1. What is #LivingMyPromise?
#LivingMyPromise is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting India’s well-to-do individuals and families to commit to giving equal to or more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will.
2. I already do a lot of charity work. Why should I give away 50% of my wealth?
Not everyone has the time or option to do charity work. For those, this is their way they can choose to give back. For those already involved in charity work, it is a way of leaving a meaningful and substantial legacy for the causes they support.
3. Why do you insist on donation of 50% of one's wealth? Why not have a 25% or 10% slab as well? And why not a fixed amount like at least Rs50 lacs?
People are inspired when they see others doing something extraordinary. We are more inspired by people who take a 50-90% cut in pay to switch to the social sector, than those who take a 10-25% cut in pay. Similarly, we are more inspired by people who donate 90% of their earnings than those who give away 10% of it. #LivingMyPromise is aimed at middle and upper middle class Indians and we have picked 50% of wealth as the benchmark to push middle class Indians to aspire towards. Any middle/ upper middle class Indian giving away 50% of their wealth is effectively accepting a standard of living for themselves much lower than they could if they chose not to give. Giving 10-25% may not involve a change in standard of living and is far less inspiring for others- this forms the basis of our choice of 50% as the benchmark. However, we'd be delighted to see other people/ organisations launch initiatives that build communities of those who promise to donate 10%, 25% or even 75% of their wealth.
The percentage is more important than the total amount of money, since someone with a net worth of Rs 1 cr giving 50 lacs is as valuable as someone with a net worth of Rs100cr giving Rs 50cr, whereas someone with a networth of Rs100cr giving Rs1cr in their lifetime doesn't belong to the same group at all.
4. Why is this only for those with a net worth of Rs. 1 crore or more?
While #LivingMyPromise is about ordinary people, one of the goals is to ensure that those promising are committing a significant amount of money to charity.
There are thousands of people who have dedicated their lives to social issues and have foregone earnings to be able to do so. In our view, the contribution of these people exceeds that of the promisors. These people have often made far bigger sacrifices than we have. But that is a different segment of people who need to be recognized and appreciated differently. This platform is for ordinary people who have chosen the “normal” course of life, but have decided to make a difference nonetheless, by making a significant financial commitment to society.
The promise is also entirely moral with no mechanism to verify it. It would, hence, not work if the number of people committing to it were very large. Or if, in future, one wanted to verify it, the cost of verification itself would be a large percentage of the amount of money being pledged. Without a lower limit, the promise could easily be taken by millions of people and there would be no way to verify it, thus watering down the honesty behind the effort.
5. Who can promise?
Anyone who is a Rupee crorepati i.e. has a net worth of Rs. 1 crore or more including all assets (especially the home they live in), inheritance, etc. You can count all assets that are entirely yours- including property, jewelry, investments, etc., whether in India or anywhere else, less all your liabilities. If the inheritance is already received, you can count that too as part of your net worth, but if it is "promised and awaited", you can't.
6. Why go public with a promise?
The goal is to talk about giving in an open way and create an atmosphere that can draw more people into philanthropy. Most signatories prefer anonymity, as no one wants to be hounded for their actions. Yet, each of them realises from experience, that talking about it in public inspires others to come forward as well, and helps several others to benchmark their giving to higher levels than they would have otherwise done. At least half the current signatories wouldn't have come on board if the first half hadn't gone public with their commitment. Talking about one's giving can be done with all humility and we believe that IS the Indian way of doing things.
7. How does #LivingMyPromise work?
Each couple or individual who chooses to promise will make a commitment publicly along with a statement explaining the decision to promise. Once we reach close to 50 signatories on livingmypromise.org a meetup will be organized in which those who have taken the promise will come together to share ideas and learn from each other.
8. What will people promise to?
The promise does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations. The promise asks only that the individual give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charitable organizations either during their lifetime or in their will.
The promise does not solicit support for any specific cause or organization. The promise encourages signatories to find their own unique ways to give that inspires them personally and benefits society. As a signatory one has full freedom to define the roadmap and milestones of one’s philanthropic journey.
9. Can I sign if I do not know yet what cause or NGO I am ready to support?
That is perfectly okay as it is the start of a commitment to give. We suggest you take your time to be comfortable with the cause/NGO you want to support and do not be in a rush to fulfill the promise.
10. How do we know that the current signatories are actually giving?
The promise is entirely moral commitment without any formal mechanism to verify it as of now (though we do reserve the right to install one if required). Indeed, our experience so far has been that people who are willing to give 50% are still unwilling to talk about it, whereas we haven't encountered any person wanting to sign up without a real intention to give. Signatories do not receive any benefits from signing up, except possibly "visibility". However, the very mindset that seeks visibility is one that recoils at the very thought of giving away a significant % of one's wealth and so far, and is also acutely worried about making a public promise on which they could be caught out in future. This in itself acts as a strong deterrent for "fake promising".
Separately, our internal survey among signatories suggests that most of our signatories are already giving between 5-75% of their income, some of them are in the process of making their wills, while others have already donated 50+% of their wealth into a trust. We have a good sense of the giving journeys of most signatories and hence have very little reason to believe that any of them will wind up not meeting their promise.
