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Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande is the president and chairman of Sparta Group LLC, a family investment office. He was also interviewed for this report. ( photo)

New research released Nov. 9 by The Bridgespan Group reports that Indian American philanthropy has expanded from giving to family and community to more broad-based social causes and organizations focused on addressing India's most challenging problems.

Approximately 3.5 million Indian Americans and their children are living in the United States, noted the report, a population that is rapidly evolving and fast-growing. According to Bridgespan's research, this population has the capacity to give to India at levels that could dwarf official U.S. development aid there, reported.

“The Indian diaspora in the United States is positioned to help now more than ever before,” said Rohit Menezes, a Bridgespan partner who leads the organization's India office and co-author of the research article. “Indian immigrants have fared well and amassed significant wealth. It is our aim to encourage donors to give more to India and to do so more effectively.”

The article reports that Indian-headed households have a median annual income of $89,000 (compared to a U.S. median of $50,000), and 27 percent of Indian households earn more than $140,000, putting them in the top 10 percent of earners nationally.

The combined annual discretionary income of Indian Americans is approximately $67.4 billion. If their philanthropic contributions were consistent with those of other U.S. households in similar income brackets, and they directed 40 percent of their philanthropy to India, $1.2 billion per year would flow from Indian diaspora donors to Indian causes, as compared to current U.S. foreign aid to India ($116.4 million in FY 2014).

And it represents more than half the entire amount of annual official development aid received by India from all countries, $2.2 billion, on average, from 2005 through 2013.

The report also points to significant nonfinancial assets the diaspora community has to offer.

“Indian Americans are highly educated and well represented in science, technology, engineering and math professions, in technology and entrepreneurship, and increasingly occupy roles of political and social influence in the U.S.,” said Menezes. "This achievement, combined with familiarity with Indian culture and communities, positions Indian Americans well to increase involvement in building the capacity and professionalism of India's civil society organizations and the philanthropic entities that support them.”

To showcase this trend and highlight other issues related to social impact in India, The Bridgespan Group, Stanford Social Innovation Review and Dasra announced Nov. 9 the launch of Impact India, a collaborative publishing effort, with support from the Kiawah Trust and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The magazine charts trends in giving from Indian Americans back to India, and the impact of these funding flows, unearthed in the Bridgespan study. Many other experts familiar with this trend are also featured in the publication, including an article on impact investing in India and Q&As with prominent Indian American technology entrepreneurs-cum-philanthropists such as Ram Shriram and Desh Deshpande, along with case studies of social ventures they have funded.

According to Dasra's Smarinita Shetty, “Social innovators in India are achieving improved outcomes at low-cost per client, using a diversity of business models and at an overall scale that provides lessons to social entrepreneurs around the globe.”

In discussing Impact India, Eric Nee, managing editor of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, said, “Effective philanthropy is one of our core areas of interest, and philanthropy in India is redefining effectiveness via community engagement and cost considerations in ways we all can learn from.”

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