Thursday, January 13, 2011

Financial Sustainability for organizations like mine-Is it possible?

One thing that has not changed in the last two decades of my mission is my "begging bowl". Way back in 1995 I used go around begging for a few thousands to run my small initiative. Insults, humiliations and rejection were more during those days. I remember once going to a rich businessman who was highly titillated by my mission,kept asking me hundred questions on what customers do to children, gave me a cup of tea and then took out his wallet searched among the 500 and 100 rupee notes, took out a Rs 50 note and gave it to me,and said very solemnly "this is my contribution for your cause, my company does not have a policy right now but if there is one I will surely make a larger contribution"!
In another instance a leading automobile showroom located at Basheerbagh,Hyderabad promised me Rs 10,000/ after making me run around for over a fortnight and then insisted that I sign on a receipt for Rs 40,000/ to actually get Rs 10,000/. Arrogant as I was then( still remain the same) I refused the donation and came back and promptly lost two well wishers who had made the connections.

Today of course the situation has changed I am not running for thousands but for millions. Rarely do I meet people who can rip me apart with their insensitivity, rarely do I have nightmares fearing how am I going to feed my children in my shelter...even more rarely do I break down overwhelmed with frustration "how long should I prove my credibility...how much do I need to damage myself so that the world understands that I am doing all this genuinely"...

But has my begging for support changed? Not at all? It is sometimes even worse than my earlier days. People think that I am extravagant to aim for a safe space for children. Donors, international agencies, supporters have a myriad reasons for cutting off support...it can range from recession to "your cause does not catch my fancy", or better still this cause is now no more our thrust area!!!.

That I continue do what I am doing is considered a demonstration of arrogance rather than commitment. I even had a well wisher telling me if you cannot look after these children, hand them over to the government! All because I went begging for support to construct our buildings.

And finally the million dollar question most donor agency ask" how is your organization going to become sustainable" we cannot be funding you eternally...

True so what should I be doing? Should I make my initiative a profit making unit charging huge interests for the services I am providing like what the Micro Finance Institutions like SKC are doing? Whom should I charge every time I risk my life and my team's to rescue victims? Whom should I charge for taking care of hundreds of child victims of trafficking? Whom should I bill for economically empowering thousands of young survivors of trafficking? Whom should I ask to pay for all the cremations/funerals I have to give to ensure a dignified exit from this world for my children( incidently not a single donor/supporter is willing to donate for a cremation)?

Or should I temporarily forget my main mission and become a actress, or a spiritual leader a mata"something" or maybe a sadhvi"something", or a celebrity chef...(I cannot go further as my talents are limited). It appears a large group of people are willing to donate to one of these more generously...

Today as I am surrounded by multiple financial crises- donor for our children's shelter phasing out, our second generation prevention program donor phasing out, our rescue efforts-no donors at all and biggest of all our construction of shelters which has over-shot the budget by 2 crores as the cost of building construction material( sand,cement,steel etc) has shot up by 250%... I am seriously thinking how does anybody expect us to become financially sustainable.Especially in a context when we are not even sustainable in terms of human resources!!!

It continues to be a great challenge to get people to work with us full time.For ages we are looking for somebody who can do our documentation for donor compliances ( believe me it is not possible to sit far away and do it as it requires a lot more of understanding of the pulse of the work )...or exclusively work on fund raising...or look after the advocacy...or work on marketing... Every time there is a physical attack on the organization the first persons to leave are the 'professionals', most cannot handle the pressure...including the pressure related to working with a person like me.

But I am sure there must be something logical and sensible in this expectation of 'sustainability'...just figuring out how to do it in a world which is slowly shrinking in terms of 'giving'...cutting down and downsizing is for humanitarian work( you will understand what I am saying if you see the budgets allocated for social sector)...but financial investments for war...ammunition...terrorism...marriages...scams(2G, CWG, IPL)...even auctioning for cricketers continues to grow with electrifying speed...

And fools like me continue to beg for constructing a safe shelter for victimized human beings...

48 comments:

  1. True Sunitha, you have a greater challenge. "Why can't you try auctioning some of your inmates after teaching them some skills'? It is all a case for money, non-profit does not mean making 'no profit'. If you want aid, then you have to give too!

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    Replies
    1. I dont think victims (Not inmates) would like to be auctioned given their past experiences. And I dont think Dr. Krishnan is trying to give them skill sets to "sell" them. She is trying to equip them to deal with the modern world and rise on their own. Selling them would go against what she is trying to do.

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  2. Why should service organizations be required to become "sustainable"? That's what donors are for? THEY should be sustainable.

