The twist in India’s NGO tale: Strong numbers, low transparency

It is surprising that while India has one of the largest number of active not-for-profit, non-government organisations, most global donor agencies and voluntary agencies lament that they do not find enough "eligible partners" to work with. "We fund only around 250 NGOs in India. Finding professional, above board organisations that will follow transparent ways of functioning is a challenge (here)," says Nisha Agarwal, CEO, Oxfam India, a US-based organisation that mainly raises and donates funds to grassroots agencies. Oxfam's funding budget for 2009 was Rs 90 crore.

The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, in a first-ever official study of the not-for-profit institutions in the India, found that there were at least 3.3 million active NGOs operating in the country by the end of 2009. This essentially means India has one NGO for at least 400 people. Like Oxfam, Give India, a platform meant to help meet willing donors the eligible fund-seekers, has only 230 NGOs listed with it. "We work with only those NGOs who maintain a proper account of their funds and expenditure and can explain how the funds they raise get spent," says Venkat Krishnan N, Executive Director, Give India. "Unfortunately, a majority of NGOs in the country do not follow this practice for different reasons."

Leading NGOs themselves maintain that the presence of a large number for active voluntary organisations is deceptive because not all of them are involved in pure-play social activities. A large number of NGOs in the country, they allege, have been floated as a chief source of employment by their promoters, while in a large number of other cases, evading tax liabilities is the main objective, they say. "For every good organisation, we have one mischief player. And then, there are many who have the right intentions but do not know how to run a social sector development organisation in a professional and transparent way," says Krishnan, an IIM-Ahmedabad graduate, who set up Give India in 2000 with the intention of streamlining the muddled funding and donations culture in the country.

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