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The paradox of growth: what comes next

Our 2023 impact report is out. Read the full report here.

When it comes to impact, growth is a good thing. You can grow by expanding your scope, your reach, or the depth of your programs. In 2023, we expanded along all three dimensions. We reached new schools and communities, grew our scholarship numbers by almost 2x, and improved what we offer to our scholars. But growth comes with a paradox. Instead of things getting easier, as you grow, you encounter a whole new set of challenges. I want to talk to you about those challenges.

One of the key questions we faced in 2023 was how to professionalize our fundraising. I don’t think I need to explain that as you grow, your budget grows as well. And I will be honest: we didn’t do enough to expand our fundraising last year. We’re incredibly grateful for the group of monthly and institutional donors that sustained us, and I am continuously impressed by the core group of supporters we have. But we need to get smarter about where we spend our time, we need to significantly expand our fundraising base, and we need to engage with our donors more often.

Which brings me to the second challenge we face: how do we grow sustainably as an organization. With an expansion of scholarships comes a higher need for automating and improving our processes. It also means we need to continue to grow our team in India, which is why we emphasize our efforts to decentralize operations and push more decision-making to the team on the ground. At the same time, we need to acknowledge the reality: our team in Europe and the U.S. works on this project on a strictly voluntary basis and on the side of full-time jobs.

If I think about our overall trajectory, I picture a plateau of sorts representing 2023. That doesn’t mean we didn’t grow. We actually grew quite significantly (more on that in a second). But now comes the hard part: building the infrastructure and team to take this organization to the next level, the next stage of our climb.

Here’s what gives me confidence: we made enormous strides on the ground in 2023 with the same resources and capacity that we have had in previous years. We grew our Operations team, adding two new members. We gave 207 scholarships. And we made a big push to improve what we offer our scholars: starting a computer literacy program and expanding into career and life counseling. Most importantly, we kept the spirit that has defined this project from the start, the spirit that we push forward, we try new things, and we relentlessly focus on impact

So when I think about the paradox of growth, I am optimistic. Already in 2024, we have expanded the team further, both on the ground in India and with our group of volunteers in Europe and the U.S. We are working on professionalizing our fundraising operations. And we continue to push for improvements in our scholarship programs. It’s exactly the start we need to make 2024 another successful one on our growth path. Thanks for being part of our community, and keep your eyes and ears open for more news from us as we take on this new set of challenges.

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