I’ll come clean: I don’t often give to charity because it’s difficult to trust where the money goes. Indeed, since living in India I’ve heard so many horror stories of suspect orphanages, care centres and facilities for the disabled - the kind that have gained a greater global focus thanks to Slumdog Millionaire - that I was almost put off the idea of large-scale charity forever. My outgoing monetary support has gone almost entirely to desperately poor friends with too many mouths to feed, with the remaining few rupees scattered among the beggars and children that come to me on my daily commute.
That lack of trust makes it even more heartening when I meet someone who is clearly the real deal. One such chance meeting happened in my local Subway outpost a couple of months ago. Don Iverson was tall, bearded and topped by an impressive wide-brimmed hat, but from the moment he introduced himself, ‘cowboy’ was the last word on my mind. He told me that he was a businessman and artist, visiting India from Tennessee, and listened intently to my story of what I was doing in Kerala.
After some time, he somewhat bashfully revealed that he and his wife have established orphanages in south India, and that is his main purpose for being here - and what keeps him coming back. When I went back to my office and checked out his website, sure enough, there were the following words: “When it is difficult to find the Iversons it is likely they are in India.” I walked away from our encounter with a smile on my face and hope for the people who do good in the world.
Still, Don’s mission remains one good egg among countless bad ones, and he isn’t even soliciting donations. If you’re looking for a place to spread some holiday cheer this Christmas season, somewhere it’s badly needed, then a site called GiveIndia is surely for you. GiveIndia was started in 1999 with the aim of making it not only easier for people to donate to charitable organisations and NGOs in India, but also to make it more appealing through a comprehensive set of criteria that each NGO must meet.
GiveIndia take the hassle out of donating to those who are less fortunate. Even for those who don’t have cash to spare, it’s worth taking five minutes to enter a donation search on the main page and check out the options. You can choose from categories such as children, human rights and environment, you can select a given state of India if you so wish, and enter a budget in Indian rupees. What follows on the next page is a rundown of clickable donation options which are easy to navigate and get more information about.
Tax benefits are also factored into the search; this is particularly relevant at this time of year for donors from the US, who can avail 501(c)3 benefits if they donate by December 31. Also, if you don’t just want to take my word for it, their blogosphere page lists a number of external links to sites who have written about GiveIndia.
It’s fascinating to spend a little time on GiveIndia simply learning what kind of work NGOs are doing in India today, given the breadth of their records. And if you want to contribute to the changing face of India, and don’t want to wade through pages of reports on whether a particular organisation is legit, this is the place to go. GiveIndia makes supporting Indian causes easy.