The Indian diaspora in the US is roughly 1 percent of the US population. The opportunity from these Indian-American givers is tremendous and is expected to grow. In fact, one could argue that never before has this opportunity been so compelling. Consider these three factors:
1. Young and growing population: Of the three million people of Indian origin that live in the US, two-thirds are between 20 and 35 years old.1 While these young, tech-savvy millennials may not be able to give large amounts, research done on giving patterns of millennials shows that, in general, about 60 per cent of them give to charitable organisations. In the 2013 Millennium Impact Report, 84 percent of surveyed millennials said that they donated or wanted to donate to nonprofits via an online website.
2. High income levels: The Indian-American household has the highest income level of any immigrant group in the US, more than twice the income level of the general US population.
3. Cultural and emotional ties: The diaspora in the US has strong ties with India. Many of them grew up in India, still have close family there and often turn to the country for their charitable giving.
These factors of age and population, disposable income and an emotional connect, arguably make the Indian diaspora uniquely pre-disposed to giving to Indian causes. People of Indian origin also work for big tech companies, many of which encourage a strong employee giving culture with generous matching programmes.
In 2016, charitable giving by individuals in the US totalled an estimated $282 billion, an increase of 3.9 per cent over the previous year. If we apply these giving trends to the 1 percent Indian-American diaspora and assume that 40 percent of that giving is directed to India, that results in a giving of USD 1.2 billion or INR 7, 800 crore.
But, before we get too excited about this donor pool, we need to consider the following challenges and ensure that our online giving campaigns address these obstacles:
1. People are busy, make it easy: The line I hear a lot from people is “I really want to give but have not found the time to get to it”. People are busy with their lives, jobs, families, and have a very small time and attention window for anything that is outside of their daily life routine.
It is critical to design your giving campaign such that it is simple, yet compelling, and makes the giving experience easy and quick for the user. If you don’t have the resources to run your giving campaign on your website, consider running the campaign on external crowdfunding platforms like Milaap, Ketto and ImpactGuru that make the giving experience simple and transparent.
2. Do not overwhelm with excessive information: It is critical that you provide information in a structured manner that clearly and succinctly outlines what your organisation does, the impact of your work and how people’s giving can help make further impact.
Use the information on your campaign page wisely, with fewer words and more visuals (images, infographics and videos) to effectively communicate your organisation’s central message and the ask.
Often, nonprofits provide a lot of information about their different projects with excessive detail on each project. While all this information should be available on your website, providing too much of it on the campaign page might have little value to your potential donors and could, in fact, work against you by confusing and overwhelming them.
3. Address scepticism head-on: It is safe to assume that most first-time donors will have a reasonable amount of scepticism about your organisation. Your campaign needs to quickly establish transparency and credibility. Questions like “How is my money going to be used?” or “What percentage of my funds will really be used to make an impact?” and “How will you keep me posted?” need to be addressed upfront and with clarity.
4. Ensure that potential donors can easily find you online: Once you have your online campaign ready, it is best to customise your online outreach approach such that your target audience is easily able to find your campaign online. The more you understand who your primary audience is, the more effective you can be with your social media strategy and use of Google AdWords and other outreach tools.
5. Create champions and use them smartly: This is perhaps the most effective way to increase outreach and raise funds for your organisation. Don’t be shy to ask your network in the US (donors, supporters and friends) to champion your campaign and spread the word within their network.
Having a few champions not only adds momentum to your campaign, but also brings credibility and a personal touch to it. Also, creating a diverse group of champions–students, business leaders, social workers—in different US locations is ideal and something to consider as you grow your network.
While the above tenets seem obvious, many Indian nonprofit websites and campaigns do not provide a simple and compelling giving experience.
If we can successfully overcome these barriers, we can truly position ourselves to maximise the giving opportunities from the Indian-American diaspora, a group that is ready and eager to give to India.
Nonprofits in India should be encouraged and excited because the next several years seem very promising for online giving from the US to India. The onus is now on us nonprofits to harness the power of our people to amplify this giving over the coming years.
- The Other One Percent: Indians in America (Oxford University Press, 1st edition), Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh