Taking a closer look at India's next gen philanthropists

NGPs often find it difficult to find information that can guide them strategically in their philanthropic journey

Updated: Nov 5, 2018 06:15:48 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

In the next decade, India will witness a wealth transfer of Rs 8 trillion ($128 billion)   from one generation to the next—one of the largest it has ever seen. In the first half of this century alone, 8-10 times more wealth would have been channeled into philanthropic ventures, than in the entire 20th century. Philanthropists who inherit the giving legacy of their families, or next generation philanthropists (NGPs), are emerging as critical stakeholders in India’s strategic philanthropy landscape as it quickly aligns with the country’s efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Yet there is limited information on the growing cohort of NGPs in India. As discussed in our paper, A Generation Ahead: Helping India’s Next Generation Philanthropists Succeed, NGPs are a very heterogeneous group of givers; they are at different stages of giving, and have distinct perspectives on how they should engage in philanthropy. Yet, there is meaningful common ground—recurring themes, challenges and approaches—that offers valuable insight on Next Generation Philanthropists as an emerging cohort in Indian philanthropy.

Dasra’s study uses insights gathered through 20 interviews with Next Generation Philanthropists (NGPs) and experienced professionals from the field of Philanthropy to understand giving patterns and attitudes of NGPs.

A closer look at NGP
What defines NGPs?
They belong to the families that have been involved in philanthropy for at least one but often multiple generations. They are deeply influenced by their family’s giving ethos.

What inspires them and influences their decisions?
» Respect for their legacy and a drive to honour it
» High sensitivity to social inequities and a sense of duty to society
» Their network of peers and mentors

How do they approach philanthropy?
» They are more engaged, hands-on and impact driven
» They want to invest in solutions that create systemic change
» They are keen on employing innovative investment instruments and have an enthusiasm for scale
» Aim to create more structure and focus for their family foundations

“In the US, family foundations have reinvented themselves to create a culture that attracts the best talent. NGPs in India have to similarly create aspirational institutions.”
- Riah Forbes, Forbes Marshall Foundation

Roadblocks commonly faced by NGPs

Inheritance and giving as a family
As decision-making roles within philanthropic families are being transferred to the next generation, NGPs face indefinite periods of transition where decision-making power is limited or decisions require consensus. NGPs find it challenging to balance their own giving aspirations and approaches with their family’s legacy of giving.

Lack of quality information to guide NGPs
NGPs often find it difficult to find information that can guide them strategically in their philanthropic journey. If the information does exist, it varies widely in quality, may not be readily accessible and is either too generic or academic to enable confident decision-making.

Lack of performance metrics
With over 31 lakh NGOs registered in India, it is challenging for NGPs to select NGOs that are the most credible and impactful. Since the sector lacks credible information around organisations and their impact, many philanthropists prefer to operate their own programs rather than invest in existing solutions.

“There are so many platforms out there that are trying to get good information to donors and future donors. But the true challenge is how to encourage givers to access and use this information, to take time to understand what is really needed on the ground, and who else is already doing good work in their area of interest. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between sector professionals trying to unlock more giving and the givers themselves who may, for example, not want to pay for or spend significant time on donor education courses or other knowledge and network platforms”                     
- Katarina Czarniak, Synergos

Best practices implemented by the experienced

Re-envision philanthropy together as a family
NGPs have found that conversations to redefine philanthropy, though difficult, are great opportunities to drive consensus by engaging family members in meaningful debates and conversations. NGPs have also been able to align their own philanthropic goals with their family’s giving legacy, by introspecting to ascertain their core personal values and using sector research/ expert engagements to back their philanthropic decisions.

Harsh Mariwala and Rajvi [Mariwala; his daughter] started a process they called ‘insighting’, in which they spoke to a range of people who were users or stakeholders, and then based on that, created their model of philanthropy. This could be one way to go about philanthropy – listening to your stakeholders and using data to inform yourself.”
- Shruti Chakravarty, Mariwala Health Initiative

Leverage learnings from business in philanthropy
NGPs have been instrumental in employing successful business practices such as developing strong governance structures, ensuring robust due diligence and impact assessment processes, and so on, to create excellence and dynamism in giving.

Partner with NGO grantees
NGPs have managed to create long and effective partnerships with their grantees by demonstrating respect for the organisation’s on-ground experience, ensuring open communication lines and helping them build organisational capacity.

Invest in building knowledge and networks
Successful NGPs engage with partners that offer knowledge products, educational workshops and immersion experiences to gain a deeper understanding of critical issues and catalytic solutions. They also collaborate and network with like-minded givers in the space to be more effective givers.

Amidst discourse looking to replace international funding with domestic resources, next generation philanthropists have the perfect opportunity to use their tremendous influence and wealth to infuse fresh perspectives into philanthropy in India. Some may argue that having lofty, gigantic goals may actually threaten the creation of sustainable solutions but only an aspirational attitude can help next generation philanthropists take the first step in their giving journey.

Estimates of investments needed to achieve India’s commitments under the SDGs indicate a financial shortfall of Rs 533 lakh crore. Since India plays a pivotal role in ensuring the success of the SDGs, it is imperative that this gap is urgently addressed. Hence, India is looking to its next generation of philanthropists to use their privilege and intent to the fullest and be collaborative leaders who will drive large-scale social impact.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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