Tuesday, August 10, 2010

IIT-Bombay graduates pledge 1% of pay to alma mater

Charity begins on campus. Or so believe 735 students of the current outgoing batch of IIT-Bombay (IIT-B ) who have pledged 1% of their salaries to their alma mater. At a rough count taking the starting salary of a fresh graduate to be Rs. 12 lakh (Rs. 1.2 million) per annum that is likely to add a robust Rs. 50 lakh (Rs. 5 million) to IIT-B's coffers in the first year alone. The seed of this initiative came from alumnus Bakul Desai, an entrepreneur who lives in Hyderabad. Desai, a graduate of the 1982 batch, came up with the idea of a programme now being called Give One for IIT-B. In the second year we hope to bring in Rs. 1 crore (Rs. 10 million); in the third, Rs. 1.5 crore (Rs. 15 million) and so on, says Desai. No pressure of course, but it appears that most the 735 students, or approximately 70% of the graduating batch, is more than willing to pledge a fraction of their salaries.

Every year, it was becoming harder to chase alumni and request them to give something for the institute, says Desai, who is part of the alumni associations fund-raising team. So we thought, why not start young, with the fresh graduates, and hope that this will inculcate in them a habit of giving. He adds: The pledge is not a lifetime thing, so students need not feel compelled to continue, if any of them feel the pinch. It will be renewed every year, and if someone is not happy with the way his or her money has been utilised, he/she can choose to stop giving. Every year, IIT-B receives Rs. 10-15 crore (Rs. 100-150 million) in donations from alumnus. But this, of course, is different from the payroll giving it is trying to foster among its recent graduates.

The process, says A.Q. Contractor, Dean for Alumni & Corporate Relations, will be completely transparent, with a website being set up to track the donations, and inform donors about how their money is being used. Give One to IIT-B will help people who are not in a position to give spectacular amounts at one go, but prefer to give smaller amounts over a longer period, says Mr. Contractor. That way, it doesn't pinch them too much. In fact, the alumni association is not expecting much in the first year, when students are just about settling into their jobs, and payscales are likely to be low.

Still, on their part, the students are more than happy to open their purse strings. Anurag Kumar, 23, who just graduated from the aerospace engineering department, says: "IIT-B has given all of us so much, and academics is just a small part of it. It helps shape all of us into well-rounded, responsible individuals, and you can't put a cap on what you give back for that. It has been my home away from home for the last four years, and Im happy to give something for it".

Donations from alumnus have, hitherto, been tied up with specific kinds of research or scholarships. The payroll giving by fresh grads will go towards things that normally dont attract government (or donor) funds hostel upkeep and improvement, retirement benefits for staff, supplementing existing government scholarships for students or raising money for them to attend various conferences and workshops that they usually can't afford, and such. Also, seeing this initiative take off, Mr. Contractor hopes, will shame the older alumni into giving more. And 1% of their salaries is likely to be quite generous.

Source: The Economic Times, August 10, 2010

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