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  3. Hello Sunitha,

    In my opinion, self-sustainability is inevitable regardless of the nature of the organisation. Even if it was not a question asked by your prospective supporters, I think it is a valid problem. This does not mean you have to make your venture a profit making one.

    For example you could train your inmates with skills that could lead to small level productions which could earn enough.

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  4. The kind of figures that you are quoting are intimidating...so I really don't know the answers to your question. To keep an organisation sustainable with that kind of money, you may need to invest in training the girls in skill sets that can obtain for them proper employment -- so that they can in return give back to you.

    Also, why are you so against spirituality? Indians don't have emotional support systems, despite having close knit families...most of the time the emotions are suppressed...which is probably part of the reason for the sexual abuses...don't grudge them their filmi and spiritual escapades...on the contrary if you strengthen your own spiritual reach it will only help you. Vedic spirituality is magnificent.

    I realise this post is somewhat stupid and hardly the kind that would satisy your query, but I felt compelled to respond. I am still pondering over your question.

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  5. Dear Anonymous friend/other friends,
    I am a extremely spiritual person and I have no problems whatsoever if people throw all their wealth,land...on GODMEN/GODWOMEN. But I feel saddened when the same generosity is not shown to genuine causes( and I don't mean only mine or my own organization).
    Skill building and employability of the girls is the primary mandate of the organization but girls contributing back can only be a small percentage of the running cost of running two shelters with over 400 children and adults.
    I am sure i will also find my answers...these musings are the frustrations before I reach there.

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  6. You have taken a challenge, no one can understand the goal you have actually set, no one actually knows what you are going through, no one can feel the passion which you are investing.So you are the best judge. Don't get discouraged and call yourselves a fool.There's always a way for everything, you find it, your brain is capable of.
    - a small unknown man

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  7. Based on my experience all I want to tell you is not to seek, put your confidence in men/human beings. At the end of the day you only have a few people you give/contribute with the right intentions. What you are doing is huge and only a small percentage of people really do what you do so I believe you should put all your energies in seeking and asking God to take care of your needs and he will provide (in many ways).

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  8. Sunitha - may be one way to do this is to start a US/UK based chapter for this and if people know well in advance, we could work towards the goal. Also i see that there is an oppurtonity to break the required donations into smaller parts which people are more comfortable donating like for example - One computer for the girls or lunch for the entire set of girls...

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  9. What i meant was - if people know exactly what they are donating for they will be more comfortable.

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  10. JUST CHECK OUT YOUR FACEBOOK MESSAGE LIST,I HAVE MAILED U in YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT WITH SOME PRACTICAL SOLUTION>...Ravi Kiran-College Student

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  11. Would tie ups with some of the more reputable industrial houses & construction firms work? You train young women in skills that are in demand.. (like Masonry etc right?)so if you could get an agreement with some of the bigger more reputable builders etc, who undertake to employ your proteges with full benefits as well as sustainable funding to keep this going, They can write it off under their charitable wing budget for tax purposes, your organization receives its funding & most important, a lot of deserving girls get the second chance they deserve...(You've probably heard this before i'm sure, but it just struck me & I'm blabbing!)
    I wish there was some way your good work could come under the radar of the likes of Oprah winfrey, Good luck Sunitha!

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  12. I donno about sustainability ..i have been working from past 16 months..would like to contribute more..i am also spreading the word...get as much as donations u can ..i will keep trying ..i also forced my mum to donate for the cause...

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  13. Hi, I am a graduate student in Singapore and an admirer of your work. Unfortunately, i can only offer my thoughts on this matter. Regarding sustainability, I'm sure you have thought of starting independent businesses/small-scale industry (garment for e.g.) which can employ the people whom you provide shelter to, since other industries are so reluctant to hire them? This might provide the necessary funding in the long term. I'm sure its difficult to do since u have so much trouble sustaining the shelter itself...but that may be the only way for financial sustainability. However, apart from financial sustainability, I guess the whole charity/mission needs to be sustainable in your absence? Wishing you all the best in your future endeavours and looking forward to your musings and updates.

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  14. This is Yashwanth
    Dear Sunitha,

    I have attended the conference which you were a part of , at the collectors office, in the month of September, 2010.

    At a personal level, I gained great strength and influence after talking to a person like you. Things like peer pressures, family disturbances, parasites within family are now things that least bother me... after the struggles that u have faced.

    speaking about sustainability of an institution. I think great institutions and great people start off with small degree of sustainability. Unity is strength, I feel, and I think that this is what should possibly help in achieving sustainability.

    One day at a time... Sunitha!

    Someone said... Yesterday is gone,
    Tomorrow is a dream,
    Today is a gift
    that is why it is called "Present"

    I believe, if children of your institution believe in this and maintain their efforts.. it can surely go a long way to achieving sustainability in both present and future.

