How to develop a philanthropy strategy

Philanthropy is not only about volunteering with an NGO; the right research and collaboration will let you capitalise on your strongest skills to give back to the society meaningfully

Leena Dandekar
Updated: Oct 11, 2018 05:13:52 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

While I do not consider myself an evolved giver, I believe philanthropy is most effective when we all engage in dialogue. Sharing what we have learned at every stage of our journeys is the real philanthropy. Here is my story, therefore, even though it is just the beginning.

I entered philanthropy over a year ago by accident, and it took me almost 10 months to get my feet wet and identify our giving strategy. Generally, people like me, who want to give back meaningfully, volunteer their time with NGOs (non-governmental organisations). This is how I thought I would start as well, but I quickly realised that I was not adding much value through on-ground volunteering -- my strengths lay in high-level systems and strategy thinking.

I changed the strategy from giving back as an individual to giving as a family. My children and I decided that as a family in our lifetime, sealing away our wealth in wills and trust funds would not allow us to impact the lives we cared about. It was important to us to start giving as soon as possible but in a well-thought out manner.

We started researching causes and models of giving, and agreed upon a double checkbook strategy of impact investing and grant-making. My children and I discussed our priorities and shortlisted three causes for our grant-making portfolio:

- Comprehensive Rural Development - Physical Disability
- Mental Health

On the impact investing side, we decided to focus on organisations that are socially and environmentally conscious but generate profit and, therefore, do not rely on funding for long term sustenance. Our portfolio here operates in sectors across agriculture, water and sanitation, food technology, financial inclusion, and sustainable energy.

Looking back, I see value in the time we took to consult, research, brainstorm and agree upon a clear focus and strategy for our giving portfolios. The clarity is helping us move quickly now and operationalise both portfolios at the same time.

Impact Investing Portfolio
The impact investing portfolio is further along; we have set up an investment committee to review organisations before we invest, and we already have 10 organisations in the pipeline that we are considering.

In the four to six months since we began operations, we already see cross learning between our two portfolios. For example, there are many ideas for community participation and ownership to increase sustainability of a program that can be adapted from the impact investment side to the non-profit side. Opportunities for income generation, even if to maintain what has been achieved in the community by a program, can decrease the dependence of the community on grants over time. We are excited to evaluate our programs to see how the two sides of our giving can cross pollinate.

Investing time in site visits to organisations, gathering information, speaking to experts, building consensus since there is more than one person involved in the giving process (in this case, my family), and articulating a vision statement to anchor philanthropic decisions helps ensure our philanthropy is geared towards optimum social returns from the very beginning.

The author is the Founder and CEO of Raintree Foundation – the philanthropic arm of the Raintree Family Office.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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