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Building A Social Legacy

How Celebrity Foundations can benefit both the beneficiary and the benefactor – an E&Y report

With a population of 1.21 billion and an area of 32, 87,263 sq. km, India is a country in need of substantial interventions for enablement of its equitable and inclusive growth. It is well known that many people in our country do not have access to basic needs such as food, health care, clean water and sanitation.

According to the Planning Commission’s report, the rate of poverty India in 2011−12 was 21.9 per cent down from 37.2 per cent in 2004−05. While debates rage on about adequate indicators and how the rate of poverty has been determined, the truth is that millions (including children) go hungry every day and something needs to be done about it. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2012 states that “India has lagged behind in improving its GHI score despite strong economic growth.” India is also reported to have a high percentage of underweight children (by over 40 per cent) under the age of five. This is also closely linked to the abysmal condition of Indian women, who are ill-nourished and are unable to give birth to healthy children, and feed and care for them adequately. India was ranked 65 out of 79 countries by the International Food Policy Research Institute in its 2012 Global Hunger Index.

The Human Development Report 2013 released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has ranked India at a low 136 among 186 countries on its human development index (HDI). There is however some hope — the target of integrating the principles of sustainable development in company policies and programs seem to be headed in the right direction, an indicator of which is the addition of the Corporate Social Responsibility clause in the Companies Bill 2012. This has augmented contributions aimed at realisation of India’s social development goals.

A healthy growing country, representative of its growth indicators, is beneficial for its residents to make this a reality in India, we all need to walk the path less taken and make a positive contribution — what is generally known as “giving back to society.”

Creating social capital and building a social legacy

For celebrities, contributing resources, building momentum and garnering support for a cause has a significantly higher hit rate because they have mass appeal and have the capacity to become role models and thereby encourage others to follow suit.

Some argue that we can all contribute and should, so why should celebrities be any different? The difference for celebrities lies in the fact that they are powerful in their appeal and can garner the requisite resources to make a tangible difference in the country (and be remembered for it).

This is also because the actions of celebrities are more often than not publicly noted and covered by the media. This increases their accessibility and attaches added importance to a cause, and thereby benefits a social cause and creates awareness about it. Celebrities can effectively become a bridge between a social cause and the public. Celebrity foundations can liaise among themselves and other organisations to make a significant impact and raise awareness as well as finance. We have seen Bollywood celebrities demonstrating their awareness of and dedication to social development organisations, and thereby making a significant difference in resolving social issues.

Some of the ways in which Bollywood celebrities are contributing to social development include their promotion of social causes, and their becoming goodwill ambassadors for various organisations, the Government and UN agencies. They also volunteer their time to support and participate in fund-raising initiatives.

Celebrities can either decide what charities to support and/or start their own foundations, where both these actions have their own merits. There are some additional advantages of starting a foundation such as the following:

• Greater control over the foundation’s activities

• Continuing interventions and consistent efforts to resolve social issues

• Building a social legacy

• Ability to raise finance internationally

• Tax benefits

• Freedom to intertwine professional capabilities to garner greater mileage for the supported cause

• Aligning personal brand with the foundation’s activities

This is not to say that creating a foundation is not the only way to contribute, however, it is an accountable and transparent method to facilitate social good for years to come and build a legacy to be remembered by for professional work and their social contributions. Social upliftment will have a ripple effect on future generations of the communities we help. In addition, there are a multiple ways of establishing effective and efficient professionally managed foundations.

There are a lot of social development organisations, started by celebrities who choose to stay under the radar and work silently and diligently. These too have multiple beneficiaries and also go as far as to include a no publicity clause to be adhered to by the beneficiaries. However, in order to influence others and create momentum, it is advisable to make your efforts known to the public and expand their reach. In our 67th year of independence in India, we are young in years but wise in history and we know that to achieve inclusive growth, we now need to work together and gear up our nation building activities.

The author, Parul Soni is the practice leader of the Development Advisory Services and an Executive Director at EY in India.

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