Measuring Social Impact

Are donors & philanthropists succeeding in their endeavors to bring change?

We live in an imperfect world plagued by a plethora of social issues. While most of these issues remain ignored by the larger populace, some decide to tackle them head-on with whatever resources they have…putting wealth, knowledge, energy, and privileges to good use. These are what you could call ‘The Philanthropists’.

Over the years, we’ve seen many such individuals and organizations use their resources to make a lasting social impact on the lives of those who’ve been underserved in our communities.

According to a report published by Live Mint, individual Indian Philanthropists donating more than Rs. 5 Crore expanded to a whopping 119 in 2022-23.

That said, are these donors and philanthropists succeeding in making a meaningful difference?

Acknowledging Social Impact

To understand whether a donor or philanthropist has been successful in their endeavor, you need to first understand what the social impact of their contributions was. Simply put, you’ll need to assess the positive changes these contributions have made in the lives of its beneficiaries. Understand to what degree the lives of individuals and communities were affected by the donations made to them.

These changes could entail better educational opportunities, drastically improved living standards, access to quality healthcare, etc. However, it is not always easy to measure the impact of philanthropic efforts. The results produced by such selfless acts are often intangible and may take a lifetime to reap visible changes/impact.

Measuring Impact via KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

While we believe measuring the impact of philanthropic endeavors is difficult, it isn’t entirely impossible. There are various metrics and KPIs one can use to assess just how successful donors and philanthropists are with the cause they support. Tangible improvements in education and infrastructure, number of people reached, healthcare improvement and benefits, decline in poverty rates, better standards of living, change in government policies etc. can all serve as invaluable metrics to assess impact.

Take India’s social sector spending for example. According to the India Philanthropy Report 2023 published by Bain and Company, as a percentage of GDP, India’s social sector spending has grown from 8.6% in 2021 to 9.6% in 2022. This is largely due to a 35% growth in Public Spending.

Despite this, India remains short of Niti Aayog’s estimate, which is 13% of GDP, the total annual funding required to achieve the National Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Besides quantitative data, you can also rely on qualitative indicators like stories that chronicle the transformation of a community to gauge the impact of philanthropic efforts. Some of the most trusted NGOs in India provide these metrics, besides updates through their periodic reports, to assure transparency and build trust among their donors.

Some online platforms for donations too, provide their donors and philanthropists with real-time reports that indicate just how much of an impact their contributions have made.

Success Stories: Taking a Look Back at the History of Philanthropy

Perhaps the easiest way to understand whether philanthropy works is to look back at real-life cases of charity in India. A good example of this would be analyzing some of the Foundations doing great on-ground work in India and how they have made considerable impact in the improvement of healthcare, education, sports, arts, disaster response, urban renewal, and rural transformation across the nation.

An initiative, besides many others, that comes to mind is the Grameen Bank launched by Mohammad Yunus, a Nobel Laureate. This initiative is attributed to uplifting several people out of poverty and empowering women by offering small loans to folks who didn’t have proper access to traditional banks.

Another great example of philanthropy would be that of Purnotta Dutta who launched the Cuddles Foundation way back in 2012. The foundation worked on providing nutrition to underprivileged kids in India battling cancer with easy access to nutritional supplements, hot meals, feeder tubes, counseling, and diet plans.

Another- we have Kailash Sharma from Madhya Pradesh who was disturbed by the economic disparity he saw around him and chose to do something about it. In 1980, he launched perhaps the biggest campaign for children’s rights in India known as Bachpan Bachao Andolan and thereafter the Kailash Sathyarthi Children’s Foundation.

Needless to say, charity in India has always worked for the upliftment of many in varied ways and the above success stories are just a small shining testament to that.

Challenges Faced by Donors

While numerous success stories explain just how impactful philanthropy can be, one must also acknowledge the challenges being faced by donors today, especially in India. Perhaps the most significant of those challenges is what’s commonly known as the “silver bullet” fallacy.

Most social issues are complex. As such, it would be naïve to expect an immediate, universal solution to them. This thought process is what affects many donors in our country. To make any sustainable change, donors must take a more nuanced and patient approach.
The absence of proper coordination among donors is yet another challenge that could lead to inefficient allocation of resources.
Incompetent NGOs are another challenge plaguing philanthropy in India. According to the Indian Giving Benchmarking Report, it was found that almost half (46%) of the fundraising NGOs questioned had no idea how to find donors. About a third (33%) had no clear fundraising strategy. And even more that did not have an adequate implementation process in place.

The Importance of Technology in Measuring Impact

“Tech will continue to initiate unimaginable progress in so many ways. It’s awesome to see that being the top source of philanthropic giving is only one of them.”

– Joe Fisher, CEO of Ren, Independent Philanthropy Solutions Provider.

New advancements in technology have made it easier for people to measure the impact of their contributions. Most trusted NGOs in India today are implementing AI and data analytics tech to accurately track results.

Some organizations/ online platforms leverage real-time monitoring mechanisms to provide donors with insights into their contributions in a timely fashion. Suffice it to say, that it is now much easier to measure the impact made by donors and philanthropists.


“Philanthropy in India needs to evolve beyond charity to sustainable development. It should focus on addressing systemic issues and building capabilities for long-term impact.”

– Arundhati Bhattacharya, Former Chairman of the State Bank of India

In a nation like India, that’s grappling with numerous social issues, philanthropists and donors have a vital role to play. In collaboration with the most trusted NGOs in India as well as reputable online platforms for donations, they can bring about tangible changes and transform the lives of India’s underserved population for good.

While measuring the impact of donations isn’t always possible, there is enough evidence throughout history to suggest that philanthropy does work. For decades, philanthropists worldwide have been the source of lasting, positive change and continues to be so even today.