Far above, in the distant Himalayas, lies Bhutan – a tiny landlocked country of about 750,000 people, which, until ten years ago, was ruled by a benevolent Monarch. It is also known as the Land of the Thunder Dragon and, more recently, as the nation that measures the happiness of its citizens with the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index.
Because of its mountainous terrain, Bhutan has lived mostly undisturbed by the modern world; it was only in 1999 that the ban on TV and the internet was lifted.
Bhutan has few natural resources and it is an economy based on subsistence agriculture and little private wealth among its citizens. The major source of income is hydroelectricity, which is sold mostly to India (with whom they have a cordial relationship). India also provides the greatest number of tourists to Bhutan. China and Nepal are its other near neighbours.
In one generation, Bhutan has more than halved extreme poverty and made significant headway in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals, but there remain many other challenges: waste management, climate change, youth unemployment, and HIV (to name a few).
Last year, I was invited with two colleagues to Bhutan by the Resident Co-ordinator of the UN to run some fundraising training programs to help build the capacity of the Bhutanese Not for Profit sector. The sector has been funded either by their Royal Family or by grants from the UN – with a few international philanthropists in the mix. However, as Bhutan has been so successful in improving its economy, from 2020, they will be less eligible for funding from the UN. This is expected to create a shortfall in funds to do the work of the not-for-profits.
There are currently 55 organisations registered in the not for profit sector, which, in Bhutan, include farmers’ co-operatives and associations – e.g. the Beekeepers Association! No government can fund every need of its people, and, as the private sector is very small civil society, the Third Sector responds to those unmet needs in the community.
We have now conducted three such workshops, and more are planned for 2020. The workshops are designed to assist in the development of the sector and to be as practical and flexible as possible. I have managed the fundraising stream and found a ready and enthusiastic group of learners.
It is a privilege, as always, to work with such public-spirited people who work tirelessly to improve the circumstances of others. While I hope I have imparted some useful practices and processes to raise their level of fundraising, I feel blessed by what I have learned and continue to learn from the Bhutanese world view.