India Philanthropy Report 2018


This is the eighth edition of Bain's India Philanthropy Report. Last year's report highlighted the growing importance of individual givers in India's philanthropic landscape and defined what constitutes "strategic giving." This year's report, developed in collaboration with Dasra, goes a step further to explore how philanthropists can give more effectively to increase the impact of their giving. But more importantly, it marks an inspiring stage for philanthropy in India, where an increasing number of philanthropists are joining the cadre of structured and strategic philanthropy, irrespective of their quantum of giving.

Giving in itself is a noble act regardless of the motivation or approach. It can be one of the most personally rewarding experiences. However, the seriousness, scale and complexity of India's social problems require philanthropists to go beyond personal satisfaction. Between 2004 and 2015, India recorded 2.24 million crimes against women, and 1.08 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2017 alone. These ongoing problems underscore the need for individuals not only to contribute greater resources but also to ensure that their contributions are strategic enough to have a marked effect on key social development indicators.

Fortunately, a growing number of philanthropists in India are beginning to act upon this need. This report focuses on the philanthropists who have already begun their giving journeys and are now strategically exploring or revisiting questions such as: How has my giving made a difference? How can I achieve the desired change? Whilst there is no single right way to give, philanthropists can achieve their full potential by contemplating those questions and seeking a path to answering them. This report attempts to uncover lessons and best practices to help them on their path.

In-depth interviews with more than 30 philanthropists revealed four key mindsets that, if embraced, can help givers realise their full philanthropic potential. The report begins by breaking down these four mindsets, articulating steps each donor can take to strengthen these mindsets and illustrating real-life examples of philanthropists who have successfully done so.

It is worth noting that the philanthropists profiled in this report are newer to philanthropy than those showcased in the 2017 report. They are often first-generation givers who make their own decisions about their philanthropy. Most of them have chosen to give to existing nonprofits in India and are in fact investing in multiple organisations simultaneously. We highlight the insights of this new cohort with case studies in the hope that many more will be inspired to take the leap into giving in an ambitious yet strategic manner and to contribute towards a transformed India, where 1.3 billion Indians can thrive with dignity and equity.

Current landscape: Understanding the mindsets of strategic givers

This year, we interviewed 33 Indian donors to understand the behaviours and mindsets that allow givers to move forward in their philanthropic journey. This group includes philanthropists at different stages of their giving journey, mostly involved in entrepreneurial or family ventures (see Figure 1). The majority of donors we interviewed contribute on average USD 15,000 to 75,000 per annum to philanthropy, with some contributing more than USD 765,000. This spectrum was chosen deliberately to highlight examples that are relatable to givers who are only beginning to think about or practice strategic philanthropy.

The interviews revealed four mindsets that, if adopted, can enable full philanthropic potential:

  • Embracing not only a "today forward" approach but also a "future back" lens to planning one's philanthropic journey;
  • Appreciating the importance of both the heart and the mind in making philanthropic decisions;
  • Focusing not only on inputs but also outcomes to assess the effectiveness of one's philanthropy; and
  • Going beyond a funding-only role to becoming an active and collaborative investor.


Embracing a "today forward" and "future back" viewpoint

"Today forward" is a step-by-step approach that starts with the status quo and builds incrementally from there. By contrast, the "future back" approach starts with a vision of the future state and works backward. Several of the interviewees expressed a strong commitment to certain causes and spoke about their monetary contribution as a key element of their philanthropy. However, only a few were able to articulate a clear and bold vision that guides their philanthropic plan. The better defined and more measurable the vision, the greater the potential to create a targeted and robust plan to achieve it.

Whilst donors in India largely tend to adopt a "today forward" approach, the "future back" approach of setting an ambitious goal and working backward is relatively uncommon. Consider the following:

  • Fewer than 50% of interviewed donors felt comfortable rating how ambitious their own goals are (see Figure 2).
  • Moreover, only one respondent to this question assigned a rating higher than 6 out of a possible 10 (with 0 being unambitious and 10 being highly ambitious).

This may indicate an inclination towards more achievable and incremental goals over bold and aspirational ones.

