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New donors emerge in developing countries

As the newly wealthy in emerging nations turn to philanthropy, global charity gets a boost.

By Taylor BarnesCorrespondent / July 6, 2010

Reva and Vineet Nayyar donated more than $6.5 million to launch a foundation that now funds educational programs around New Delhi, such as a sewing class in which women learn skills to supplement their incomes. As wealth grows in developing countries, local donors like the Nayyars have emerged.

Taylor Barnes

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Mumbai

The Nayyars could have retired comfortably after Reva's more than 30 years in the Indian Civil Service. Her husband, Vineet, was on his third career – at India's fourth-largest information-technology firm – after stints in government and at the World Bank. Their youngest child had just graduated from Harvard Business School.

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Instead, the Nayyars used some of their new wealth to take on a new project: donating more than 300 million rupees (about $6.6 million) in March to a foundation named for Mr. Nayyar's father, which funds a dozen education projects and thousands of children around New Delhi.

"India is at the early stages [of philanthropy]. I think everyone is fulfilling their dreams of being rich at the moment," Mrs. Nayyar says, after visiting a Mumbai (Bombay) area school where she's a trustee. "But one day soon I think they will realize that you don't carry this to the grave. Life is finite."

As major developing economies leap forward, they're creating a fast-growing class of wealthy residents who may reach the same conclusion as the Nayyars. If so, they will change the face of international giving from a largely Western affair to a much larger, more diverse group of donors. The new philanthropists may also change the targets of the aid, choosing to address pressing issues near their own homes.

"I think what you're seeing is the journey of a philanthropist being vastly accelerated," says Jane Wales, founder of the Global Philanthropy Forum in San Francisco. Reforms in India, China, and other nations have rapidly created wealth, "but at the same time new disparities, and so there was a new consciousness ... that economic good fortune [could be] more evenly shared," she adds.

In many ways, India leads the way in emerging-nation philanthropy. Its pool of millionaires (technically, those with investable assets over $1 million) has grown an average 11 percent a year since 2000, one of the fastest such rates in the world, says a recent report from Bain & Co., a global consulting firm. Despite the global recession, the number of billionaires here grew from 27 in 2009 to 52 this year, Forbes reported in March. One result: India's charitable giving rose to 0.6 percent of gross domestic product by 2006, topping Brazil's 0.3 percent and China's 0.1 percent, according to Bain (see chart).

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