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India’s best NGOs to work for

These enterprises* have earned their title by blending social good with employee welfare

Published 5 years ago on Nov 06, 2019 20 minutes Read

*Workplaces are listed in alphabetical order

Methodology: All organisations that nominate themselves for India’s Best NGOs to Work For list undergo a rigorous assessment. This year, 29 NGOs applied for the study and were broadly evaluated through two lenses. The first lens measures the quality of employee experience through our globally validated survey instrument known as Trust Index©. This is acquired through anonymous feedback and carries two-third weightage. The second lens, called Culture Audit©, evaluates the quality of people practices in an organisation, covering the entire employee lifecycle. After thorough assessment, the cumulative score of Trust Index© and Culture Audit© determines an organisation’s inclusion in ‘India’s 10 Best NGOs to Work For’. No individual or jury has a say in who makes it to the Top 10 list — only employee feedback and quality of people practices determine if an organisation is a great workplace. Great Place to Work® funds this study and shares a detailed report on the feedback shared by employees. The report is then shared back with all the participating NGOs.

Disclaimer: This list is as per the data given by the organisation at the time of assessment done with Great Place to Work ®

EnAble India

Be the change. Be open. Be inclusive. These are just a few mantras that EnAble India preaches and practices every day, integrating them into its very foundation. To be the change, the company involves itself in social services and helps find employment for persons with disabilities. Over 45% of EnAble India’s employees are persons with disabilities and the organisation has also hired members from the LGBTQ+ community. The NGO extends help to it staff at critical junctures. “With our dedicated staff welfare fund, we provide financial support to our employees in case of medical emergencies or for education of their children,” says Dipesh Sutariya, co-founder and CEO, EnAble India. Almost 25 people over the past 10 years have taken a loan from the fund at zero or 3% interest rate. 

Mission: EnAble India helps people with disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairment, mental retardation and mental illness, earn a living with dignity by organising training programmes and collaborations with companies.

Impact story: In the cafeteria of the Dell-EMC office in Bengaluru, Pradip lays his finger on the braille-inscribed button of the coffee machine that says ‘Cappuccino’ and takes one to go. He sits on the same table every day, which is left empty for him, and sips on the coffee as he plans his work for the day in the absolute silence he was born with. Fifteen years ago, he’d never have imagined that a training programme by EnAble India at the Helen Keller Institute for Deaf and Blind, Mumbai, would lead him to a job in the asset management team of a multinational company.

“Pradip has a very curious mind. I remember introducing him to the various parts that make a computer using an old model in 2005. When I came back in the evening, he had disassembled the entire system and learnt what was what,” recalls Sutariya. Pradip is one of the 10 people who had enrolled themselves in a two-year Profound Disability internship with Dell-EMC in 2015, at the end of which they were hired as full-time employees across various departments. From learning elementary and everyday activities to managing laptops and other assets for new employees at Dell-EMC today, Pradip has come a long way. He is among the 6,000 people that the Bengaluru-based NGO has helped find employment at over 725 companies including Wipro, Amazon and IBM. With the Rs.350,000 that he earns in a year, the 36-year-old is able to sustain himself and support his mother back in Kolkata.

Equitas Development Initiatives Trust 

A public charitable trust, Equitas Development Initiatives Trust (EDIT) keeps its employees hooked to its social mission with inspirational success stories. The teachers employed at its ‘gurukuls’ for economically backward children are trained at the Centre for Academic Excellence, to be engaging educators. EDIT honours personal and professional achievements of its employees and supports them by offering loans, allowances, career breaks and other opportunities. The trust arranges ‘seemantham’ ceremony for its pregnant employees, before they go on their maternity leave, and this is celebrated with sweets and gifts. For its new employees, the NGO arranges a ‘Know Your Workplace’ tour where the new teacher can interact with other members and understand the functioning of the ‘gurukul’.

Mission: Equitas Development Initiatives Trust (EDIT) is a public charitable trust established to improve the quality of life of people from socially and economically backward families.

