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Exploring Our Resources: Hindu Diaspora and Religious Philanthropy in the United States

May 4, 2009

kapaleeswarar_drawing_350The researcher of this article, Priya Anand, is interested in understanding the role of philanthropic giving towards faith-based institutions in the Indian-American population.  She realizes that there has been extensive research on philanthropic giving and Indian-Americans, but argues in this paper, published by the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at CUNY, that there is very little recognition of the role of religious institutions in the giving process.  Most importantly she seeks to understand how religious institutions channel funds for developmental purposes.  The main objectives of the study are to “study resource mobilization techniques and philanthropic activities of religious Hindu bodies (temples and movements) of the Asian-Indian community in the United States.”

In conducting the study, she found over 200 temples and 500 Hindu religious movements in the United States.  To conduct the study the authors focused on three Hindu temples and seven religious movements.  They conducted interviews with these sources through face-to-face interviews, telephone conversations, and emails.

The study found that the main function temples serve is to preserve and sustain Hindu religion and culture.  Therefore, their philanthropic contributions are limited to their immediate environments.  However, it also found that Hindu religious movements engage in faith-based outreach programs in both India and the U.S.  These Hindu movements offer services in traditional causes such as, education and healthcare relief, as well as rural development, HIV-AIDS prevention and treatment, income generation, and women’s empowerment.  The fundraising activities also vary between groups.  For instance, the Veda Vyasa Foundation garners funds strategically while the Sathya Sai Baba Movement and Ramakrishna Mission do not solicit funds.

The researcher of this article concludes by recommending that non-profit organizations that have links to religious movements should be more transparent and accountable in their usage of funding.  In addition, non-profits that garner funding from religious sources, should work to establish a distinct identity.   They argue that this will enable them to approach fundraising in a strategic fashion.

What I found most interesting about this article was that Hindu Movements are much more focused on civic engagement than Hindu Temples.  Hindu Temples, however, have larger congregations, therefore, more access to donations. I think it would be interesting to see if Hindu Movements and Hindu Temples could work together to effect change. For more information on this article check out Hindu Diaspora and Religious Philanthropy in the United States under Resources.

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