The purpose of our analysis is not to suggest that any one approach is right or wrong. Instead, we believe that a combination of "today forward" and "future back" mindsets would enhance the effectiveness of the donors in the long run, benefiting the philanthropic ecosystem as a whole.


Call to action:

In the next 30 days, define your own pragmatic "future back" statement and share it with three confidants (peers, family, nongovernmental organisation (NGO) partners).

Case study | Ranjit & Anjal Malkani

Having guided companies like SOTC Travel Limited and later Kuoni Travel Group through exceptional growth as CEO, Ranjit Malkani is now putting his business acumen into play in the world of philanthropy. Along with his wife, Anjal, he is setting up his own philanthropic foundation, which he views as a different kind of entrepreneurial endeavour. Whilst the Malkanis have been giving to various causes and nonprofits for several years now, in the last year they have paused and taken a step back to create a clear vision for their philanthropy and a plan to achieve it.

Inspired by the teachings of Buddhism, the Malkanis' vision for their foundation is to help people overcome their suffering. Based on the Buddhist belief that no suffering is greater than another, they have not limited their focus to any particular sector or cause. Instead, they are concentrating on creating extensive and sustainable change by supporting and enabling early-stage nonprofits to scale and improve their systems and processes. In practice, this could mean helping a nonprofit that is running schools to expand its work nationwide or to adopt technology and offer courses online to increase its reach and improve learning outcomes.

They also brought their experience in business to bear in planning their future giving in a structured way. This involved creating a brief purpose document that captures not only the what and how of their philanthropy but also how much funding they could commit to the sector as well as the internal functioning of their foundation over the next decade. This clarity served as an important guide for their giving decisions. In these ways, the Malkanis have merged a future back and today forward mindset by detailing the change they want to see and what they can do today to work towards it.

To this end, over the next seven years the Malkanis plan to invest in building the capacities of a handful of nonprofits, to be selected with Dasra's assistance. The foundation will help these organisations reimagine their capabilities through a structured goal-setting process. It will then involve philanthropy advisers and provide the resources necessary to implement these goals. Ultimately, the foundation aims to fund these nonprofits for five to seven years—and propel them to create greater long-term change and become self-sustaining.

The Malkanis' understanding of the value in adopting a "future back" approach stems from their belief that philanthropy warrants the same rigour as a business. Guided by the knowledge that any successful business begins by clearly defining its product or its market before going on to develop a strategy, the Malkanis understand the importance of beginning philanthropy with a strong vision for change. They set out to elucidate their vision with the help of what they call the "four Ps": the purpose of the work, the process to get there, the people who will partake in the journey and the principles that will guide interactions with the nonprofits and the sector. The Malkanis will launch their foundation's work later this year and are excited to see their vision slowly but surely come alive.

Acknowledging the importance of both heart and mind

Strategic philanthropy is both an art and a science in which the heart and mind work in synergy to make philanthropic decisions. However, donors today don't always conduct their philanthropy through a healthy balance of these two dimensions.

About 40% of the responses confirm that areas of personal interest or experience play a pivotal role in the selection of a focus area for one's philanthropy, attesting to the significance of the heart in motivating and guiding such critical philanthropic decisions (see Figure 3).


It cannot be denied that an emotional connection to philanthropy sustains one's giving over time. However, the scale and complexity of developmental challenges in India underscore the urgent need for donors to make certain philanthropic decisions based on an objective analysis and deep understanding of the needs and realities on the ground. Building a strategic plan for one's philanthropy, evaluating the portfolio and creating simple measurement mechanisms to solve for a given cause are examples of areas that can be approached in a structured and analytical manner.

It is also critical to adopt this "mind-driven" approach when reviewing one's giving portfolio so that a clear link between activities and outcomes is established. Conducting reviews is uncommon, though. Less than 50% of those interviewed stated that they conduct a portfolio review at least once a year, and only 30% do it more than once a year. The irony is that several donors attest to the value of the review process in assessing effectiveness, learning about what is and is not working and correcting course where necessary. In fact, about 70% of the donors who perform portfolio review mention they rely on the process to take corrective actions (see Figure 4).

In the future, it will be imperative to strengthen the portfolio review process: Make it more regular and thorough so it can promote corrective action and maximise the value of one's giving—at both the individual and aggregated levels.