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  15. pls let me know, ito which account i should deposit it into? i don want to know whom or what you use it for madam. the work you do is incredible. i trust you. i shall give as much as i can. if you dont mind i would like to meet you and give it to you... anytime that your free..

    with regards
    sinduri

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=599100924.

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  16. Sinduri, please check our website www.prajwalaindia.com ( how you can support us page), the account no' are there on the page. You are welcome to meet me at my office in Charminar,hyderabad

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i wish i knew about you 1year ago when i worked in hyd..i cud meet you and help you.but now, i am jobless and my health does not perit me to travel..plz wish me luck to get a job soon so that i can atleast help you finantialy.

      Delete
  17. Sustainability is the only solution for your foundation. When you become sustainable on your own you will be strong enough to run and avail funds . Any non profitable organization which avails excess funds will be sustainable. I'd definitely love to help you as an Architect if required..,Through Knowledge!!!

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  18. i am yr blog follower and in my very own limited resources do support yr work as a spreading info on yr work etc... i am of the opinion, the below lines come to my mind... to instill this concept in to a rescued and abused child is simply a huge task..but the concept will help over a period in time...till then the society has to support many who do work like you... its imperative and their first duty

    To be totally free one needs to be totally aware, because our bondage is rooted in our unconsciousness; it does not come from the outside. - Osho

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  19. I trust you Sunitha.
    You made your life to be a helping hand to our society.
    As you said, you cannot achieve financial sustainability as you are not conducting a commercial institute. But you devoted your entire life to work for the innocent girls.
    We proud of you.
    What we can do is to donate a part of our earnings to this organization.
    That we will do.. and we will make others aware about its importance.

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  20. It is perhaps of relevance here as the link below might be helpful to you in conserving some funds. Do scan through and apply if you find it suitable.
    http://forum.thebetterindia.com/topic/10

    I heard you at Saptaparni the other day. Till I can be as brave as you are in joining you actively, I am goiing to make my contribution by making you heard wherever I can.

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  21. I am no expert to comment , but have been spiritually inclined , providing a practical solution , u can actually seek some help or guidance from our quintessential GURUS(destroyer of darkness),to name i know are Sant Asaram Bapu and Ramdev baba.

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  22. Dear Sunitha,

    As you are a well experienced professional, I am sure you have already given this thought but I am just giving you my idea. I agree with the person who mentioned having a US or CANADA chapter. I live in Toronto Canada and eliminating human trafficking, especially in India is a passion of mine. As a new social work grad, I am limited in resources, however, I do believe that if a Canadian chapter was initiated, funds could be raised in Canadian dollars which could be quite beneficial to you. I am interested in starting something like this. Please let me know if I can help - my email is aadhanda@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. I think you need to market yourself better. My organization (Microsoft) has a "giving campaign" every year where millions are donated to various NGOs. I wanted to donate to your NGO and was suprised to find that you were not even listed there! Other NGOs come, give talks, showcase what they are doing etc. Your TED talk was so powerful, if you could give one here in the coming year, am sure you will find long term supporters who will donate for you every year.
    And yes, a US or Canada chapter will help

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  24. I recently watched your TED talk. I cannot imagine the horror the children and women you rescue deal with. Its shocking to see the extent of human cruelty and insensitivity. I am with you in your mission and will support you every way I can.

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  25. I have read about you.

    You have the courage to make a difference that all the softies commented here put together, will never have. If they can put their money where their mouth is then they will pull their wallets out and make a generous contribution.

    However, I feel creating an US/UK chapter is a worthwhile route to consider towards finding a solution to your organisation's long-term financial stability.

    All I wanna know is, do you accept payment in GBP currency?

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  26. dear Anonymous
    thank you...you can send us a cheque of any currency.please check our website www.prajwalaindia.com on how you can support us

    ReplyDelete
  27. Sunitha, what you said is true. I think our direction should be towards sustainability, though we may not achieve it completely. We always think in terms of currency only for most of the time. We need to think equally in terms of relationships, goodwill, credibility, skills & capacities & qualities, either in personal life of in organisational life.
    If we are having firm belief on what we are doing, then we need to share our needs & problems explicitly with our well wishers & also with the "beyond vision constituency" which is a huge untapped resource & you have done it rightly by sharing your feelings here. We may need to make more clear plan & reach to the targeted audience, where there is a possibility of getting solutions to our problems. The solutions are always there, we need to change our way of searching. It is true with currency issue also. We need to break down it in smaller acceptable form.

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  28. i am very inspired by ur thoughts..i would definitely contribute..

