Indian Americans are great at volunteering, but bad at donating money: Study

Indiaspora-Dalberg Community Engagement Survey finds large “giving gap” and “passion gap.”

Indian Americans volunteer at nearly double the US average but give substantially less financially, a new community engagement survey has found.

The below-par giving has meant Indian Americans, the most affluent ethnic group in the United States, are “leaving significant social impact on the table,” the first-ever Indiaspora-Dalberg Community Engagement Survey revealed.

The study was released ahead of Tuesday’s Indiaspora Philanthropy Summit at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

“The community’s particularly keen engagement as philanthropic volunteers is encouraging but their lack of financial donations is disappointing, especially given that Indian Americans are among the highest earning groups in the US and have tremendous influence here and abroad,” the group said in a press release.

The survey was designed and implemented by Dalberg Advisors, with the help of two Indian American academics, Devesh Kapur of Johns Hopkins University and Karthick Ramakrishnan of University of California Riverside.

Here are some of the findings of the study:

  • Members of the Indian American community are passionate about social impact, have a diversity of interests, are careful screeners and prolific volunteers.

  • An Indian American donor typically volunteers 220 hours each year, much more than the US national average of 130 hours annually.

  • However, there is a large “giving gap” to the tune of at least $2-3 billion. There is also a “passion-donation gap”, meaning the community “does not necessarily give to those causes which it collectively claims to be most passionate about.”

  • Nearly three-fifth of women say gender equality is an area they are passionate about, which is tied with education as their top passion area. Only a little over a quarter (26 percent) of men said the same.

  • Indian Americans seem to lack trust in the philanthropic organizations they might wish to give to.

The goal of the study was to serve as a tool to understand the philanthropic behavior of the community. Twenty-eight non-profit, community and other organizations, including The American Bazaar, helped Indiaspora disseminate the survey to constituents.

“The survey paints a rich picture of the motivations and self-reported giving behavior of the Indian American donor community,” Indiaspora said in the release.

“We are in the early stages of strategically planning what we should do to move the needle — which is to say, increase the amount of Indian American philanthropic giving in America and to India, and make it more effective,” said the group’s founder MR Rangaswami.

Dalberg Advisors’ Regional Director for the Americas Joe Dougherty said the giving potential of Indian Americans, at over $3 billion annually, is enormous. “To put it into context, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation distributes $4-$5 billion across the entire globe every year. Imagine the kind of impact the diaspora could create if they met their giving potential,” he said. “We hope that the results of this study help galvanize philanthropic efforts among this important — and influential — community.”

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