Back to resources

Rohini’s Message During the ChaloGive Fundraiser

Civil Society | Everyday Giving | May 5, 2020

Rohini Nilekani’s comments and message during the ChaloGive fundraiser.



00:10 Hari: Rohini Nilekani is joining us now. She’s a philanthropist, is well-known in India, you’ve got your fingers in lots of different types of bowls so to speak, whether it’s trying to build community or markets, or sustainable government. Thanks for joining us tonight. I wanna ask you because you see this from so many different grantees that you’re funding, just give us an idea of the scale of the problem that India is facing right now?

00:33 Rohini Nilekani: Thank you and namaste Hari, and namaste all viewers. Yeah, I mean this is really unprecedented, right? Because nobody expected everything to unravel quite this quickly. With Gale, we did some surveys recently together with Omidyar and Dalberg, and 64% of the respondents said that they were facing serious loss of income. So, the situation is really dire. It needs immediate responses as you’ve been hearing throughout your program. But I think the philanthropic community also needs to now start thinking of the midterm response. So yes, there is hunger, as Anshu just told us, and that has to be dealt with first, but I think luckily in India we have a very thriving civil society. And we had a good reason to understand just how important that civil society infrastructure is in my country, because they have been the first responders, they’ve been going out there, they have a direct connection to the citizens. So they’re giving us the feedback loops that we need to even tweak the States decision-making process, and that’s been something that we’ve learned which has been positive, but there’s a lot more obviously to be done. So, I’m really grateful for ChaloGive and for what you are doing for the community in the US that is going to reach out to all our people here. Thank you so much for that.

02:10 Hari: How have you pivoted some of your grant making or what you’re thinking about during this crisis?

02:15 RN: Yeah. So some of us went out and made a public statement as to what philanthropists should do at a time like this, which is basically operate on trust. All these years we’ve been having our NGO partners and we know them and we can trust them. At this point, we have said we will loosen up all our impact reporting requirements, we will give complete freedom in terms of the use of that philanthropic capital for needs on the ground as the NGOs see it, which I think is very important. We will come from a space of more generosity, so we are revising our budgets doing what we have to do to respond as quickly as we can. And some of us are also saying that we will… Right now, Hari, there is a lot of giving, retail giving has stepped up considerably.

03:07 RN: There has been corporations in India have been giving to all the government schemes as well as to NGOs. But some of us are saying, we will also hold our firepower, so that when some kind of donor fatigue sets in, and I really hope in your community that there will be no donor fatigue at all. But when it does set in, then some of us will have to really think of what are the most structural things that need to continue to happen, so that people’s livelihood loss, water security, we are just heading into the most severe summer. We all need to start thinking about water security as more and more people are going back to their villages and intend to stay there. So, I would say the philanthropic community is thinking at these two levels. How can you give much more flexibility to all your partners right now and how can you start planning for the midterm?

04:07 Hari: How do you inspire or get the diasporic community engaged? Because, as you mentioned, there is the potential for donor fatigue in the sort of closer community. But here are people in the United States, in Europe and Africa and South America, Indians from all over, how do you make sure that they are plugged into this, that somehow someone has either reached them or that they have a connection and then they can actually take action to solve or help solve the crisis in India?

04:33 RN: Yeah. This has been an ongoing problem, because I know from my travels that many people in the diaspora want to give, but sometimes they don’t know how to give and whom to give to. There have been ongoing attempts to create platforms and Indiaspora is definitely one of them. So that you can build these networks of trust, so that there are channels like ChaloGive, where people feel comfortable giving. So one thing is to create those intermediary organizations that allow for networks of trust to build, not just when there are disasters but much before that.

05:07 RN: The second thing I think very importantly, and some of my funding goes towards that, is to allow NGOs to communicate better what they do, just to tell their stories better. There’s nothing more powerful than a good story to keep people engaged. And so these are the two things I would say to reach the diaspora who cares so much about what’s happening to about 600 million people who are in need. ‘Cause one thing I do want to say is that, you know, we don’t want to return to the old normal. The old normal was not a very just normal in India, right? There was not enough justice and equity. We want to use this opportunity to create a new normal. All of us who have anything to do with India, know that all our fates are interconnected. So we keep that story of interconnection alive, and we keep being inspired by this interconnectedness so that we can engage our hearts, and right now I think all your pockets as well, so that we can make things better, not just to return to where we were.

06:00 Hari: That’s a great idea to end on, Rohini Nilekani, and you also know the value of a story by being a journalist yourself in a former life. And thanks so much for joining us and good luck with what’s going on in India and all the places that you’re helping form.

06:00 RN: Thank you. And I hope in America as well, feeding America that’s very important. We don’t want to see hunger in America, we want America to do well too. So please give generously to India, but also to your own country’s people. Thank you and namaste.

More like this

Civil Society  |  Uncommon Ground

Covid-19: Securing the Present and the Future

This is the most serious crisis since World War II. Politicians must step up; voters must allow them to. Politicians are elected because they campaign in poetry, but voters don’t always account for the fact that elected representatives must govern in prose. That chasm between the promise and the delivery becomes more dangerous at times […]
Mar 30, 2020 | Article

Strategic Philanthropy  |  Civil Society

Community Cares: A City Responds

Rohini Nilekani moderates a conversation between one the community response to the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic. Panelists include Anshu Gupta, Nalini Sekhar and Kuldeep Dantewadia. Transcript 00:02 Rohini Nilekani: Well. Hello everybody. Yellarigu namaskara, yellarigu suswagatha. This is the first of the BIC’s live streams, and normally, of course, all of us would have been in […]
Apr 3, 2020 | Panel Discussions

Civil Society  |  Climate & Biodiversity  |  Strategic Philanthropy  |  Water

Resilience, Hope: India in the Time of COVID-19 & Climate Change

New Worlds is a three-part digital series by the India Climate Collaborative to discuss resilience and recovery in the face of our two planetary challenges: COVID-19 and climate change. The COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of the inequities in our vulnerability to global threats. These disparities are heightened by a rapidly warming world. Part […]
May 9, 2020 |

Others  |  Civil Society  |  Strategic Philanthropy

The Next Big Thing - Quadrum Presents QED

In Conversation with Rohini and Nandan Nilekani
Oct 1, 2014 | Conversation