Impact story: Hailing from a small town in Coimbatore, 18-year-old Mohana Meena’s parents never went to school. Her father is disabled and her mother is a daily-wage labourer, and they wanted a better future for their daughter. Meena aspired to study in a good school and become a Chartered Accountant, and EDIT is helping her meet that ambition. Meena was in Pandit Nehru Matriculation School in Coimbatore till Class IV before she joined an EDIT-run gurukul in Tiruchirappalli. “She came to us hoping for a better quality of education and has been a very hardworking student,” says Arcot Sravanakumar, correspondent of the Equitas Trust. She is the first literate person in her family. With time, teachers at the gurukul have helped Meena build her confidence and stay focussed on her goal. “We provided her with mental and nutritional support. At the gurukul, we make our students practise transcendental meditation, which helps them overcome the adverse experiences they have faced in their life,” says Sunandha, principal, Tiruchirappalli gurukul. Meena is now in Class XII and is confident about giving the Chartered Accountancy entrance exam next year. She is one of the top scorers in her class and therefore has been awarded a scholarship by the management. “We will also arrange financial help for her further studies and will be in touch with her after she passes her Class XII from our gurukul,” says Sravanakumar.

Ipas Development Foundation

Ipas Development Foundation positively impacts lives of thousands of people across the country every year and this includes its own employees. The organisation boasts a low attrition rate, of just 10%, and is one of the best workplaces in the country for many reasons. “The one policy we are most proud of is our on-board process and orientation programme,” says Vinoj Manning, CEO of Ipas India. Once a person is hired, he is sent a boarding package that includes a welcome letter, a comic book illustrating the history of the organisation and a technical profile of their work. The new hire is also assigned a ‘buddy’, who familiarises him with the new workplace. The NGO truly believes that the employee’s family is a major contributor to the functioning of the organisation and offers a ‘sick leave’ even when a family member of the employee is sick.

Mission: Ipas Development Foundation (IDF) works to increase women’s ability to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights, especially the right to safe abortion and contraceptive services.

Impact story: After ten years of its establishment, Community Health Centre (CHC) in Chourai, in the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh, got its first in-house lady doctor only in April 2018. After four months of her appointment, Dr Anu Kriti Pandey was nominated by the hospital for Ipas’ Comprehensive Abortion Care (CAC) training programme. The 12-day course transformed the lives of people in Chourai, and multiple stories of pregnant women who go to Dr Pandey for treatment are a testament to this fact. 

“Before I joined the hospital, the only way women here could get an abortion was by going to untrained or jholachap doctors,” says Dr Pandey. Last year, a two-month pregnant lady had visited Dr Pandey after an untrained doctor prescribed her the Medical Method of Abortion (MMA) kit without putting her under observation, causing her to bleed for 15 days. “The doctors would charge anything between Rs.2,000-30,000, depending on the desperation of the case, and every case would be treated with the same kit and pill,” says Dr Pandey, who treated the patient at the CHC for free. While in this case, the married woman was accompanied by her family to avoid a third pregnancy, unmarried women who opt for termination are more vulnerable to harassment. Untrained doctors charge a hefty fee and often threaten to inform the women’s families or people from their community.

Ipas has trained over 10,000 doctors in CAC who have in effect impacted the lives of more than 1.6 million women over the past 19 years. By doing this, Ipas is not only “building the capacity of public health systems to provide good quality abortion and contraceptive services”, but also protecting women from social harassment.

Make A Difference

A non-profit organisation registered in 2006, Make A Difference (MAD) has a team of 385 employees spread across 23 cities in India. The employees take pride in working for a worthy cause — of supporting vulnerable children in shelter homes. They are inspired by the daily share of success stories on MAD’s social media platforms and are encouraged to take ownership of their projects. MAD ensures team bonding through ‘Sunday Funday’ activities, where every last Sunday of the month is spent together by teams watching movies, going for games, or attending farewell or achievement parties.

Mission: Make A Difference (MAD) is a non-profit organisation mobilising young leaders to provide equal opportunities for children in need of care and protection.

Impact story: Twenty-two-year-old Shweta (name changed on request) is a confident final year law student at the Bangalore Institute of Legal Studies (BILS). Nine years ago, she wouldn’t have imagined coming anything close to this. When she was a child, her father was incarcerated, while her mother was working as a house maid. They had no money to hire a lawyer to fight for her father or even eat two meals a day. At 13, her mother put her in a shelter home supported by Make A Difference (MAD) in Bengaluru. “Shweta was a very silent child and seemed quite distant from her peers. This was probably because of her painful childhood experiences,” says Jithin Nedumala, co-founder of the non-profit organisation. 