Call to action:

In the next 30 days, outline a plan for reviewing your giving portfolio. This plan should include defining which aspects of your philanthropy you would like to assess (e.g., distribution of grantees, quantum of funding) and how you will go about doing this (e.g., involving a philanthropy adviser or private wealth manager).

Case study | Sapphira Goradia

Motivated by a strong connection to the country that provided her parents with opportunities to pursue their goals, Sapphira Goradia, a second-generation Indian-American based in Washington, DC, leads her family foundation's efforts to improve health and educational outcomes in India.

Early in her life, Sapphira's parents instilled the importance of giving back and embodied this value through their actions, both large and small. Outside of their significant involvement with Pratham USA, their philanthropy largely took the form of writing cheques to organisations that they felt strongly about. Over the years, they began to question the social returns on their investment, which led them to eventually formalise their giving through the creation of the Vijay and Marie Goradia Foundation. Sapphira joined the foundation in 2013 with the goal of strengthening the strategic focus and scaling the organisations it supports to bring about large-scale change.

The first step in Sapphira's journey was to reflect with her family on some key questions; the answers laid the groundwork for developing a strategy that aligned with their personal values and enabled them to enhance their philanthropic effectiveness. The reflection exercise included personal questions designed to revisit the family's values and motivations: Why do you feel philanthropy is important? What opportunities in your lives were crucial to your own success? The exercise also included more analytical questions such as: What do you believe is fundamental to creating opportunities for others? This reflection exercise, combined with thorough sector research, informed the Goradia family's decision to focus their philanthropy on health and education initiatives in India.

Soon after joining the foundation, Sapphira participated in a philanthropy education programme and built a strong network of peer philanthropists through which she learned more about the concept of strategic giving. She grew to more deeply understand the importance of scale, systems change and risk-taking in philanthropy. This knowledge helped inform the foundation's strategy to fund and provide capacity-building support to early-stage organisations with the potential to achieve scale across India. Another principle that guided the foundation's strategy was the desire to give in a manner that creates opportunity for the end beneficiary rather than reinforcing dependency on the foundation or grantee organisations. Specifically, it was important that its philanthropy provide beneficiaries with access to quality healthcare and education so that they have the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty and pursue their own goals.

Ultimately, Sapphira used both her heart and her mind to arrive at a giving strategy that aligned with her family's values and motivations and set the foundation on a path to transformational social change.

Thinking about inputs and outcomes

The focus on philanthropic inputs—time, funds or expertise—is vital; however, on its own it may be insufficient to have a lasting effect on deep-rooted social issues. A keen understanding of how these inputs translate or lead to outcomes on the ground is also necessary. Adopting such a lens not only keeps impact at the centre of one's philanthropy but also serves as a feedback mechanism for enhancing the effectiveness of future philanthropic investments.

A focus on outcomes can help donors better understand where funds are needed—and in doing so, tackles the problem in a holistic way and ensures that the solutions are sustainable. For example, investing in building toilets alone would be an incomplete attempt to solve India's sanitation problem; focusing on strategies to change behaviour regarding open defecation is equally important.

Although this outcomes-driven thinking is catching on with this group of philanthropists, it is still nascent. When asked to define their philanthropic goalpost for 2020, only 40% of responses related to the scale and impact of giving. However, the majority defined their goalposts in terms of increasing their philanthropic contributions (see Figure 5).

Equally telling is that only half of the respondents rated the effectiveness of their giving in terms of outcomes for beneficiaries. Even among respondents, the average rating was 5 out of 10 (see Figure 6).

A powerful way to reframe one's approach is to identify the tangible outcomes one aspires to achieve through giving, and then work back to outline the inputs to achieve them. It is important to note that it may be difficult to find an existing accurate and measurable key performance indicator (KPI). If so, it makes sense to start with the outcome KPI that fits best, and then work to improve it.



Call to action:

In the next 30 days, define your quarterly goalposts both in terms of inputs and outputs as well as in terms of outcomes for the end beneficiary. Involve nonprofit partners who are close to the action on the ground to help strengthen the definition of these goalposts.

