The year 2021 has begun in the thick of things – the COVID-19 pandemic continues as vaccination programmes roll out, the climate crisis continues while the waste crisis looms over cities like Bengaluru. But this is also a year of hope. People are listening a lot more to science; the vaccines have developed because of historic levels of collaboration between nations and companies; and governments are leaning towards multilateralism. As the whole world presses the restart button, we guide you through the plan of action for Restart 2021 when it comes to corporate social responsibility.
Restart 2021 is impossible without synergy, inclusiveness and solidarity. This is the year when science reigns supreme, when finance and resources will shift from a toxic economy to a green economy. Over the next few days, we will look at the Restart 2021 landscape in corporate, nonprofit, social and responsible business sectors.
Amendments to the FCRA
NGOs in India are going through a rough patch. As if the diversion of donations from ongoing projects to COVID-19 activities was not enough, the new amendments to the FCRA (Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, 2010) has made things harder for many nonprofits. The Indian government has made a change in Rule Nine of the FCRA.
The new rules state that “any organisation seeking registration under the FCRA must have operated for at least three years” and it should have spent “a minimum amount of Rs. 5 lakh on its core activities for the benefit of society during the last three years”. NGOs receiving foreign funds tend to practice something called “sub-granting”. They distribute part of foreign funds to micro-NGOs through smaller grants which may not be getting foreign funding or have the means to raise large funds within the country. However, the Indian government’s new amendment to the FCRA stops NGOs from transferring funds to each other.
These sweeping changes will further prevent the nonprofit sector and civil society from reaching out to vulnerable people who are suffering the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It stops small grassroots-level NGOs from being able to work effectively in distant regions. Ironically, political parties in our country are free to seek foreign funds through electoral bonds.
Restart 2021 tips for NGOs
For NGOs to Restart 2021 in a stronger manner, the civil society ecosystem needs to bulletproof itself from compliance issues. Once you have your paperwork in place, the next important step is embracing technology and software. Embedding a technology culture has become non-negotiable for nonprofit as well as for-profit social organisations in the “new normal”. NGOs need to use software for anything from making presentations, video conferencing to accounting.
Additionally, there are specific technological requirements, for events or making customised products for a corporate house, which may be a CSR donor. You might need to hire a team of software development professionals. The alternative is to partner with software organisations that have a good understanding of the social sector. The partner organisation will then develop the tech-savvy culture based on an understanding of your organisation.
NGOs running health and hygiene programmes can look forward to more interest from donors during their Restart 2021 phase. The pandemic has propelled health, WASH programmes and hygiene programmes to the top of the list for CSR departments and donors. So, it’s best for you to capitalise on this renewed interest this year.
This article is part of a series titled Restart 2021