Synopsis of the Philanthropic Landscape of Nepal:
Individuals, foundations, private sectors, Diasporas and I/NGOs are actively engaging in philanthropy in Nepal. However, the efforts are not adequate to subdue the serious problems caused by the decade-long arms conflict, earthquake, COVID 19 and the prevalent and structural poverty and exclusion. The collaboration between Nepal and the global philanthropy is crucial to offer remedies and enable Nepal move towards a resilient socio-economic development.
However, the new political structure and a largely responsive newly elected leadership that is creating an enabling environment and sharing resources could be taken as a silver lining whereby the philanthropy sector will be empowered in the near future.
Philanthropic Landscape of Nepal
Philanthropy is deeply rooted in Nepalese’ society and culture. Nepal stood 39th in the World Giving Index, 2016 in terms of the generosity of its people, rising from 76th in 2015 (CAF Annual Report 2016). However, individual giving in Nepal is believed to be reactive rather than proactive. Donors are generally motivated towards immediate remedies and seek instant results. Donations of this nature are clearly seen during the ongoing immediate relief work for COVID 19 pandemic to the affected as well as during natural disasters, including the earthquake in 2015.
Donations in Nepal are usually made through formal and informal channels. Informal donations are embedded deeply in the multi-religious and cultural practices of the country. However this is not accounted for in the formal documentation procedures. All eight major faith practising communities of the country promote charity donations to any good cause. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam that are predominant faith among the population practice altruistic culture of Daan (donation) Zakat (almsgiving) and of Bhiksha (food given as alms) respectively. These practices reflect the giving culture of Nepalese society.
Fundraising for building schools, hospitals, community buildings etc. through religious events are common practice.
Donation drives endorsed by well-known trusted figures are also prevalent in the country. For instance, Prof. Dr. Bhagwan Koirala who is highly admired for his integrity and professional competencies has been receiving overwhelming support from all sectors for building children hospital-the Kathmandu Institute of Child Health(KIOCH).
The concept of the community philanthropy is developing in Nepal. However, some attributes of community philanthropy was observed mostly before 1950. During that period of time, Nepal was ruled by the then repressive Rana regime which had no official national development plan and philanthropic works were carried by communities. At the time, communities used to donate cash and kind for building schools, hospitals, temples, bridges etc.
But the approach often lacked inclusiveness, participation, power-sharing and sustainability.
Today, Tewa, an NGO in Nepal has translated the concept of Community Philanthropy. It has been providing grant and technical support to the CSO led by women, with special priority to the rural and underprivileged women with promising projects. It ensures more participation, inclusiveness, decision making, power-sharing and sustainability in project cycle. Tewa’s projects are also exemplary in bringing positive changes in the lives of beneficiaries. This model is expected to rise in the near future as it is also expected to meet donors’ expectation to collaborate in the need-based, impactful and sustainable development projects.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The trend of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is also growing in Nepal. The Industrial Enterprise Act (IEA) 2016 and the circular for the Bank and financial institutions (BFIs) issued by Nepal Rastra Bank (National Bank of Nepal), can be credited for this progress. According to the IEA Act and the circular, the private sector players including BFIs and industries have to allocate 1% of their net profit for CSR. During the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic crisis, the private sector including BFIs, industries and private foundations have supported the government with PPE (personal protective equipment), medicine and substantial cash through the government’s Coronavirus Control and Treatment Fund.
The Chamber of Commerce and Federation of the Nepalese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) have also contributed to the government’s COVID fund and provided relief packages to the hardest-hit citizens across the world. But it is a pity that the government of Nepal does not have a policy-such as tax incentives- that encourages individuals and the private sector to donate significant amounts of funds for greater social impact.
The concept of philanthropy is also increasing among the Diaspora. Compared to the past, the Non-Resident Nepalese (NRNs) are contributing more to social projects and actively involved in philanthropic work. Mostly, they are supporting migrant workers for their health, and legal issues. In some cases they also raise funds to raise blood money to unleash migrant workers who are facing life sentences in the host country. In addition to it, the diaspora has also made a significant contribution in the COVID 19 fund. Some of the champions raised funds abroad and delivered personal protective kits as the country was struggling to get those essentials materials within the country.
Likewise, there is also a significant presence of local and international clubs and foundations like the Rotary and LIONS. They have been active in enhancing the access to health, and education for the poor and marginalized people by building schools, libraries, and hospitals. They are also active in environmental protection, and disaster preparedness as well as response, relief, and rebuilding of houses and settlements including orphanages, old age homes, and community buildings. During the COVID 19 crisis, those clubs and foundations were also proactively engaged in providing food items to the poor people and daily wage labourers.
Research and knowledge
In regard to the philanthropy related knowledge sector, Nepal also has academic institutions. They offer social work and nonprofit management and social entrepreneurship courses from the school level to the universities.
The above-shared instances shed light that philanthropy is on its pace in Nepal. However, much is not known among the people from the same fraternity across the world. It is obvious because we are least covered in international research, studies, and media. Further, Nepal is a small economy and does not have renowned foundations and plenty of ultra-high net worth individuals.
Strengths and weaknesses
But the modern form of philanthropy thrived when favorable environment for NGOs existed after the restoration of democracy in 1990. By the end of 2018, 48,273 NGOs and 240 INGOs were affiliated with the Social Welfare Council (SWC), out of which 2000 NGOs are reported active. I/NGOs are reported to contribute around 15% in the overall socio-economic development of Nepal. I/NGOs have carried out commendable preventable and relief support with awareness, food, and livelihood support during the COVID pandemic. They were mostly focused on their project areas. However, they were criticized in the preliminary stage for not being proactive in working with the government at the beginning of the pandemic.
Amid the progress and outstanding services, there are also weaknesses observed in the philanthropy sector. Few of the I/NGOs are time and again highlighted with issues related to transparency, accountability, sustainability, and professionalism. As a result, the Government of Nepal proposed the National Integrity Policy in 2018, with control measures which were later withdrawn after the heavy criticism from the civil society sector.
In contrast to stricter measures, Nepal also has a positive move to some extent. The newly elected people representatives at the provincial and local level government seem welcoming of philanthropists and I/NGOs to support and collaborate in local development issues. They are also found to be positive in creating an enabling environment.
But at this point in time, Nepal has a crucial challenge in the face of the loss caused by the decade long arms conflict, the devastating earthquake of 2015, and the so far uncalculated loss caused by the COVID 19. Nepal also has to address structural poverty and exclusions. According to the Global Climate Risk Index, Nepal ranks 4th in terms of climate risk followed by 11th in global risk for earthquake and top 20 of all the multi-hazard countries in the world. Hence, the risk of natural disaster is looming around the clock.
Therefore, there is an increasing role for the philanthropy sector to resolve aforesaid problems and materializing its aspiration to emerge as an inclusive, equitable, and prosperous middle-income country by 2030. The support of national and international philanthropists will be instrumental towards the building of a resilient socio-economic development in Nepal.
 Annual Report 2016, Charity Aid Foundation, UK