Case study | Nitin Nayar

With more than 15 years of experience in financial services and private equity, Nitin Nayar, former managing director of Warburg Pincus India, has carried his strong focus on outcomes and results from the business world to his philanthropy. Adopting a sector-agnostic approach, Nitin began his philanthropy with the goal of improving the lives of communities across India. This led him to select high-performing nonprofits with strong and reliable leadership. It also led him to use his professional expertise to help organisations achieve the desired outcomes faster and more effectively.

In 2012, Nitin collaborated with nine peer philanthropists as part of Dasra's giving circle in support of the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action (SNEHA) efforts to end childhood malnutrition in Mumbai's slums. Deeply invested in the outcomes resulting from the nonprofit's work on the ground, he devoted a significant amount of his time to understanding the mechanics of SNEHA's programme, its methodology of impact assessment and its vision for the community. Over time, his beyond-capital involvement and relentless focus on outcomes led SNEHA to refine its impact evaluation framework and unearth opportunities to strengthen its programme design.

Nitin recently joined SNEHA's board of trustees and hopes to continue to provide strategic support as the organisation works towards increasing its reach and making a significant difference on key outcome indicators on the ground.

Going beyond a funding-only role to becoming an active and collaborative investor

When it comes to active participation in philanthropy, Indian donors are increasingly diversifying their modes of engagement and appreciating the activities that go beyond cheque writing—a trend that truly reflects the maturity and immense promise of philanthropy in India. This is reflected in the fact that approximately 80% of the interviewed donors are engaged in activities to amplify the impact of their philanthropic work beyond contributing funds (see Figure 7). Active participation not only adds value to the nonprofit grantees but benefits the donors themselves, who feel more satisfied with and invested in the outcomes of the initiatives they support.

Additionally, donors are increasingly interested in meeting other stakeholders to share their philanthropic experiences and enhance their overall effectiveness. In fact, meeting with nonprofit leaders and engaging with external advisers were the two most common actions donors took in the last 12 months to improve the effectiveness of their giving (see Figure 8).



Whilst several donors have begun to interact with others in the sector to pool their expertise to support the growth of nonprofits, there remains a strong opportunity to translate such interactions into more formal forms of collaboration between stakeholders. Given the complexity and scale of developmental challenges in India, the significance of such collaboration has never before been so pronounced.

Call to action:

In the next 30 days, work with your nonprofit partners to define one pressing issue challenging the organisation. Treat it as a personal project you want to solve by collaborating with others and using your own expertise. This could relate to creating a fund-raising process, setting up a government partnership or even building a technology platform.

Case study | Sean and Jodie Sovak

As a cofounder of Lighthouse, a leading mid-market private equity fund, Sean Sovak has a deep understanding of what it takes to identify potential and empower entrepreneurs to "dream, dare, scale and care." Sean strongly believes that many of the same organisational principles relevant to for-profit organisations also hold true for nonprofits. This insight has been the gateway to his "capital plus expertise" engagement with Muktangan, an NGO that provides education for low-income schoolchildren using a sustainable, community-led model. It also serves as an open resource centre that shares its experiences with schools and teacher education programmes.

Whilst Sean began his philanthropic journey with a focus on the arts, his move to India more than a decade ago shaped his and his wife, Jodie's, approach to giving. Sean and Jodie were deeply affected by the scale and severity of disparity and recognised the urgency for action. Introduced by a colleague to Dasra, their participation in giving circles with peer philanthropists helped educate them about areas of need and innovative, high-impact solutions to address these problems. Over time, a process of self-reflection led the Sovaks to narrow their philanthropic focus to education, with a specific interest in empowering girls and women.

At Muktangan, the Sovaks began by making multiyear financial contributions and regularly meeting with founders Elizabeth and Sunil Mehta to better understand the organisation and its challenges. Over time, they realised that, similar to the business world, the nonprofit sector is made up of many passionate and intelligent founders who are struggling to institutionalise culture, processes and leadership transitions within their organisations. This led to their recognition that capital alone was not enough to enable Muktangan to scale its work.

