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To give here or there (that seems to be the question)

November 26, 2008

Wow, Sudhir’s post about South Asian philanthropy on the Freakonomics blog, has generated some vigorous debate! Clearly, many of us have thought about this issue for quite awhile, but in many different ways. A common theme that emerges among the comments is the question over whether we should give in the United States or in India. I wonder why the options have to be posed as if they are mutually exclusive. Certainly, philanthropic dollars are limited. But, one of the exciting things about discussing South Asian philanthropy is that it is a resource which is prounouncedly untapped, and therefore not even close to a zero sum situation. I wonder if by focusing on the “how” we are forsaking a more important point. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the goal of increasing giving – wherever it happens to land?

With that said, I have often advocated for a greater degree of South Asian philanthropy focused in the United States, both for South Asian and non South Asian issues. I do think philanthropy equals power. Archana raises some very interesting questions about the scope of this power in her post, but, in my view – no matter the scope – it is power where none before existed. Still, I am beginning to think the difference in views on this subject is moot until we inspire a broader culture of giving among South Asian Americans, giving that goes beyond gala tickets and silent auctions.

Do you have thoughts on how to inspire philanthropic giving in our community?

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