DaanUtsav, earlier called Joy of Giving Week (JGW), is India’s very own festival of giving. It aims to spread love, joy and happiness among those who are lesser fortunate than us, and for each one of us to experience the joy in giving. It is like our own Eid or Diwali, with a key feature that it celebrates “giving”. People celebrate this festival in various ways. Some people donate money, some their time, some materials, and some just pure love.
DaanUtsav is celebrated for a week starting from Gandhi Jayanti (Oct 2-8) every year, and was started in 2009. Here are some frequently asked questions about the festival and their answers:
Q. How does one participate?
You can celebrate DaanUtsav the way you want keeping the theme in mind. Individuals do small acts of giving across the country. Corporates organise volunteering and giving activities with their employees and customers, NGOs organise awareness or fundraising events, housing societies visit or invite orphanages or elderly homes or throw a party for their drivers, maids and watchmen. Schools and colleges encourage students to volunteer and many individuals, including celebrities, do their little bit in whatever way they can. Anyone and everyone can be part of this festival and they can choose to celebrate it the way they want, keeping the larger cause of giving to the less privileged in mind.
Q. Who owns or organises DaanUtsav?
DaanUtsav is a festival and not an NGO or organisation. It belongs to the people, just like Diwali, Christmas, Eid, World Elderly Day or Mother's Day. A large number of socially conscious citizens volunteer their time across the country to encourage more and more people to “celebrate the festival of giving”.
Q. Who can one support?
YOU decide whom to support. Since DaanUtsav is not an organisation, it doesn't seek or receive money or materials. Several charitable organisations participate in the Week and you could support any of them, or simply any organisation or deserving individuals that you know personally. There are no restrictions on who you can support. DaanUtsav volunteers can assist you with finding credible/deserving organisations, so that you can be sure that your contribution doesn't get misused.
Q. Why only a Week and not throughout the year?
Festivals and occasions are always celebrated as a way of “rededicating ourselves” to something that is equally important throughout the rest of the year as well. While Diwali is celebrated for a day, it reminds us of the importance of triumph of good over evil throughout the year, and not just on that one day. A birthday celebrates life, not just the actual birth. Similarly, occasions like World Environment Day or Disability day try to build focus on an important issue, that needs attention throughout the year, but by assigning a specific day to it, the cause gets the “spotlight”.
Celebrating a day or week also allows for collective participation that is not always possible throughout the year. While people must give all year round in various ways, a Week allows them the opportunity to come together and “celebrate” giving- as an organisation, a family, a society, school or college. E.g., many corporates have CSR activities engaging a few employees every week. Celebrating DaanUtsav allows such companies to create a few giving activities where ALL their employees can come together and participate, like blood donation camps, collection of materials or donations. Likewise, colleges have Rotaract Clubs, NSS and other social service efforts that each involve a few students. DaanUtsav creates an opportunity for ALL of them to come together and celebrate their volunteerism. Such collective participation promotes unity, a sense of “belonging” and togetherness.
Q. Will people use this as an excuse not to give through the rest of the year?
Giving is more often than not, an act out of emotion, empathy and impulse. People respond to incidents or requests, and have the capacity to give far more than they currently do. Every survey of philanthropy shows that except for the very wealthy who perhaps set a “budget” for their philanthropy, the rest give “when asked”, and the only reason they don't give more is because they haven't been asked more times in an emotionally compelling manner. People that use DaanUtsav as an excuse, would have actually decided not to give for other reasons anyway.
As an example, a few auto stands in Chennai set up water/”chaas” stalls on the roadside during summer, and free food kitchens on all important festivals. These autowalas have seen DaanUtsav as “another opportunity” to give back, rather than stop anything else.
In fact, DaanUtsav creates more opportunities for people to ask- and hence increases giving. The vast majority of DaanUtsav events result in incremental giving. A big part of what people give during the Week is their TIME (>70% of DaanUtsav events involve volunteering). Time is a resource that they anyways couldn't “accumulate” or postpone from other parts of the year into DaanUtsav.
Q. I already give a lot throughout the year, why should I participate in DaanUtsav?
Participating in DaanUtsav is a way to celebrate your round the year giving, together with others at work, home or family. By doing so, we collectively promote a value that we all share and believe in together as fellow human beings- as citizens who take responsibility and as neighbours who care. Your act of celebration could be as simple as offering a chocolate bar to a daily wage labourer on the street. Do try and use it as an opportunity to do something different from what you normally do- and you can be amazed by the experience!
Q. What has DaanUtsav achieved so far?
DaanUtsav now sees 1,000+ corporates, 1,000+ NGOs, 2,000+ schools and colleges and thousands of other institutions participate every year, with millions of individuals celebrating the festival. Donations raised during the Week run into tens of crores, and millions of volunteer hours. While many people register their events on the website and share what they have done, several others choose to celebrate on their own. An accurate estimate of the number of participants is therefore impossible.
Q. Where do I get more information if I want?
For more information, visit www.daanutsav.org
Videos at www.youtube.com/joyofgivingweek
Images/press articles at http://picasaweb.google.com/joyofgivingweek
Facebook page- www.facebook.com/daanutsav
Twitter handle- @daanutsav
Who should I contact?
You can reach out to any DaanUtsav volunteer. For now, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Closer to the festival dates, we will have a free helpline offered by some generous corporate, and the number advertised by generous media houses across the country!