Yahoo! Employee Foundation grant towards Sikshana in 2010

Yahoo! Employee Foundation (YEF) awarded a cash grant of $30,000 towards Sikshana project in 2010. This is the second year in a row that Vibha has been successful in getting a grant from YEF. Just last year in 2009, Sikshana received a grant of $40,000 from YEF. What’s the story behind this success year after year? I had a chat with Sandhya Acharya and Anand Aravindan from the Vibha grants team to find out their secret behind this wonderful achievement.

Why did you choose Sikshana to pursue grant from YEF?

Measurable metrics: Sikshana offers a solid framework to apply for grants. Sikshana has documented their efforts from the beginning. They have measured progress in terms of quantitative and qualitative metrics, highlighting both successes and failures. Over the past three and a half years, we have worked with Sikshana to submit many grant applications. Having visited some of the schools in Kanakapura and seeing first hand, the changes they have been able to bring about, we were blown away by the model and their achievements. Their disciplined adherence to gathering and sharing metrics has made the effort towards conveying their approach to foundations, that much easier.

Minimal investment: Sikshana is a very scalable program that is open for funding to expand their efforts to many government schools and uses the existing government school system rather than starting from scratch. Due to this, the cost for supporting the program is very low. Sikshana only requires about 10% of $130/child cost per year thereby creating a huge impact with minimal investment.

Maximum Impact: We have visited the project site in India and have seen the impact on the grounds. Sandhya says, “I was especially amazed by children using USB sticks on laptops to access software during a science fair exhibition and presenting their projects confidently to educated adults visiting the fair. During my visit, they also showed me videos of the Delhi school trip arranged by Sikshana and captured what students and their parents felt before and after the trip”. Anand says, “The sheet bank initiative is one such program that instills confidence in children who are afraid to write. As soon as a student exhausts his or her sheets, he/she can request more sheets to write on. This also improves their handwriting.” These are just some of the stories captured by these volunteers.

Good working relationship: Mr. V.R. Prasanna, Program Director and Mr.E.S. Ramamurthy, founder of Sikshana are very responsive and correspond quickly when it comes to gathering information that goes into a grant application.

Recognized program: Qualcomm, Dell, Igate and other companies have also funded Sikshana, proving that it is a well recognized program, not just recognized by Vibha.

Proven success: 36 of the first adopted schools in Kanakapura are already operating independently with minimal funding from Sikshana and mostly operating through support from the community. Sikshana has already impacted around 400 government schools in India.

How does Sikshana plan to use the funding obtained from YEF?

Sikshana used the YEF grant in 2009 towards government schools in Kalghatgi in Dharwad district of Karnataka. The 2010 grant will continue to provide funding towards government schools in Kalghatgi. They especially chose this area since the schools are really backward in this area compared to others in Karnataka. These schools fall in the bottom 3rd Quartile in terms of development. They could really use some help in terms of reading, math skills and motivation for the students to learn. YEF supported 40 schools in the area last year and this year they are supporting 30 schools. Each school requires an average of $1000 per year. There are around 60 to 80 schools in total in the Kalghatgi area.

What type of effort did the grant process involve?

Strong preparation goes a long way towards bringing about a positive impact.  It was an elaborate process that involved a detailed application, a due diligence phone interview for an hour by Silicon Valley Community Foundation (an independent third party agent hired by YEF) and finally a brief face to face interview with the YEF committee.

Do you have plans of approaching YEF again next year for Sikshana?

Yes, we have built a good relationship with YEF and YEF is aware of the progress Sikshana has been making with the grant money. So, if YEF policy allows us to apply again, we would definitely like to apply directly with the organization.

Have you approached other organizations for funding?

Yes, Sikshana also received a grant of $5000 from Broadcom Foundation and some other smaller grants. We are waiting to hear from other organizations that we have approached in the coming months.

Do you also plan on applying for grants towards other Vibha projects?

Yes, Door Step School that provides non-formal education to children of construction workers is another project we plan to target once we gather the necessary measurable metrics that are required by these grant applications.

What are the grants team’s plans moving forward into 2011?

We would like to reach out to others who would like to be part of the grants team. Currently we are 6 active members. Having more resources will definitely help in expanding our efforts to get in touch with more organizations. Once we gather all the necessary metrics for a specific project, it isn’t too difficult to go through the grant process. We would like to have at least 1-3 Vibha volunteers per action center involved as part of the grants team.  In order to reach out to other organizations, we look at databases that give us information on which of them currently have funding and are accepting applications and target those companies that contribute to causes matching our focus areas.

Talking to the grants team gave me a vibe of volunteers with sheer enthusiasm and eagerness to share their success story.  Clearly, this is a team of energetic, dedicated volunteers who know that perseverance, preparation and focused efforts always bring about positive results.

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About YEF: Founded in 1999, the Yahoo! Employee Foundation (YEF) is a grassroots philanthropic organization that brings together the talents, time, and financial resources of Yahoo! employees to serve the needs of communities around the globe. YEF is a unique foundation that is entirely employee driven. All the money is donated by employees, and all activities are run by a volunteer committee of Yahoo! employees. YEF is setting best practices for employee-driven community service. For more information, visit http://forgood.yahoo.com/social_responsibility/employee_volunteerism.html

About Sikshana: Sikshana is a non-profit organization that works to evolve a sustainable and replicable model for an effective and decentralised public school system. Their vision,Work in collaboration with the Central and State Governments and from within the system. Share our model, expertise and experience with anyone in a similar space, with similar goals. Create and adopt methods, systems and techniques that improve learning levels in the public education system—and put these into practice with quantitative targets and time schedules”. For more information, visit http://sikshana.org

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