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  29. Hi Sunitha Krishnan

    I'm a university student from Taiwan, I recently watched your TED talk. I want to tell my thanks to you, because your job and actives that us know about the fact of human trafficking and sexual exploitation of children.

    And I with my friend worked with ECPAT Taiwan, We have a Teenage group call YATT (Youth act together, Taiwan), We want to tell the Taiwan's society and young students the importance of children's rights and against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. I hope that we will meet one day.

    Chen, Ruei-Jhe

    P.S. My English is very poor, Hope you can understand.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi Aarti,

    If you are planning on fundraising (or related) or this cause I will be happy to help you! Please let me know, you can email on jai_shari@hotmail.com

    Take care,
    Shar

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  31. Keep fighting the good fight. I am putting your TED talk on my website. I have been reading about how most chocolate in the USA (I live in the USA) comes from slaves in Africa. It is amazing how many people in my country will complain about how slaves were treated in this country 150 years ago, and how people should have stopped buying cotton from slave plantations ... but then these same people consume porn and chocolate, where is the moral conviction now?

    Thank You for your blog and for your efforts Ms Krishnan.

    I apologize for "advertising" right now, but this might be the place where those who are experts in human trafficking could make suggestions. My contribution right now is to raise awareness. If anyone has anything that I might like, my web site is GreenSlugg.com and I am open to suggestions. I work on a lot more than human trafficking, but I want to raise awareness for things that need to be known, so that people like Ms. Krishnan can focus more on serving.

    Shalom,

    Greg

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  33. Did you try, corporate help. There are corporates who help NGOs and their employees work in it as a part of the corporates contribution to social service.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sunitha,

    The struggle for survival is never small!. Moreover, the statue that gets the maximum hits is the best sculpture in the world and I am sure you are brave enough and would come out of this struggle too.

    Read the below given: http://www.gatesfoundation.org/grantseeker/Pages/how-to-apply-global-health.aspx

    Look out for similar organizations that have Philontrophy as a part of their existence and those are the organizations that you should focus on to approach. You are not begging for your cause....you are acting a god's messenger to his perfect actions in the human form against the human atrocities. So dont give up.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Dear Sunitha,

    I understand the difficulties of raising funds for a non profit organisation. There are so many celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Jolie-Pitt & other prominent people like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton have charities that do a lot of philonthropy work. http://www.aif.org/ apply for grants and other.
    Also there are people who share their expertise with non profit organizations to reach out to the philanthropists.
    Check out this site as well http://www.ehow.com/how_5058336_personal-cash-grants-philanthropists.html

    I will do my best to spread the word and also donate in which ever way I can...

    ReplyDelete
  36. Dear Sunitha,
    God Bless You and all the children rescued by you. I will try and spread the word for you.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Have you approached the Tata trusts for any support?

    ReplyDelete
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  39. Dear Sunitha,
    I heard your TED talk on youTube. The thought of being useful has not left me since. I have written a mail to you too with my resume for any voluntary service that I can do. But distance is surely the deterrent as I surmise from your blog. I want to know whether I can contribute a fixed small amount monthly (as for CRY, UNICEF schemes) to Prajwala. Reply Please.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hi Sunitha,
    I went to prajwalaindia.com to decide about my donation plan. First I didn't understand why you have it as a ".com" and not a ".org". Superficial as it may sound but it makes a difference in the mind of the visitor. Second, I didn't find anything about your annual balance sheet on the site. When I look at donating to organisation, I first try to find out "will it be used for something good". I try to personally visit the place once. If I cant do that, I see "how transparent their financial system is?". I know accounting also eats up money.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  42. i realy like your blog and appreciate your work...i to own a website if you wish have a look
    on for freshers jobs

    ReplyDelete
  43. I just redirected to your blog for first time, while googling for something else. Sunitha, I believe in God, and you are close to God. Believe in yourself that you are doing right. Love your intentions. Keep going.

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  44. Good job Sunitha.. My best wishes and good luck for Prajwala.. Keep going..

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  45. Hello Sunitha,


    Let me know how can i help. I would like to donate money..just a small help for great cause. Keep up the great work.

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  46. Ma'am I m a student ( xii class) , don't know what to say .... All are saying ( in above comments) that u train ur gals... At first I found the idea really stupid ( how cud mentally n physically weak gals work!! ) but now I can see the other side of the coin, if u could help the gals too become self reliant, then what else could be a better gift! could it will make them feel really proud that they r worthy of something....!! I know police and govt. Will intervene and maybe that's why u hvnt started this.. Ma'am plz dnt mind but I think u need media,I know u r a person of principles n morals, but think of the ones who r dependent on u.... This country is deaf n will only hear when u r popular!

    ReplyDelete