A Bengaluru fundraising strategist throws his weight behind rural organisations working to alleviate pandemic woes

Rishabh Lalani, fundraising strategist, Bengaluru; Photo by Subir Halder

Rishabh Lalani, a Bengaluru-based independent fundraising strategist, moved back in with his parents in Kolkata at the start of the pandemic in 2020. “I would rather be with my parents than die alone,” says Lalani. “Koi time nahin hai sochne ke liye (there’s no time to ruminate), might as well do what comes to you in the moment.”

Lalani charts out strategies for NGOs that have the intent and the grassroots network to drive relief efforts but lack the financial wherewithal to raise funds. Since April last year, the 32-year-old has worked with some 62 NGOs and raised over Rs 22 crore collectively. Most of the organisations he has helped are focused on providing food and rations to Covid patients or people whose livelihoods have taken a hit during the pandemic. A post-graduate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, Lalani has raised funds through various avenues—the Axis Bank Foundation, Azim Premji Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell foundation and even crowdfunding and individual support.

Last year, Lalani helped Rajesh Srinivas, CEO of Sangama, an NGO that works with sex workers in Karnataka, raise around Rs 20 lakh. The funds were spent towards providing rations to sex workers who do not benefit from the public distribution system or any government food security scheme. “The situation is bad. There are no earnings and food security is a major issue. We distributed food packets to 7,000 sex workers across Karnataka last year. This year, we want to take the number up to 10,000,” says Srinivas.

Lalani also helped Agami, an NGO that works in the legal justice space, to build ruralindia.help, a credible database of thousands of rural initiatives across India dealing with the Covid crisis. Lalani powered the team with volunteers who keep the database updated. “This database could become valuable beyond Covid,” says Varun Hemachandran, spokesperson for Agami. “Anytime there is a disaster in the country, these organisations can become the frontline workers.” And Lalani, putting his corporate negotiation skills to good use, is enabling them do what they do best—extending help.

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