these areas would unlock the immense giving potential of India’s huge middle-class and enable nonprofits to play the entire spectrum of roles a thriving democracy requires, rather than being limited to those areas that government, business, and wealthy individuals are willing to support.

Explore more 2019 hopes, predictions, and trends from philanthropy leaders across the globe.


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