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Behind the Scenes with Pushpa Aman Singh, #GivingTuesdayIndia

29 Jul 2018 by GivingTuesday

This week, we sat down with Pushpa Singh. Pushpa is the leader driving India’s #GivingTuesday movement which is celebrated as a part of #DaanUtsav, India’s annual festival of giving. Here’s what Pushpa had to say about her experience so far championing #GivingTuesdayIndia.


Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and how did you get involved with the social good world?

Pushpa: I was born in India and grew up in different parts of the country. I went to business school and did not initially have plans to be in the social sector. I literally stumbled upon this sector because I came across an organisation called GiveIndia which talked about how to create a more equal world and how philanthropy through a financial services approach could be applied to bridging the gap between haves and have-nots. I spent my early years with GiveIndia and then I came across Buzz Schmidt who founded GuideStar in the US and seemed to have the perfect answer to bridging the information gap about nonprofits in India. It felt like the right thing to do to address the information gap to support the philanthropy ecosystem in India. I felt like this was the way for me to make a really big difference: encourage NGOs to come forward and tell their story, voluntarily share information, inspire trust through transparency & public accountability, and ultimately build a portal that would organise NGO information to advance philanthropy.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in #GivingTuesday?

Pushpa: I think in the early years of #GivingTuesday, Asha had reached out to me and I connected her with Venkat Krishnan of Joy of Giving Week (now DaanUtsav) which I thought was the best fit for #GivingTuesdayIndia, since there was already a week of celebrating giving. Last year the DaanUtsav folks reached out to us and asked if GuideStar India would become the country partner for #GivingTuesday. Since the GuideStar India journey in the last few years has taken us much closer to connecting nonprofits with crowdfunding portals, the timing felt right for GuideStar India to take on #GivingTuesday. We saw it as a great platform and an anchor for bringing all of the various actors together while furthering our mission of enabling philanthropy in India.

Q: What has worked well for #GivingTuesday in India so far?

Pushpa: The last #GivingTuesday was a pilot as a part of the Joy of Giving week #DaanUtsav. Since this week was already in its 9th year and there has been a fairly strong movement built up, we were keen to make #GivingTuesdayIndia an inclusive celebration, creating more opportunities to give, especially online. What really got traction last year was crowdfunding. NGOs raised Rs13.5 million from over 1500 online donors through campaigns driven by our crowdfunding collaborators. Over 27,000 people were engaged. Several NGOs carried out a range of offline activities engaging local communities, ranging from vaccinating the elderly for pneumonia, to planting trees, to organising school bags and stationery for children and fundraising fetes. In another instance, corporate employees launched a book collection drive.

Q: What challenges have you faced in getting #GivingTuesday in India off the ground?

Pushpa: Last year the key challenge was the lead time. We signed up for the partnership with just a little over two months to go for our first ever #GivingTuesday in India.

Q: What’s the potential or impact of the movement in India?

The big opportunity is to present #GivingTuesday to India’s online community of over 50,000,000 people, ten percent of whom are engaged in e-commerce. Since GuideStar India is the largest information repository in India with more than 8,600 NGOs, we could present all of these organisations on www.givingtuesdayindia.org for people to search and connect with NGOs serving causes of their choice. There would also be about 500 NGOs certified by GuideStar India to which people could donate online. Many of our collaborators would have interesting incentives and matching grants. Citizens could participate through campaigns such as #MyGivingStory, shop for a cause, donate in kind, or join the fundraising challenge for corporate employees. College students are also volunteering to support NGOs with social media and digital marketing.

Q: What is one of your favourite #GivingTuesday stories?

Pushpa: The positive reaction from NGO partners has been the highpoint for me. Last year, we did workshops in four cities, with NGO leaders from across the country in attendance. At these workshops, we presented fundraising ideas from the global GivingTuesday HQ and from #DaanUtsav’s campaigns. As we began explaining how nonprofits could localize those ideas to their own settings, many nonprofit leaders shared that they were excited and inspired. Some of them said they had never felt so confident and positive ever before. This was powerful to me because these are India’s change-makers. Knowing they were optimistic and motivated about what they could take back to their organisations was important in validating the movement here.

Q: What are you most looking forward to for #GivingTuesday 2018?

Pushpa: I am looking forward to working on more campaigns with crowdfunding portals, corporates and NGO partners. We want to get #GivingTuesdayIndia in front of more people, while making giving fun, with a variety of choices, just a click away. I also look forward to a data project we are working on that will help all partners to learn more about giving.

Q: One of the reasons the #GivingTuesday movement has been so successful globally is because of the vision and leadership of country and community leaders like you, who step up in the name of social good. What does leadership mean to you?

Pushpa: I hold this strong belief that everyone is inherently filled with goodness and wants to do good if given the opportunity and the confidence that it would be put to good use. I am a die-hard optimist. I see setbacks as opportunities to learn and to try smarter; when one door closes another opens. There are thousands of NGO leaders working steadfastly, some doing simple stuff that none would do, some experimenting hard to crack problems, others scaling solutions, some are changing mindsets, some are advocating for change. The idea of being an enabler, a facilitator using information and technology for good, is what keeps me excited.

Q: Do you have any advice for leaders thinking about starting a #GivingTuesday movement in their country or city?

Pushpa: For those starting a #GivingTuesday movement, I would say welcome to a wonderful community of leaders who are so open to share their strategies, toolkits and relationships. Each one can pursue her own strategy, focussing on local needs and opportunities. We’re in it together and that sense of solidarity and community is very powerful. So just go ahead and do it and enjoy the journey.

Q: Who is someone you admire for their vision and leadership and why?

Pushpa: For me the greatest leader is Mahatma Gandhi. People talk about him for his greatness in many ways and especially in relation to India’s freedom movement. I see him also as a marketing guru. He was a great visionary who could inspire millions of people to believe in achieving a distant dream and galvanised them into action gently. He never gave up his vision and he never compromised on his values. The means had to justify the end. It is an honour that #GivingTuesdayIndia 2018 will be on 2nd October, the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth. Every year, #GivingTuesday will be celebrated in India during the #DaanUtsav week starting 2nd October!

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