Why should donors choose Sewa International over other charities?
Answer: When grave disasters occur in any part of the world, many organizations feel the pain and suffering of the victims. Out of natural humanitarian concerns, they come forward to help and raise donations. However, after the initial outpouring of sympathy and the urge to help subsides, they quickly return to their respective core focus areas and missions. This is natural. But Sewa is unique in our long-term commitment to help disaster victims – from the short initial rescue and relief stage to the long haul of rehabilitation:
- Mission: Sewa International’s 24x7 mission is to offer relief and long-term rehabilitation to victims. Established in 2003, we have a proven track record in rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts. Many of our volunteers have 20-30 years’ experience in disaster management.
- International Coverage: We work with sister organizations in countries around the world. In the US we have 43 chapters in 23 states.
- Experience: We have a collective experience in 23 disaster recovery situations for a total of 150 person-years in relief and rehabilitation. We have worked during calamities such as Hurricane Florence (2018), Kerala & Kodagu (Karnataka) floods (2018), Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria (2017), Nepal Earthquake (2015), J & K floods (2014), Uttarakhand floods (2013), Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka floods (2010), Orissa Cyclone (2007), Hurricane Katrina (2005), Asian Tsunami (2004), and Gujarat earthquake rehabilitation (2003).
- Response to Disasters – Rescue Stage: Local volunteers and resources are quickly mobilized to rescue victims and help provide basic necessities (food, water, shelter and medical care). This is usually within the first 72 hours as disaster strikes.
- Response to Disasters – Relief Stage: We are nimble, and we respond quickly to provide relief (up to 60 days). We release $10-20K to our sister organizations in the disaster area immediately so that they can step in and provide the necessary relief without having to submit paperwork, etc.
- Sewa International and its sister organizations together form the largest relief providing organization in India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal.
- In appropriate situations, medical teams from the United States visit the disaster area and provide care.
- Response to Disasters – Rehabilitation Stage: We work on creating a careful, planned, deliberate long-term strategy for rehabilitation activities.
- Planning methodically we conduct a detailed survey of the damage and destruction and begin our rehabilitation activity in the third month, and which could last up to five years.
- Rehabilitation is usually a 2-5 year-long process. Many organizations usually do not have the necessary experience/resources/planning acumen to deliver sustainable rehabilitation. Social, cultural, education and religious organizations that raise funds in the immediate aftermath of a calamity later come to Sewa International as a preferred organization for collaboration and proper, honest, and transparent utilization of collected funds.
- We work closely with hundreds of such organizations through our 43-chapters in the US, and affiliates in countries around the world, and offer them support and service in a non-competitive yet compassionate manner.
- Sustainable rehabilitation: We focus on aspects such as long-term shelter, education, cultural needs, and livelihood and vocational training for victims so that they can return to normal life within a span of 2-5 years.
- 97 percent of individual donations will reach the beneficiaries directly.
- We keep our overheads low due to the commitment and dedication of our dedicated volunteers, and our unique participative management philosophy.
Is Sewa International a religious organization?
Answer: NO. We are inspired by our Hindu faith/philosophy, and we do not discriminate among the beneficiaries in the service we provide. We do not proselytize. We are not affiliated or identify with any specific Hindu sectarian group. Our leaders and volunteers are from the ordinary walks of life, and are not trained seminarians, ministers, or religious/faith leaders.
Is Sewa International a first responder, and if so, how large is the team on the ground?
Answer: Sewa International and/or its partners are often first responders. We have had years of working relationships with our sister organizations. We also work with official first responders like the police, fire-fighters, utility workers providing them support in case of need.
How would the money get utilized, and how does the money flow to grassroot organizations? How are those organizations chosen?
Answer: Disaster response is a three-step process with the initial rescue operations, followed by relief work, and then the long-term rehabilitation.
- Rescue (0-72 hours) -- usually local resources have to be deployed.
- Relief (up to 60 days) -- needs immediate response, and provision of food, water, and temporary shelter.
- Rehabilitation (2-5 years) -- Rehabilitation is a complex and long-drawn process. To manage rehabilitation, we have the following procedures:
- Grants Disbursement Committee: Sewa International has set up a national grant disbursement committee where all chapter leaders are members.
- Sewa International Grant Disbursement Committee actively consults with all participating organizations and partners for selecting service and rehabilitation work and projects.
- Reports and updates on the relief and rehabilitation will be provided to the large institutional donors providing them the information necessary to indicate the progress of work as well as allowing them to identify projects that they want their donated funds to be used for or committed to.
