Philanthropic support from the U.S. to Bangladesh for the purpose of supporting charitable projects come from several sources. A majority of remittances sent to Bangladesh are used to pay food, household essentials, education and healthcare. A very small percentage, however, is for social investments such as the building of schools, wells, and clinics. This informal giving practice is difficult to quantify and no data currently exists. One reason “donors” prefer to give to individuals and do not give to institutions in Bangladesh, and many parts of Asia still, is the lack of trust in institutions – in the management and use of funds to the transparency, reporting and impact.
Another source of philanthropic support come from individuals and friends that give to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations to support private development projects in Bangladesh. During a quick Guidestar search, I found 238 organizations using the keyword “Bangladesh”. A majority of them were established by Bangladeshis with a specific focus or reason – disaster relief, education, human rights, environment, livelihood, etc. In addition, many of them are voluntary organizations and do not have full-time staff.
We looked at 20 arbitrarily selected organizations and found live websites. Unfortunately, most of the data from their websites are several years old. Interestingly enough, a majority of them were incorporated in the east coast, Texas, and Ohio.There are several organizations that appear to be strong and organized. Organizations like Drishtipat, Agami, Volunteer Association of Bangladesh (VAB), SpaandanB, etc. were started by individuals that mobilized others in their community to give back. VAB has offices in the US and in Bangladesh. Their website is very transparent and they list the number of students supported with a breakdown of how many and how much donors gave. The grade level of the students and a summary breakdown of how they placed in exams are also provided. In addition, donors receive copies of the actual financial operating statements in the mail.
There are also philanthropic groups such as Tides, Give2Asia, Geneva Global and others that work with individuals, foundations and corporations to support projects in Bangladesh. In 2008, Tides Foundation made 14 grants to various organizations in Bangladesh totaling $706,609. The funds supported groups like the Rakhaing Women’s Union, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and Action on Disability and Development.
Bangladesh Freedom Foundation and Drishtipat are working on a research project to build a database on diaspora philanthropic organizations and select case studies with the long term objective of increasing the flow of information, resources, knowledge, and expertise. We look forward to hearing about their research and learning more about Bangladeshi American diaspora philanthropy.