Today, whilst Sean engages with Muktangan on multiple levels, he hopes that his most meaningful contribution will be his support for a successful, lasting leadership transition for the organisation. Citing philanthropy as one of the most rewarding experiences of his life, Sean finds fulfilment in seeing the effectiveness of capital coupled with time. Although he will continue to focus on education and seek opportunities for collaboration, innovation, growth and deeper impact, he is also thinking about sharing what he and Muktangan have learned with other philanthropists and nonprofit organisations.

Whilst embracing the four mindsets is not easy, many philanthropists in India are already beginning to incorporate them into their philanthropic practices, as demonstrated through the interview findings and case studies. The following sections highlight some practical steps needed to embed the four mindsets into a philanthropic plan and to identify the resources readily available to help propel donors on this fulfilling journey of discovering their full potential.

Practical actions towards strategic giving

The following sections provide actionable guidance on how to absorb these mindsets by encouraging philanthropists to focus on the four key aspects of their giving (see Figure 9).


1. Gauge the effectiveness of your current giving

Philanthropists are often confronted by an important enquiry: "Am I making a difference?" However, most givers soon realise that it is difficult to gauge the effectiveness of individual grants to organisations, let alone the aggregated performance of their philanthropic portfolio. Yet this process of reflection is an important step in learning what is and what is not working, making corrections where necessary and ensuring that the philanthropist's resources are being put to good use.

With the goal of instilling clarity and focus in one's philanthropy, the first step is to conduct a review of the current philanthropic portfolio. For philanthropists who have already been giving and are looking to steer themselves in a more strategic direction, a portfolio review can help them recognise and learn from inefficiencies and successes. Similar to reviews of for-profit investment portfolios, the insights generated from this period of reflection can pave the way for a more catalytic strategy. Whilst many philanthropists have cited monitoring, learning and course correcting as an ongoing process, it is worth considering a formal portfolio review at least once every five years. Philanthropists can consider the following steps as they gauge the effectiveness of their current giving.

Determine your giving potential

Philanthropists often make a financial commitment without a precise understanding of their financial giving potential. As they look to devote a larger proportion of their wealth to philanthropy, it is recommended that they intentionally evaluate their current and projected wealth against their personal and family requirements, investments and savings to ultimately provide clarity into their financial giving potential. Several notable philanthropists have said that asking and answering the question, "How much is enough to live the life I desire?" has been transformative for their philanthropy. Thinking about how this philanthropic capital can be disbursed over time is also useful. Engaging with private wealth managers can be helpful in navigating this exercise.

Evaluate the performance of your philanthropy so far

One of the most important aspects of the review process is assessing the gap between what philanthropists planned to solve for and what they have achieved through their giving so far. If there is a gap, an assessment can be an important inflection point, prompting them to either define their objectives more clearly or revisit their portfolio for better alignment with the desired objectives.

A variety of frameworks can measure the progress of each investment. The metrics used to measure performance could be qualitative or quantitative in nature, although most organisations benefit from a hybrid to mirror the organisation's nuanced work. The Balanced Scorecard is a tool that measures organisational performance on a number of indicators—beneficiaries, internal processes, financials and learning and growth—to provide a holistic view of the organisation. By evaluating performance across these parameters, the scorecard increases focus on strategy and results, aligns the organisation's strategy with day-to-day work and prioritises projects and initiatives.

It is important to note that this performance assessment is part of a retrospective portfolio review and, therefore, may be constrained by the extent of data already available with the portfolio organisations. Even then, the process will expose the additional data an organisation needs for similar activities in the future.

Assess how catalytic your giving has been

With a broad understanding of the change that one's giving has enabled, it is important to consider how to multiply the effectiveness of philanthropy. The two streams to consider when reflecting on the catalytic nature of giving are:

