“Smile Foundation wants to bring ‘Civic Driven Change’, with Change the Game Academy”: Santanu Mishra


Businessfortnight had an interview with Mr Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder and Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation. Helping the community to grow and providing benefits to the needy, smile foundation has done magnificent work to uplift society and destroy social boundaries.

Talking about the growth and challenges of the Indian NGO sector, Mr Santanu has mentioned key points about the norms and policies of the growing NGO sector. Also talking about their partnership with Change the Game Academy, Mr Santanu shared their vision to help social entrepreneurs at the grassroots levels with a seven-day workshop.

Insight into the full interview with Mr Santanu Mishra, Co-Founder and Executive Trustee, Smile Foundation

Where do you see the Indian NGO sector heading given the recent upsurge in the pandemic?

Covid-19 has hit most industries hard and has led to a squeeze in funding for civil society organizations. According to the India Philanthropy Report 2021, a study undertaken by Bain & Company, funding for philanthropic activities has taken a severe hit due to a decline in individual donations and CSR funds from domestic companies.

The reduced funding is likely to lead to the shutting down of grassroots NGOs and this, in turn, will affect the livelihoods of those associated with them, potentially even more than the past year as many NGOs have already eaten into their reserves. This may have far-reaching consequences because of the work NGOs do, and also because the sector supports seven million jobs.
Are CBOs really being able to deliver, given that they do not have access to specific resources?

It is true that grassroots NGOs and CBOs are facing challenges in continuing their work. Funding is a key barometer of the continuation and success of programs undertaken by CBOs. These programs are crucial for supporting the vulnerable sections of society. The need of the hour is for us to train fundraising professionals and social entrepreneurs in honing their craft and skill-sets so that they can attract funds even in these challenging times and keep their welfare work on track.

NGOs must be increasingly vigilant and proactive in seeking funding opportunities, and fundraising professionals need to take work towards attracting funds from regional organizations and with a local perspective.
What is the mantra for local fundraising? How can smaller NGOs raise funds?

Grassroots NGOs play a pivotal role in society. The work of small NGOs has been praiseworthy throughout the pandemic as they have eased the shock of the pandemic to the masses. NGOs working directly with vulnerable communities must be supported because they have the on-ground network and expertise to deliver impact. They are responsible for
disseminating information among the people and civil society at large and making them aware of their potential. In doing so, they touch the daily lives of the marginalized communities across the country.

Tell us more about your partnership with Change the Game Academy?
Through Change the Game Academy (CtGA), Smile aims to help social entrepreneurs at the grassroots levels navigate these challenging times by attracting diverse sources for mobilising support and funding for the causes. Smile Foundation, has a commitment to bring ‘Civic Driven Change’, and to inculcate best-practices of industry to empower
grassroots, through CtGA.

CtGA India at Smile has curated a series of unique virtual classroom learning experiences for grassroots individuals, including fundraising professionals and social entrepreneurs. In this series of Virtual Classroom Courses, we are building capacities and empowering social entrepreneurs to diversify sources of resource mobilisation, to help build better organisational
capacities, along with sustainable fund-raising plans. The most recently concluded virtual classroom course included a seven-day training workshop for participants hailing from the various states of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Kerala. The learning cohort included 16 individual participants, with development professionals, ranging from executive directors to primary fundraisers and coordinators.

Through the virtual seven-day workshop, what will be the key takeaways for the cohort?

Often, we find regional organizations in distress due to lack of technical know-how in raising funds or managing finances, which impacts development activities. Unpreparedness creates disruption in the flow of capital for on-ground initiatives, taking the organizations two- steps back. Therefore, a systematic and structured process of raising funds, and maintaining a regular flow of resources and support is critical to create impact and sustainability at the grassroots.

In the workshop, they are introduced to and helped with inculcating the crucial skills of planning, communication and execution of fundraising activities along with pertinent aspects of good governance and organisational capacity building. The course also allows peer-to-peer interaction which helps cross-learn and replicate successful models of functioning and thus, enables them to set up short-term and long-term fundraising goals and plans.

Change the Game India uses and will continue to use innovative tools and creative methods of instruction in these capacity building programs, training professionals in inventive, high-impact strategies in fundraising for sustainability.