Things changed for her when she attended her first annual ‘Dream Camp’ conducted by MAD. “We take the children away from their shelter homes for a change in environment. We try to break their negative mental narrative about themselves and to help them connect to their dreams and aspirations,” explains Nedumala. Shweta’s dream was to be a lawyer, primarily to get her father out of jail and help other families like hers. With a lot of hard work and support from her mentors at MAD, Shweta got into BILS. However, she had a weak academic background and was on the verge of giving up in her second year. But, her then-mentor at MAD, who herself was a law school graduate, helped Shweta catch up. The MAD team also met her college principal to explain Shweta’s special needs. They even convinced her fiancé to support her aspirations. “We ensure that every child who comes to MAD is able to thrive in her/his own way and become their best self. We also ensure that when they leave, they don’t just have a good job or salary, but also a community that they can fall back on for the rest of their lives,” says Nedumala.

Room to Read India 

Not just the kids enrolled in Room to Read’s programmes, but even its employees take delight in the colourful and glossy educational books published by the NGO. Employees who have stayed with the organisation for over five years have plaques honouring them displayed in one of the libraries run by Room to Read. And those who have completed ten years of service have books dedicated to them. Like Marie Kondo’s philosophy of ‘sparking joy’, the NGO’s several employee-friendly policies are aimed towards ‘creating a culture of joy’. Employees who have children below two years are offered transport and accommodation facilities. And if a female employee is scheduled for a training session tour, the company allots a caretaker for her toddler.

Mission: Room to Read is an international non-profit organisation working across Asia and Africa in the areas of early literacy and girls’ education.

Impact story: Kalpana was a 17-year-old school-going girl in the remote district of Dhamtari in Chhattisgarh when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Being the only girl in the household, she was asked to drop out of school, so that she could take care of her ailing mother. In that moment, Kalpana’s life could have taken two different trajectories — of a daughter and then a wife who would be expected only to take care of domestic chores and be dependent on her family; or of an educated woman who stands up for her rights and is economically independent.

Kalpana chose the latter because she had attended the Life Skills Education Programme by Room to Read India in her hometown a few years earlier. “We had just launched the programme in Dhamtari that year and Kalpana was one of the many girls who was being taught to stand up for her rights, set a goal for herself and hold her ground,” says Sourav Banerjee, country director, Room to Read India. “That’s what helped Kalpana pursue what she really wanted,” he adds. Kalpana was in the hospital room with her mother as she prepared for her Class XII board exams. A few months later, when her brother died in an accident and her mother passed away soon after, she stayed strong and appeared for her finals and scored 75%.

Today, Kalpana is a multi-tasker — she has joined a self-help group that supports women who have been abandoned by their families, and takes tuitions for school children. She guides students who share a story like hers and encourages them to remain strong in the face of adversity and work hard to achieve their goals.  

Salaam Bombay Foundation

Founded in 2002, Salaam Bombay Foundation is a Mumbai-based NGO that boasts a professional work culture. It trains its junior employees in basic computer skills including using software such as Microsoft Office. Since most of its employees come from lower socio-economic strata, the NGO helps them develop soft skills for a corporate ecosystem. They are also encouraged to continue their education for better career prospects. The employees receive continuous feedback through a performance appreciation system, and their families and loved ones are thanked regularly through various award forums and initiatives. 

Mission: Salaam Bombay Foundation works with children from low-income families who tend to drop out of school, could be employed as labour or are at risk of abusing tobacco. The NGO tries to avert this by exposing the child to sports, arts and vocational training, which prepares them for a sustainable future.

Impact story: For 14-year-old Priyanka Kotwal, school was not just a space to learn. It was a refuge from the torture she was facing at home, located in the bylanes of a Mumbai slum. Being subjected to abuse and going to bed hungry was routine for Kotwal, who lived with her father, stepmother and two brothers. The hostile environment at home resulted in Kotwal having no interest or ambition in life.