  • How catalytic was the grant for the organisation? A careful diagnosis of the grantee organisation's needs can help determine the size and approach by which the grant can be catalytic for an organisation. For instance, the grant size could be weighed against the organisation's stage in its life cycle. A relatively small grant for a promising organisation in its infancy can be catalytic compared with the same grant to a mature one. Other examples of catalytic grants include supporting the institutional needs of a growing organisation. A grant to build organisational leadership in support of a fund-raising officer, for instance, may have a multiplier effect with regard to the ongoing grants that the officer may raise for future work. The timeline and flexibility of philanthropic funding—programmatic vs. institutional, short term vs. long term, restricted vs. unrestricted, or seed vs. growth—are other aspects to consider when thinking of the most catalytic use of philanthropic funds. It is important to note that the most catalytic use of one's funding should not be predetermined but decided in relation to the needs of the organisation and the context of the sector at hand.
  • How catalytic was the philanthropist for the organisation? Donors are often able to contribute beyond cheque writing in ways that can multiply the opportunities available to an organisation. For example, they can direct their skills and business acumen towards providing strategic direction, mobilise more funds through their peer networks or help facilitate collaboration with critical players like the government. Philanthropists who take the time to carefully match their expertise and resources to the most pressing needs of the nonprofit are able to add the maximum value to the organisation.

Review the distribution of your portfolio

During the review process, it is critical to visualise the breakdown of the philanthropic portfolio across various parameters. Philanthropists may consider the breadth of the portfolio or the depth of engagement with each organisation. For example, given finite resources, is it better to give smaller amounts to multiple organisations or give more to just a handful? Another aspect to consider may be the composition of one's portfolio across emotional and strategic investments. Reviewing one's portfolio distribution can help uncover imbalances and growth opportunities.

Review the mechanism for making philanthropic decisions

In many philanthropic families, important elements such as time commitment, accountability and decision making often are not discussed or articulated. Clarity around decision-making mechanisms is critical not only to ensure smooth execution of these decisions but also to enable grantees to engage effectively with philanthropists with minimal conflict or confusion. This process of review should allow a family to recognise any existing impediments in effective decision making and consequently give shape to a formal structure, or at the very least a mutually agreed-upon process of decision making.

Tips and tools to help you gauge the effectiveness of your giving

  • Engage philanthropy advisers to conduct a portfolio review.
  • Conduct a financial planning session with a private wealth manager.
  • Enlist monitoring and evaluation specialists to evaluate the performance of portfolio organisations.

Case study | Donald Lobo

Moving from Mumbai to the US in the early 1990s to pursue a post-graduate degree in computer science, Donald Lobo subsequently joined Yahoo's founding team as the "Technical Yahoo." As he began to accumulate wealth early in his life, he also began thinking about giving it away. His philanthropic journey started 15 years ago when he founded the Chintu Gudiya Foundation. Understanding pressing and neglected issues on the ground and taking big bets on organisations with the most effective solutions are integral parts of Donald's philanthropy. He does this by reading articles in academic journals and newspapers, having in-depth conversations with social entrepreneurs and speaking with beneficiaries during three weeks of volunteering every summer with his wife and children. The exposure and exploration helped him test, learn and improve his approach to philanthropy. Today, besides contributing funds, Donald uses his skills and helps organisations strengthen their programmes by using low-cost, open-source technology solutions to collect and analyse data.

In addition to hands-on engagement with philanthropy, a review of his portfolio helped Donald refine his philanthropic strategy. Specifically, it helped him recognise trends and insights into the performance of his grantee organisations, the sector-wide mix of his portfolio, the number of beneficiaries reached and how his support has helped build the capacity of these organisations. Engaging a philanthropy adviser to conduct this portfolio review enhanced its rigour, professionalism and objectivity.

A balance of what he refers to as "Wall Street–type" reports and qualitative voices from the ground helped Donald connect the mind with the heart in his philanthropy. The writings of leaders such as Suparna Gupta of Aangan Trust and numerous conversations with Pratima Joshi of Shelter Associates opened a window into the complex reality of implementing development programmes and the innovative, sometimes frugal ways they overcome grassroots challenges.

Ultimately, the combination of a portfolio review and on-the-ground insights has been a positive reinforcement for Donald, allowing him to assess his years of philanthropy, understand the impact of his giving, expand his sectors of interest, evaluate the right balance between the heart and the mind and eventually pave the path for future giving.

2. Define your vision for change

A better understanding of the effect of their current giving sets the stage for philanthropists to shift their focus and start looking ahead. It is important to clearly articulate what change they wish to see through their giving. Most philanthropists may already have a broad idea of where they want to direct their giving, but it is important to revisit and refine the focus area to ensure that the vision for change is aligned with their values and the needs on the ground. It is only with such alignment that the philanthropist's giving will be sustained over a long period and create maximum impact for the end beneficiary. Here are the avenues that philanthropists have used to define their vision for change.