11. Will #LivingMyPromise grant money to organizations?
Not directly. Each person who promises makes an individual decision about which particular causes or organization they wish to support.
12. How much should people give?
Each family will decide for themselves but one needs to commit a minimum 50% of one’s net worth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will.
13. Once someone promises, how will you make sure they follow through?
The promise is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. Currently, all signatories are part of a closely knit group where each person is known to someone else. Over a period of time, the group will grow larger. The plan is to have members stay in touch with each other to have a sense of signatories' intent.
14. How long will the promise last?
Our hope is that the effort will continue for generations to come.
15. How do we measure impact or judge the success of the promise?
We believe once the community is formed it will evolve its own ecosystem and measurement metrics of success or failure. Philanthropy can be bold, take important risks, and incubate new ideas. It can also partner effectively with governments to scale up innovation for maximum impact.
16. Is #LivingMyPromise a part of the Giving Pledge associated with Bill Gates?
The idea of #LivingMyPromise came from Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet’s initiative to create a community of philanthropists who would like to give away their wealth to a charity of their choice. Currently, the Giving Pledge associated with Bill Gates is only meant for people who are billionaires (with a net worth of US$1 billion = Rs. 6,500 crores or more).
#LivingMyPromise, on the other hand, is looking at both the wealthy as well as the upper-middle-class Indian who is keen to give back to society in whatever way possible.
There is no tie-up between the #LivingMyPromise during Daan Utsav and the Giving Pledge associated with Bill Gates, although the mission is common—to promulgate giving.
17. Is #LivingMyPromise culturally fit for Indian society?
India clearly needs a lot of help, as we continue to rank 131 out of 188 nations on the Human Development Index. Our indicators on malnutrition, infant mortality, education are all abysmal. And yet, it is not for lack of resources, as we stand 5th in the world in GDP terms. The latest Oxfam report says that 9 richest Indians own wealth equal to 50% (65 crore+) of the poorest. Clearly, some of us are far more privileged than others. We believe that those of us who have won the ovarian lottery owe a lot back, to restore a more equitable and empathetic society we can live in.
India has had strong traditions of giving that can still be seen among the poor of our country. Street vendors and rural folk can be regularly seen giving away at least 2-3% of their products for free to the poor- that's on average 20 times higher than the 2% of profits we expect corporates to give as CSR. Every religion- Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, the Bahai Faith and others exhort us to give back as generously as we can. We believe that the wealthy among us giving 50+% of our assets is only in keeping with such cultural traditions.
So far as "talking about it" is concerned, most signatories prefer anonymity, as significant givers naturally want to avoid visibility or unsolicited attention. Yet, each of them realises from experience, that talking about it in public inspires others to come forward as well, and helps several others to benchmark their giving to higher levels than they would have otherwise done. At least half the current signatories wouldn't have come on board if the first half hadn't gone public with their commitment. Talking about one's giving can be done with all humility and we believe that IS the Indian way of doing things.
18. Is this an attempt to put pressure on India's wealthy?
No, not at all. The very gist of philanthropy rests on choice.
19. Whom do I contact if I want to sign the promise/introduce my friends/family who want to sign the promise?
You can contact any of the following #DaanUtsav and #GivingTuesdayIndia volunteers:
Girish Batra, E: email@example.com, M: 9341138383
Rama Arya, E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Venkat K N, E: email@example.com
20. What is the process for participating in #LivingMyPromise?
Once you have decided to sign you go to the #LivingMyPromise website and enlist your self for signing the promise with your relevant details.
The next step is to come out with your personalized note on your “Why”—your key reason(s) for signing the promise. This, together with your photo, will be uploaded and displayed on the website. Your contact details will not be in the public domain.
If you are keen you can engage others in your circle to follow in your footsteps, but it is entirely your choice to do so.
21. How is #LivingMyPromise going to be publicized?
Since #LivingMyPromise is an altruistic undertaking based on individual choice it is expected to spread via the individual who joins the movement and become viral. Once one has signed the promise it becomes easy to encourage others in the community to come forward. In this way, we can achieve a significantly large community of givers.
22. How can I spread the word?
The first step is to tell your network on social media (through the available social media sharing features on the givers profile pages) about your intent to sign the promise. There will be questions/comments/likes/surprises/admiration and maybe opposition as well. In this way, your resolve will be tested or strengthened. Once you have crossed this bridge then you will find it easy to engage similar thinking individuals into the Why’s and How’s of #LivingMyPromise.
In addition, the Daan Utsav volunteer team will provide you with digital collaterals from time-to-time in the form of banners, posters, and quotes to help you spread the word in your communities.
23. Will I be spammed by NGOs and individuals asking for money?
No. Your contact details will not be shared with any organization.
24. Can you help me with the legal implications and practicalities of promising?
Yes, there will be volunteers (lawyers and financial advisers) available to guide you in the implementation of the promise.
25. Some suggestions.
Do engage with your near and dear ones; the key people who are a part of your life and ensure you get their buy-in to prevent resentment/pushback at a later stage.