“The first time I saw her, she was a reticent girl with no enthusiasm,” recalls Padmini Somani, founder and director, Salaam Bombay Foundation. Kotwal had just shifted from Shimpoli Municipal School to Borivali Municipal Secondary School, which works with Salaam Bombay. Through the NGO’s programmes, Kotwal took a liking for theatre and enrolled in their three-year course, working closely with veteran puppeteer Meena Naik.

Suddenly, there was a whole new world that opened up for her. Her passion for the stage translated into a strong ambition to succeed. She graduated in commerce from Shri Bhausaheb Vartak College and, in 2017, founded Puppetry House, which organises puppetry shows and workshops. She also teaches theatre at Salaam Bombay and has worked in plays helmed by veteran thespians Sunil Shanbag and Sapan Saran among others.

Today, the shy girl has made way for a young, confident woman, says Somani. And Kotwal is just one of the thousands of children whose lives Salaam Bombay has changed, by giving them the power to imagine who they want to be, and then helping them achieve it. Make-up art, retail management and mobile phone repair service are just some of the other popular vocational courses offered. Quoting Albert Einstein, Somani says, “Logic can get you from A to Z, imagination can take you anywhere. For a child from the slums to imagine that he or she can be anything, to me that is success.”

SEWA Rural

The 39-year-old voluntary development organisation — SEWA Rural — based in the rural tribal area of Jhagadia in south Gujarat believes in the development of each of its employees. Just as it cares for the welfare of the poor and needy of the society, it does for the well being of its employees and their families. The new employees are welcomed on board by the HR head and encouraged to connect with others like a family member. The management focuses on the employees’ work-life balance and tries to make the workplace fun. Employees are encouraged to share ideas during meetings and group discussions, and work as one cohesive team. Along with workplace support, employees get medical facilities, as well as mental and social support at personal and familial levels.

Mission: SEWA Rural is a voluntary development organisation involved in health and developmental activities in the rural tribal areas of Jhagadia in south Gujarat.

Impact story: Living in a thatched-roof house in a small town in Gujarat, Usha used to beg door-to-door for meals, while her husband Haresh sold bangles. Though making ends meet wasn’t easy, they were excited about their first child. During the eighth month of her pregnancy, Usha experienced severe pain. Unable to afford care at any private or even a government hospital, she was admitted to SEWA Rural’s hospital in Jhagadia, 17 km from their village. Usha delivered a premature male child with an extremely low birth weight of just one kg. The baby was admitted to the hospital’s newborn intensive care unit (NICU) and the paediatricians immediately began treatment for him. During his 26 days at the NICU, the baby’s condition improved significantly and his weight increased to 1.5 kg. Dr Pankaj Shah, managing trustee, says, “We have been able to reduce infant mortality rate in and around Jhagadia from 172 to 41 in 15 years.”

Despite warnings from nurses and doctors, Usha sought the baby’s discharge from the hospital and went back to her house, worried about her plastic-covered house getting washed away in rain. Uncertain of the baby’s well-being, SEWA Rural sent its community health workers (CHW) to Usha’s house to check on her son. They found out that within three days, the baby’s weight had reduced to 1.2 kg and he was in a critical condition. They counselled Usha and Haresh and convinced them to admit the baby back to SEWA Rural. The baby was treated again and weighed around 1.8 kg after 10 days. Though the baby was then discharged, the CHW kept visiting him to make sure he was healthy. The boy had a total of four admissions, stayed in the hospital for 121 days and was treated for free. Dr Shah says, “We have been able to demonstrate that providing health service at doorstep is possible.” Dr Lata Desai, co-founder, says, “We were thrilled to take care of this little family!” 

SOS Children’s Villages of India

SOS Children’s Villages of India is a thousand-employee strong organisation that prides itself in providing a family-like environment for parentless and abandoned children. Large open spaces, as well as educational and sports facilities are provided and members of the organisation work together as one big family. SOS mothers are women who take care of the children in the NGO’s shelters. And the mothers who have been active in their function for 10 years or more are awarded the SOS Kinderdorf ring as a token of respect and gratitude. Another honour, the Prem Pandhi Award is bestowed upon SOS India Coworkers who go beyond the call of duty. It comprises a medal, a citation and a cash award of  Rs.25,000 that is given for excellence in performance and dedication to one’s duty. 

Mission: SOS Children’s Villages of India works for the holistic development of parentless children, and women and children belonging to vulnerable families.

