1. Karuna FAQ's
What does Karuna do?
Inspired by Buddhist values, we exist to end caste-based discrimination, poverty and inequality in India and Nepal. Our work with individuals focuses on education, dignified livelihoods and gender equality, transforming communities and changing society.
What does Karuna mean?
Karuna means “compassion” in Sanskrit. It evokes an active form of compassion based on wisdom rather than pity or sadness.
What are Karuna’s sources of income?
Approximately 80% of our income is from individuals, most of who learnt about Karuna through our Door to Door fundraising. Approximately 15% is from charitable trusts and institutions. We also receive some gifts in wills.
How do you fundraise?
See our how we fundraise page.
How much do you spend on fundraising?
In the financial year 2017/18 we spent £472,000 on fundraising, growing and maintaining the income.
For more details see our financials page
How much do you spend on Projects?
In the financial year 2017/18 Karuna gave £880,000 in direct grants to our partner organizations in India and Nepal enabling us to fund 45 projects implemented by 35 partners across 10 states in India and 3 districts in Nepal. These projects focussing on Education, Gender Equality and Livelihoods Development reached an estimated 60,000 direct beneficiaries.
For more details see our financials page
How much do you spend on governance?
In the financial year 2017/18 we spent £27,216 or approximately 1.5% of of our overall income on governance. For example, this includes the cost of our annual, independent audit.
For more details see our financials page
How much do people at Karuna get paid?
Generosity and simplicity are at the heart of our Buddhist values. Our average salary for staff is £25,700 gross. All Karuna staff work to a principle of ‘give what you can, take what you need’. Managers don’t necessarily get paid more than other staff and this includes our CEO!
For more details see our financials page
How do I know my personal information will be kept safe?
What is Karuna’s commitment to Safeguarding?
Karuna is committed to protecting children, young people and vulnerable adults from all forms of physical or psychological violence, injury or abuse, neglect, maltreatment, exploitation and sexual abuse.
To find out more about our commitment to safeguarding click here.
How did Karuna begin?
In 1980, a small group of Triratna Buddhists travelled home to the UK, deeply moved by the suffering they had witnessed among the very poor, Dalit communities in Maharashtra, India and inspired by the teachings of social reformer Dr. Ambedkar.
Deciding they needed to act, they began fundraising in the UK while living together in a community to save money. Before long, a new form of door-to-door fundraising based on the non-violent principles of Buddhism began to emerge and Aid for India, today known as Karuna, was created.
Since then, Karuna - which means “compassion” in Sanskrit – has grown, always keeping true to those principles upon which it was founded. Karuna is a Triratna team-based Right Livelihood - a Buddhist ideal of working ethically and non-violently. This means our values are at the heart of the way in which we work, right down to our salary system - each employee at Karuna, including our CEO, is paid on a needs basis and not according to seniority. Our CEO and Trustees have always been ordained members of the Triratna Buddhist Order and we emphasise the importance of working and practicing together, striving to create positive change in oneself as well as others.
With more than 40 partners based in India and Nepal, we remain committed to ending caste-based discrimination for good.
What is Karuna’s connection to Buddhism?
Karuna was originally founded by Triratna Buddhists nearly 40 years ago. This legacy continues in the form of our trustees being members of the Triratna Buddhist Order with a vision to end caste-based discrimination. While the trustees are members of Triratna, many of the employees are not, nor are the majority of our partners or beneficiaries. We fund in-country partners, who come from a range of religious backgrounds and whom we have selected because they serve communities who are severely affected by caste-based and gender discrimination. As such, we work with organisations who identify as Christian Dalit, Muslim Dalit, Buddhist, Hindu, Tribal or prefer to have no designation at all.
We do fund a small number of explicitly Buddhist projects and we ask our supporters at the time of sign up whether they are happy for a portion of their gift to go towards these projects (less than 5% of these total opted-in donations go towards projects of this kind). These projects are Bhaja and Bordharan retreat centres, which offer free and low-cost retreats to people of any persuasion from the surrounding slum areas of Mumbai and Pune.
Whilst our Buddhist values and background are important to our identity and organisational values, our purpose as an organisation is to end caste-based discrimination, poverty and inequality in India and Nepal.
Can I visit or volunteer for your projects overseas?
Karuna does not organise or host project visits. This is due to safeguarding responsibilities and partner capacity. Most of our partners are small community based organisations who do not have established volunteering programmes. They do not have time and resources to host visitors.
Can I volunteer for Karuna?
Whilst we don’t organise placements in India and Nepal, if you have international development or other skills and experience please get in touch. We also rely on volunteers to fundraise for us. If you are interested in living in a buddhist community for 6 weeks and volunteering on our door-to-door appeals contact or read more about our fundraising appeals here .
How can I contact Karuna?
How do I make a complaint?
Karuna Trust Complaints Procedure
How to make a complaint or pay us a compliment
We do our best at Karuna to provide good levels of service and to interact positively with members of the public. However, if you are not happy with any aspect of our work or a member of the team - please get in contact and let us know.
Who to contact and how to get in touch
In the first instance, please contact Patrick Harper, our Supporter Care Officer, who is based in the Karuna office in London.
Please give a clear description of your complaint and what you would like us to do to sort things out, and include your contact details so we can get in touch with you.
There may be a straightforward explanation which we hope will satisfy your query, or it may well be there is some aspect of our performance where there is room for improvement. We are committed to listening to your feedback, and dealing with your complaint in a timely and efficient manner. Equally, we also welcome compliments on what we do.
