Philanthropy is a personal choice,” says Zarina Screwvala, who along with her husband Ronnie Screwvala, founded SHARE in 1986 with the aim of empowering rural India. In 2012, the organization was renamed Swades Foundation, and the couple began playing a more active role in philanthropy. “We want to give, not just money, but our own time; we want to give our energy, expertise, our everything.”
According to the Bain Philanthropy Report 2015, the Screwvalas represent a broader trend of growth in donors. The report says India has added more than 100 million donors and shown a rise of 47% in the number of non-governmental entities since 2009. The trend towards giving will only rise, making way for a new type of philanthropist who is not only interested in giving money, but who has a plan for making social impact and is willing to invest time and expertise toward achieving it. There are five questions that thoughtful philanthropists often answer on their philanthropic journeys. We asked some eminent Indian philanthropists and philanthropic professionals to tell us how they approach these.
What are the driving values and beliefs?
G. Ananthapadmanabhan notes how the values of Azim Premji and his family work as moral compasses for the strategies of the Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives, where he is CEO. “We’ve three compasses. First, we’re about helping vulnerable people. Second, we’re about being humble and learning from our partners and building respectful relationships. Finally, we focus on action, and learning from doing.”
What is success and how can it be achieved?
Zarina and Ronnie Screwvala started by asking themselves what they wanted to accomplish in the vast landscape of social causes. They agreed on their goal to “lift one million people out of poverty every five years and exit”. This led to their strategy through Swades Foundation of adopting and making specific areas of rural Maharashtra economically self-sustaining by teaming up with experienced partner organizations.
What will it take to get the job done?
The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation understands that successful execution requires both resources and building capabilities. Debasish Mitter, the India country director, says: “At the end of the day, our objective is not just to invest in a program. It is first to catalyse new innovation and disruptive ideas. And second, to strengthen and leave behind institutions that can continue to deliver at a high level of excellence.”
How does one work with grantees?
Desh Deshpande, who is a technology and social entrepreneur, recognizes the need to work with the people in the community to help deliver the best possible results.
“We quickly realized that social innovation does not happen unless you have local leadership,” Deshpande said, describing his Social Innovation Sandbox which creates an ecosystem to nurture social entrepreneurs. “So one of the Sandbox programmes is all about developing local leadership and capabilities of social entrepreneurs.”
Is your philanthropy becoming more effective?
Roopa Kudva, MD of Omidyar Network India Advisors, describes how the organization tracks its work and looks to improve over time: “For each of our sector strategies, we set markers to understand if the sector is moving in the right direction and how our work is contributing to it. We also track the financial, operational, and impact performance of each of our investments.”
In the coming months, these five strategic philanthropists will illustrate how they are overcoming various challenges.
Rohit Menezes and Soumitra Pandey are partners in The Bridgespan Group’s Mumbai office. Effective Philanthropy is a six-part Bridgespan series that examines philanthropy in India and the “give smart” approach. Bridgespan is an adviser and resource for mission-driven leaders and organizations. This is the first in a series.