Impact story: Over the past 50 years, SOS Children’s Villages of India’s work has impacted close to 50,000 lives. Today, over 6,000 children have pursued their passion and settled in their fields of choice, and Anadi’s story is a perfect testimonial to the NGO’s ability to make a difference. “Born in April 1996, Anadi was brought to our SOS village in Bhimtal when she was only a few days old,” says Sumanta Kar, deputy national director-integrated childcare, SOS Children’s Villages of India. “We accepted her with open arms and under the care of her SOS mother and staff, she received holistic education,” says Kar. Anadi secured 10 CGPA (cumulative grade point average) in class X and was selected for further studies at United World College in Norway. She also became a member of the International Youth Coalition in Austria and was awarded the Best Youth Agent in 2016 for being the most active and committed member. “We are proud that she is following her passion even today. Currently, she is pursuing her masters in biochemistry from Padmashree Institute of Management and Sciences, Bengaluru,” adds Kar.

St Jude India ChildCare Centres

St Jude India ChildCareCentres is an institution synonymous with providing free, clean and hygienic accommodation to children suffering from cancer who travel to metro hospitals for low-cost or free treatment with their families. Apart from shelter, the organisation also provides holistic support including transportation to the hospital, nutritional support, counselling, education, recreation and skill development. This consideration is extended also to its employees. They have a buddy programme where all new employees are assigned a friend who will guide them through the system. The NGO has also appointed counsellors who look after the staff’s well being. 

Mission: St Jude India ChildCare Centres provides free accommodation and holistic care to needy families who travel to metro hospitals for the treatment of their children suffering from cancer.

Impact story: 21-year-old Deepak Awar first came to Mumbai from Solapur, Maharashtra, in June 2010 after being referred to Tata Memorial Hospital for blood cancer. Suffering from leukaemia, a high-risk cancer, he was admitted in the hospital for 45 days. His parents were forced to rush from one place to another in search of reasonable accommodation, but Mumbai does not afford that comfort. “In August 2010, they met one of our staff members during a routine hospital visit, and learnt about St Jude. Within a month, they were provided with shelter at the NGO’s Parel centre, which became their home away from home for almost nine months,” narrates Anil Nair, CEO of the organisation. Deepak was just 12 years old at the time. He still fondly remembers St Jude as a friendly and happy haven during the long and arduous treatment. “He left the centre after the treatment, but kept coming back for follow-ups for three months at a stretch. He would stay at our Kharghar centre,” says Nair. Despite his unfortunate circumstance, he remained engaged with his studies through St Jude’s educational facilities and fought against cancer with a fierce determination. A self-confessed tech geek, he is currently pursuing BTech from NK Orchid College of Engineering & Technology, Solapur.

The Gateway School of Mumbai

At The Gateway School Of Mumbai, the sense of community precedes everything. The organisation is dedicated to empowering students with disabilities. This collaboration of parents and professionals has been the cornerstone of their success in working with the students. Each staff member has an Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP), under which they set goals for themselves along with a plan of action. Coordinators and mentors meet with team members to guide them to their goals. Another great practice they follow is an open-door policy. There are no separate offices for management and all meeting agendas are kept open to the team and shared ahead of time. Team members are also encouraged to add relevant points to discussions.

Mission: The Gateway School of Mumbai is dedicated to empowering children with learning challenges. They accomplish this with support from their family members and trained professionals.

Impact story: ““At Gateway, our motto is to foster a sense of community for all our students, parents and staff. We want to make the school an extension of the child’s home, and hence, their parents are our partners,” says Indira Bodani, founder of The Gateway School of Mumbai. An incident that took place in 2014 defines its community spirit. “A leading national daily spread rumours about our school when we were just starting out,” says Bodani. What ensued made her truly believe in the organisation’s mission. “All our stakeholders, students and their parents knew that what was being written was untrue. Instead of retreating, all of them came together to support us. They organised a campaign, and wrote emails and letters to the journalist and the editor,” she adds. The incident could have spelt the end of the future of many of the kids studying in the school, but a united front gave Bodani and her team the strength to weather the storm, and the article had to be taken down. “This event truly resonates with what we preach at Gateway, and it was a moment of pride for our organisation,” adds Bodani.