If we receive a compliment we will pass this on to the person/s concerned. It means a great deal to our team to be acknowledged for their hard work and commitment.
If your complaint relates to the handling of funds or charity governance, please contact The Charity Commission.
We will aim to resolve your complaint as quickly as possible. Our intention is to acknowledge your complaint within 24 hours. We will aim to investigate your complaint within 7 working days. If we can’t meet this deadline, we will get in contact, explain why and give you an alternative date.
If you are not satisfied with our response
2. India and Nepal FAQs
India has a growing economy, why should I donate to India?
The United Nations Poverty Index classifies India as a middle-income country, based on overall GDP. However in spite of rapidly increasing GDP, huge inequalities mean that many millions continue to live in extreme poverty.A third of the world’s poor live in India trying to survive on less than 80p per day. The people who suffer most are the Dalit and tribal communities. Caste-based discrimination and lack of access to education mean all too often the people from these communities are caught in a cycle of poverty and social exclusion. In many cases people from these communities are forced to migrate to find work often daily wage labour in brick kilns, building sites, agricultural labour and certain degrading caste ‘duties’ such as cleaning dry latrines, sewers and removing animal carcases.
How do you select your projects and partners in India?
Karuna has an established due diligence process for selecting new projects and partners. All projects are visited and regularly assessed by our programmes team to see their work, establish they have defined financial structures and ensure they are registered with both the Foreign Contributions Regulatory Association and Indian Charity Commission. New projects and partners are approved by the Karuna trustees taking into account whether their aims and objectives fit with Karuna’s strategic aims.
Can you fund my project?
Karuna does not invite or consider unsolicited applications for funding.
How many people does Karuna help in India?
In the financial year 2017/18 we were able to directly help 75,000 people in India and Nepal.
Where do you work?
In 2017/18, we supported work in 10 Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Goa, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. In Nepal we supported work in 5 districts; Kathmandu, Dharding, Ghorka, Chitwan, Rupandehi, Palpa and Kaplivastu.
What's the caste system?
The caste system is an ancient form of discrimination that denies people their basic rights and keeps millions trapped in conditions of modern-day slavery. Those most affected are known as Dalits, literally meaning “broken people”, who are placed outside the caste system on the basis of birth. Considered “impure”, and therefore “untouchable”, they are seen as fit only for the most degrading and humiliating work, such as cleaning out public toilet pits or working in toxic brick-making factories.
Despite the illegality of this so-called “untouchability”, over 200 million people in India and Nepal still suffer the social exclusion and stigma of being born as a Dalit. They are routinely denied access to education, food and the possibility of a dignified existence. Many more are rejected care at hospitals, refused protection by police, all while regular atrocities committed against them are ignored.
Dalit children and women are particularly at risk. More than half of Dalit children drop out before finishing primary school, while women suffer the double discrimination of gender and caste, with most being taken out of school early to be sold into marriage and household service at the cost of their own independence.
This epidemic of exclusion based on caste has existed for centuries. It serves only to widen the ever-growing poverty gap and social and economic progress of millions in South Asia.
Do you convert people to Buddhism?
Karuna does not convert people to Buddhism. We work with organisations who identify as Christian Dalit, Muslim Dalit, Buddhist, Hindu, Tribal or prefer to have no designation at all. Many Dalits choose to convert to Buddhism in India because they want to follow in the footsteps of Dr BR Ambedkar and because of its radical critique of caste. If someone chooses to practice Buddhism because of participating in a meditation class, going on retreat or having contact with some of our Buddhist partners, it’s based on a deeply personal decision, a choice which can be incredibly liberating for that individual.
What does Karuna do about corruption?
Karuna has an anti-corruption policy to ensure grants paid by Karuna are only used for proper purposes. Grant payments are paid directly to partner bank accounts to ensure funds are received directly by the projects. Any NGO in India who is licensed to receive foreign funding must adhere to strict criteria laid down by the Indian Government. As such, these organisation, including all of our partners must maintain the highest possible standards of financial management otherwise they will lose their permission to receive money from abroad All Karuna projects submit a 6-monthly progress report, periodic in depth evaluations, as well as annual audited statements of expenditure. These reports are reviewed by Karuna programme managers.
3. Donations FAQs
Someone from Karuna knocked on my door, but I don’t want to give my account details. Can I still make a donation?
Can I make changes to my donation?
Can I donate money to a specific project
Can you claim gift aid on my donation?
Yes of course! Gift Aid means your donation will go even further overseas because we can claim an additional 25% from the government on top of your donation.
How can I fundraise for Karuna?
Thank you for wanting to support our work. There are many ways you can fundraise for us from ‘give as you earn’ schemes at work, running a marathon, sponsored bike rides or fun events. If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, take our look at our online fundraising page. You can also contact Patrick Harper, our supporter care officer, on 0207 700 3434 or email and request a fundraising pack which is packed full of ideas.
Can I sponsor a child through Karuna?
Whilst we don’t offer individual child sponsorship, you might like to know that in 20167/18 over 23,000 children from marginalized communities were supported to continue their education.
How do I leave a gift in my will?
In order to leave a gift to Karuna, you just need to note our name and charity number (327461) in your will and the amount you would like to leave. You can also call Patrick for more information on 0207 700 3434
Please do consider leaving a gift in your will. All the legacies we receive, including modest amounts, will contribute to making a lasting change in the lives of those we work with.
How can I cancel my donation?
I have more questions, who can I speak to?
Please contact Patrick Harper, our supporter care officer on 0207 700 3434.