- Larger projects taken up by the Sewa International national team is funded by the specific, national donation drives as well as funds contributed by each chapter. This is achieved through active consultation and through a transparent process.
- Vetting Process for Projects: Grants will be made to and funneled through our sister organizations with whom we have had years of partnership and collaboration experience.
- Local organizations that seek support for their work will have to submit necessary official registration documentation: Information about beneficiaries, sound financial footing, tax exempt status, and local country/government permission to receive foreign funding. Sewa International checks compliance as mandated by the US Government such as the Patriot Act legislation and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
- Sewa International provides quarterly and annual progress reports with actual documentation, including photo verification of reconstruction work until all projects are complete.
- Sewa International acknowledges all major contributions -- $20,000 and above – by individuals and organizations, through official recognition in the form of plaques and certificates.
How does Sewa International recognize Large Institutional Donors?
Answer: Sewa International will recognize large institutional donors who have donated $20,000 or more through the installation of a plaque at the beneficiary project location. A photograph and a thank you letter will be sent to the institutional donors. Press releases in the US will acknowledge the donors when rehabilitation projects are selected, and when the project is completed.
How does Sewa International recognize Large Individual Donors?
Answer: Sewa International will recognize large individual donors who have donated $5,000 or more through the installation of a plaque at the beneficiary project location. A photograph and a thank you letter will be sent to the individual donor.
Does Sewa International have any particular ‘preference’ of beneficiaries or charities?
Answer: Sewa International, while choosing projects to undertake or be involved in, does not discriminate based on caste, race, color, religion, sex, and nationality of the beneficiaries. Our selection criteria are based on IRS guidelines, and compliance with US laws, including the Patriot Act. We seek to serve all humanity without discrimination.
- Recognizing the principle of 'Service to Humanity is Service to the Divine', we do not expect anything in return from the beneficiaries for services rendered. This is the unique difference in our approach as compared with other faith-based organizations. We do not proselytize.
How would donors get receipt (by email or by mail)?
Answer: Sewa International’s professional accounting office located in Houston, TX will provide digital receipts automatically upon receipt of donation.
- On-line donations receive instant receipts.
- Donations by checks with email information of the donor will get receipts as soon as the check is deposited. Else the receipt is mailed by US mail.
- Lost Receipts: No problem. We keep a record of all donations and can issue duplicate receipts for tax deduction. We respond quickly to our donors who call us in April as they rush to meet the tax deadline. If you have donated to any of our sister/partner organization, please contact those organizations for receipts.
- Thank you and Recognitions
- Our chapter leadership handles thank you letters, due recognition and accolades to all individual donors, collaborating organizations, and their leadership for the collective fundraising work done. Student volunteers will receive certificates acknowledging their work.
How do you handle Corporate Matching of my donations?
Answer: Sewa International is listed for corporate matching with major corporations. If your corporation/institution is not listed, please contact our accounting office: (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 518-698-1590.
How would donors get feedback and progress report (by email or by mail)?
Answer: Rehabilitation projects take months or years to complete, and Sewa commits to offer periodical email news bulletins to keep our administrative expenses low. We send bi-annual and annual reports indicating progress on the funded projects till the allocated funds are spent. Sewa Team (i) verifies reports coming from supported projects; (ii) documents actual progress with multimedia evidence (photos and video); and, (iii) reports to the donors.
Is Sewa International ready to collaborate with other charities?
Answer: Yes. We are always open to collaboration.
- We encourage collaboration whole-heartedly. We believe offering relief and rehabilitation is a noble cause and all institutions that have the common goal of "Service to Humanity is Service to the Divine" should come together to maximize efforts in offering support to disaster victims in a transparent and professional manner.
- Sewa International chapters have standard collaboration "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) templates available for working together with various institutions based on the principles of mutual respect and selfless service. Please contact email@example.com or your local Sewa International chapter volunteers for collaboration.
Which non-profit rating agencies have evaluated Sewa International?
Answer: We are received some of the highest rating by the following rating agencies:
I am convinced, how can I donate?
Answer: You can donate four different ways:
- Write a check in the name of "Sewa International" and send to:
Sewa International, P O Box 820867, Houston, TX 77282-0867
- Donate online at: http://www.sewausa.org/donate
- Write a check in the name of "Sewa International" and hand it over to your local Sewa Chapter volunteer during a regular/scheduled meeting or fundraiser event planned in your area.