Gandhi, Fund-raising, And Financial Sustainability

Posted by Birju Pandya on Feb 1, 2013
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Last week at a meditation gathering we had a group member who shared a bit about Gandhiji's approach to money and fundraising.  This is something that hasn't really gotten much publicity: money was needed to help get things done in the movement, but that process is rarely discussed.  
Clearly Gandhiji had something that attracted money and attention towards him.  Apparently, in the early days that 'fundraising' was actually channeled towards an endowment.  The idea was to use the funds to fuel activities towards swaraj.  However, this was quickly dissolved as Gandhiji started diving deeper into the concept of money, debt and interest.  What started as an endowment plan became a simple 1 year statement: whatever was donated was used by the end of the year.  The lessons of having zero carry-over are quite deep. First, one must earn ones keep anew constantly while balancing truth such that values are not compromised.  Second, one is consciously minimizing the use of financial capital as fuel while simultaneously building other sources of communal wealth.  Third, one is reducing the disconnection in the system such that funds are not 'invested/lended' or 'spent' in projects that are counter to the mission.  It is a movement towards holism.  
I'd love to learn more about where funds came from if that is possible - to what extent were there 'wealthy patrons' behind the scenes vs 'everyday heroes' in terms of total amounts given.  Regardless, it seems that there was no 'fundraising strategy' with targets to cultivate, which is something I see a lot of in my world!  

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Comments (8)

  • Sheetal wrote ...

    Thought provoking!!

  • Janis Daddona wrote ...

    I'd like to hear more about this too! Keep us posted.

  • Mia wrote ...

    SO interesting. Thanks for sharing, Birju :)

  • Mia Tagano wrote ...

    Yes, please do!

  • Audrey wrote ...

    really interesting to think about... thank you for sharing!

  • Smita wrote ...

    Very interesting..thanks for sharing!

  • Pallavi wrote ...

    Somehow late last night I was reminded of this post of yours and wanted to share some stories from my family, some of which my mother recently shared with me. My great grandfather was a deeply religious man who worked for the British Raj as an accountant. He was very well known for for the Shiva Ratri puja(prayer) which he would perform for 24 continuous hours in Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, attracting large crowds. His son, Gora, was a friend of Gandhiji and was greatly influenced by him. He broke dogmas about caste barriers in his own life and was an atheist even though his own father was deeply religious and famous for it. Another daughter Samrajyam, now 92, is also a Gandhian. And I am the granddaughter of yet another sister, Sowbhagyam, who was very broadminded for her time and greatly influenced our thinking!
    2 stories of interest-
    Apparently Gora (after asking his father for permission) donated the family's entire supply of grains to Gandhiji's movement when they were in town. The Britishers found out and my great grandfather lost his job because they said he was supporting the freedom movement and his loyalties lay elsewhere. Someone told him to lie to get his job back-- and he refused. He said- my son asked me for permission and I said okay, and I won't lie about it. I don't know the details, but apparently they gave him back his job (with a reprimand I presume).

    And another aunt of my mother's(not from this side of the family) apparently is known to have told her teenage daughter to remove her gold bangles when she went to see Gandhiji. As you know, women in India always wore gold if they could afford it. When they went to visit Gandhiji, apparently he would hold onto their hands and refuse to let go until the women agreed to donate the gold they were wearing to his cause!! :-) Hence this aunt's cautionary advice to her daughter!! :-)
    It was interesting to hear these two reactions to the freedom movement, all in my family!! We are such complicated creatures! :-)
    ps: In Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapiere, Nehru's father apparently told Gandhiji he would make a large donation, and in return asking him to leave his son alone. His young and upcoming son, Jawaharlal Nehru was getting influenced to the movement. Gandhiji's reply-- it won't be long before not just your son, but you too are drawn to the movement! ;-) Got to love his sense of humor! :)

  • Lavanya wrote ...

    Great food for thought, Birju! I loved the 1 year statement - no hoarding, and regularly practicing letting go! Pallavi - lovely stories :) My grandfather too was a freedom fighter and a satyagrahi. He had 'shoot at sight' orders placed against him for participating in the freedom movement; so he would be in hiding a lot of the time. This caused great trouble to his family, which was ill-treated by the police to reveal his whereabouts. I always wondered how much power Gandhiji's call had, that people far down the chain, like my grandfather, stayed true to the cause in spite of great threat to their lives. Money, loyalty, all were part of this movement towards truth and freedom.