Smile Foundation


july 2022


Local NGOs, CBOs in India step up to Change the Game

Change the Game India aims to improve CBOs and NGOs’ ability to generate funds and other forms of support without depending on foreign donors or other larger sources that could withdraw donations at any time.

In the past two decades, the non-profit industry in India has grown at an astounding rate. Grassroots NGOs, in particular, can engage in the thought-making process of the communities they work with by connecting directly with the people. This has enabled them to bring about long-term constructive change. Many genuine organisations have identified this potential and have been playing an important part in the nation’s social and economic progress, as well as supporting those who are at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid.

Their good intentions and sustained efforts, however, are sometimes thwarted by a variety of obstacles, ranging from inexperienced leadership to administrative oddities, and from insufficient funds to the inability to connect clearly with their intended audience.

A committed and thorough effort, focused on supporting, training, and handholding small, credible NGOs to boost their efforts was urgently needed.

To meet this need, Smile Foundation initiated its Empowering Grassroots programme in 2002 which was aimed at capacity building of community-based organisations (CBOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Between 2008 and 2016, Smile Foundation partnered with the Dutch development organisation Wilde Ganzen Foundation to scale up Empowering Grassroots. In 2016, Change the Game Academy, a global program, was launched that set up the grounds for Change the Game India (CTGI), a dedicated forum for capacity building of Indian and other South Asia based NGOS and CBOs, being spearheaded by Smile Foundation.

In rural and urban India, there are roughly 3.2 million registered NGOs working on a wide range of social challenges. These organisations play a vital role in confronting grassroots issues and bringing different government and non-profit programmes and projects to the underprivileged.

However, these groups endure several obstacles that limit their potential to be efficient social change advocates. For instance, foreign donors are lowering their funding or shifting their interests in India and due to the ongoing pandemic, funds and resources are being redeployed to provide COVID-19 relief.


Change the Game India aims to improve CBOs and NGOs’ ability to generate funds and other forms of support without depending on foreign donors or other larger sources that could withdraw donations at any time. It intends to empower such institutions to take on the duty of strengthening their capacity to produce funds, mobilise local support, expand their network and inspire employees and society to work for a greater good.

To achieve this, CtGI offers combined programmes, which include online and classroom teaching (via the Change the Game Academy worldwide site) through a multifaceted and dedicated pool of trainers. The training is available in both in-person and virtual forms and is tailored to the specific needs of a wide range of grassroots organisations throughout the country. In 2021 alone, CtGI completed training for over 710 grassroots level organisations globally. As a result of this training, organisations have streamlined their governance processes and strengthened their organisational tasks. 75% of organisations have expanded their donor base, 95% leveraged funds from individual donors, 60% have dedicated donors and over 85% increased their local fundraising activities.

A case in point is Shiksha, a Gurgaon-based NGO, which aims to provide free education to underprivileged children between the ages of 4 and 16. However, their objective was hindered when a large corporate partner withdrew support due to a change in their area of focus. Change the Game’s Mobilizing Support training programme assisted them in effectively conveying their impact to their stakeholders. They learned how to influence policy-makers, which in turn helped them influence decisions and measures on a local level. They now have strong local relations and are resilient in their projects. Several other organisations like NeeV (Delhi NCR), Samvedana (Gujarat) and Rainbow Homes (Bihar) have also witnessed changes in the way their organisations operated after support from Change the Game India. There has been improved sustainability, better rapport building with the community, stronger organisational leadership, and innovative fundraising, helping them create a more concentrated impact on the ground.

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