April 8, 2020

The government’s COVID-19 mandate to FCRA nonprofits

As per an order by the Ministry of Home Affairs, nonprofits with an FCRA licence must undertake and report their COVID-19 activities.

2 min read

The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an order asking nonprofits that have a Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) licence to send them information on their COVID-19 related activities by April 15th, 2020; and to do so every month thereafter as well.

This order follows an announcement made by the Home Ministry a week ago lauding the work of civil society organisations and requesting them to help the government provide support to all those affected by the pandemic.

Not all FCRA registered nonprofits seem to have received the notification.

This follow-up letter, however, is addressed specifically to organisations that have an FCRA licence. It asks organisations to upload their information “directly in the COVID-19 Response Format which is available at the FCRA login Portal https://fcraonline.nic.in in the Service under FCRA tab.”

Related article: Latest news and updates on COVID-19

Though the circular is addressed to “The chief functionaries of all FCRA Associations as per the List and email addresses” not all FCRA registered nonprofits seem to have received the email or the notification.

The result: there is uncertainty among organisations with FCRA licences on whether they need to undertake these activities and upload this data or not. “I haven’t received this letter/email. Also, when I tried to log onto the site with my registered user ID and password, there was a message that stated, ‘You are not required to fill out this form,’ ” said an executive director at an education nonprofit.

A mid-sized nonprofit based in Mumbai was informed about this directive by their lawyer who told them that they would have to immediately undertake COVID-19 related activitieseven if there was no direct link to their regular programmes.

tom and jerry-FCRA

Adding to the confusion is the fact that there is no clarity about the criteria based on which organisations have been picked for this list. | Photo courtesy: Amino Apps

Adding to the confusion is the fact that there is no clarity about the criteria based on which organisations have been picked for this list. While some of them work in healthcare, social justice, labour, and other areas where they can provide direct relief and support to those affected by COVID-19, many are in unrelated sectors including employability, skills training, teacher training, child rights, and so on.

As a result, at the moment, nonprofit leaders are seeking clarity on this from the government on whether this is applicable to all FCRA nonprofits. If not, what is the criteria for eligibility, and more importantly, what happens if organisations are not able to undertake COVID-19-related activities?

For instance, intermediary organisationsthat support other nonprofits in terms of capacity building, funding, legal services, and so on, but do not work directly with communities themselvesmay not be able to provide COVID-19 support. In other cases, organisations might not have funds that they can allocate to this new line of activity.

At this time, the ask is simple: civil society organisations need greater clarity on this new government directive.

This article has been updated to reflect edits made to a quote in the story.

Know more

  • Read about the order from the Ministry of Home Affairs in greater detail; understand the questions that nonprofits have, where they can ask them, and possible next steps.

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India Development Review (IDR) is India’s first independent online media platform for leaders in the development community. Our mission is to advance knowledge on social impact in India. We publish ideas, opinion, analysis, and lessons from real-world practice.