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Why don’t young South Asians give more?

February 22, 2010

This was the question raised by Abhi of Sepia Mutiny the other day, in a conversation with Ruchira about her chosen charity Save-a-Mother. Abhi puts forward four reasons that it’s hard to raise money from under-40 South Asians in North America:

  1. Younger potential donors usually want to donate more than money. They typically have youthful energy and a full supply of idealism. Thus, they want direct involvement, not simply involvement by proxy.
  2. There is a greater social (and personal) cache that comes with starting your own cause than in supporting an existing one. And it sometimes looks good on your resume and helps “pick up” guys/girls.
  3. There are just too many causes out there. I am overwhelmed. Even picking stocks seems easier.
  4. All our friends (except the really lazy ones) are running in that race for breast cancer/AIDS/MS etc. It slowly saps our attention span and diffuses our giving.

Abhi calls all this a “free market approach” to giving that eventually leads to a lack of financial support for good causes out there.

I commented at SM that I definitely think there is a lack of collaboration – there are a lot of start-up NGOs out there that could come together and have a bigger impact and perhaps discover a lot of overlap.  This is particularly true for organizations that support education in India.  There is also a lack of information, which we’re trying to correct by listing organizations serving South Asian or South Asian American/Canadian causes and collecting resources about giving by people of color.

Finally, as I’ve written before, there is a lack of a ‘meta-narrative’ or collective vision for our community’s values around giving.  We need to write that story – it’s up to our generation to own our wealth and carve out a space and identity around philanthropy.

What do you all think about Abhi’s four hypotheses? Why do you think fundraising is hard among younger South Asians?

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 23, 2010 5:55 am

    From my experiences with South Asians under 40, they do give and they give very generously – if asked to give properly and in a manner that appeals to them. In general, individuals do not give because they have not been asked. South Asians may also not be asked as many times as other groups. In addition, the manner in which the ‘ask’ occurs is very important. Guilty-giving, pressured giving or giving out of obligation is not very effective and if the individual gives, it is usually a one-time gift. Sometimes, the organization’s work is not something that appeals to donors and attracts their attention. The method in which the ‘ask’ occurs is also important. For some, a personal solicitation by a peer works. For others, an online request is all that it takes. While collective experiences can be used to shape the “voice” of a new generation. I think we have to remember that philanthropy is personal. And that requires unique approaches to each and everyone if philanthropy is to ‘stick.’

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