By Mahreen Omer

When was the last time you looked up in the sky and felt blessed for having a roof on your head? When was the last time you looked at your computer and felt gifted for being able to read the words on the screen? When was the last time you felt thirsty and could not find any cold water to drink for the entire day? When was the last time you felt a hunger cramp and had to look in your pocket if you have enough money to make you survive the day? When was the last time you were able to breathe without having to cough?

Do we even then take a moment to understand that many of the blessings that we take to be guaranteed are actually beyond imagination for many. How does that make it our fault? Maybe we didn't do anything to cause such an imbalance of fortunes, but maybe we are doing everything to further worsen it. In order to truly enjoy the blessings we are given, we must share them with those who don't have it. Are we any more deserving of these blessings than they are?

What can we do then to help? Volunteering or donating may be the two necessary components of social work, but they aren't enough by themselves because the entire idea of giving, whether it is your money, your time or your expertise, revolves around your attitude. Unless you develop an attitude to truly make a positive difference in the world, you won't go far.

This is why Association for the Development of Pakistan (ADP) works on developing the right attitude amongst its donors and volunteers. With its ground-breaking concept of ‘Smart Giving’, it aims to give its patrons a variety of different projects to choose from so each person can choose from or donate to any cause he/she feels most passionate about and follow its progress till its completion. This way a person can ensure that he remains dedicated to a particular cause and does not give randomly to different organizations, to each one only half-heartedly. Being obsessed with quantity rather than quality doesn’t do you any good; it’s just like reading the first chapter of every book without finishing any.

But even if you are averse to risk and do not want to put all your eggs in one basket, Association for the Development of Pakistan (ADP) ensures that you have plenty of different projects to donate to. It is a volunteer-driven, engaged philanthropy organization that funds carefully selected development projects run by local NGOs in Pakistan. It supports projects in a range of sectors including education, energy, water and healthcare. Its projects always serve a critical need, have measurable results, are sustainable and ensure a significant social return. Through these development projects, it has evaluated over 325 development projects, funded 51 of the highest-impact initiatives, invested more than $455k, and improved the lives of over 160,000 underprivileged people.

ADP has over 250 volunteers to date, who live and work in more than 30 cities around the world and actively contribute to the organization’s mission by identifying high-impact projects, evaluating and monitoring projects, conducting site visits, fundraising and hosting events. Its project teams are analogous to investment committees in an investment firm, carrying out rigorous evaluation to ensure sustainable, measurable impact and make final decisions on which projects receive ADP’s funding.

Its donors are an inspired and engaged global community who are actively funding development projects across Pakistan and making a meaningful difference in the world. They prove that everyday philanthropy – smart giving – is within everyone’s reach. With their support and commitment, ADP has raised over $455,000 ~ PKR 50 million since its inception in 2003. Its partner network consists of over 50 credible and promising small and medium sized nonprofits, spread geographically throughout Pakistan.

What’s interesting is the fact that it goes beyond traditional charity by performing extensive due diligence to identify critically needed projects where the impact is crucial and measurable. The non-profit submits a proposal either through proactive solicitation, partner referrals or online submissions. After a proposal has met the basic requirements, it staffs highly talented volunteer Project Teams to conduct deeper due diligence. With regular communication and project site visits, the merits of the project and its intended impact are assessed typically over the course of 3 to 4 months.

Then it has various social metrics to judge the success of a project. In the education sector, it uses metrics like enrollment trends, student and teacher attendance, math and language skills, and graduation rates etc. In the water sector, it uses metrics like the no. of beneficiaries, decrease in the incidence of disease, and time spent collecting water otherwise etc. In the health sector, it uses metrics like disease incidence and utilization trends etc. And in the energy sector, metrics like business creation and income levels are assessed apart from others.

The fact of the matter is that Pakistan has the 2nd highest number of out-of-school children – 25 million – according to SPARC (Society for Protection of Rights of Child), and it cannot send every child to school if it costs more than Rs 1,000/- a month to educate a child. 1 in 3 people, that is, 50 million people do not have access to clean water in Pakistan. Furthermore, 1 in every 11 children dies before his/her fifth birthday and there is less than 1 hospital bed allocated per 1,000 people in Pakistan. And what to say of load-shedding: there is a persistent deficit in power generation in Pakistan which currently stands at 16000 MW whereas 26000 MW will be required to meet demand by 2020.

So if you are going to give to charity, give smartly. The entire concept of ‘Smart Giving’ at ADP revolves around three core strategies: It invests in the next generation of nonprofits, brings the best and brightest minds to development, and enables donors to contribute to projects with the highest return on social impact.