Revisit the motivations and values that guide your giving

Philanthropists who have already begun their journey have specific motivations and values that have determined their propensity to give and guided the direction of their giving thus far. These could range from personal beliefs and experiences, individual and family values as well as cultural traditions to external factors such as corporate goals and government priorities. Donors tend to make the most sustained and successful contributions when their philanthropic vision and the issues they focus on connect directly to their motivations and convictions. Thus in order to ensure that their contributions consistently and meaningfully bolster progress towards their desired end result, it is imperative to clearly define that philanthropic vision.

A philanthropist's "vision" is an inspirational, long-term view of the kind of world he or she would like to see. It serves as the foundation for adding a more strategic element to giving. At this stage, givers may also consider whether their vision aligns with the broader development goals of the country committed under the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agenda includes a set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and tackle climate change by 2030. Contributing to building the country's momentum towards achieving these goals and furthering national aspirations could be another motivating factor for some philanthropists.

Be audacious

Based on our research, most Indian philanthropists are naturally inclined to give back to society, and they believe in uplifting those who are less privileged. This inclination stems from long-standing ideals and cultural values, including the Gandhian principle of trusteeship and a belief that we are simply custodians of our accumulated or inherited wealth. These philanthropists, therefore, take their responsibility to use their capital in a meaningful way very seriously and have large-scale ambitions of how they can influence change to benefit society. Such "think big" philanthropy goes beyond treating the symptoms of social issues and instead tackles their roots and causes. Givers are encouraged to be audacious and think along these lines when defining their vision. "Audacious" in this context entails creating sustainable impact by effecting systemic change, which yields the most powerful and enduring social returns on investments.

Being audacious begins with an appreciation of all the different aspects and players in the sector or issue at hand. With the big picture in mind, givers can set an audacious goal for their philanthropy and ensure that it contributes to sector-wide efforts targeting the crux of the issue. The audacity of the vision could stem from multiple factors, including the scale of interventions supported; the size and duration of funds committed; or an ambitious long-term outcome, such as policy-level change.

Some donors at this stage may tend to feel overwhelmed by the sector and experience an initial paralysis due to concerns about whether a single philanthropist can effect systemic change. However, givers can always bring in additional partners to deal with aspects of the problem that they may not have the resources to tackle alone. It is important to keep this in mind and not let limited resources become the primary factor constraining the pursuit of an audacious vision.

Narrow your focus

It is important for philanthropists to strike a careful balance between being audacious in what they hope to achieve and having a focused, actionable vision. Tackling the problems in the education space as a whole, for instance, can be considered too Herculean an undertaking for a single donor. To bring about meaningful and lasting social change, philanthropists may narrow their area of focus to a particular aspect of the larger sector.

Givers can narrow their focus area based on several factors:

  • Cause. Selecting a facet of the larger problem to concentrate on, such as quality of education or mental health
  • Demography. Focusing on a particular vulnerable population, such as women or religious minorities
  • Geography. Tackling the challenges faced by a particular community or state
  • Institutions. Focusing on a certain type of organisation to support, such as a think tank or museum
  • Leadership. Supporting organisations with strong, inspiring leaders who have the capability to use the philanthropic support to elevate and scale their work.

It is important to note that the focus need not be limited to a single area; it could also be a combination of complementary yet distinct issues. In practice, this means a philanthropist who has chosen to focus on primary school education might go one step further to define the vision as solving the issue of "quality education in urban primary schools in Mumbai"—and, in doing so, create a vision that is both audacious and focused.

Define what success looks like

Whilst the vision for change lays out the desired result, it is important to have a clear-eyed view of the milestones—the smaller goals that indicate progress. This entails listing the tangible outcomes philanthropists want their contributions to create and defining what constitutes successful giving for them. For instance, the specific outcomes for a philanthropist who focuses on primary school education could be higher rates of attendance; improved literacy rates; or, ultimately, more college admissions. Whilst all three outcomes are complementary, they will each occur at different stages and require unique approaches to be achieved. It is therefore critical to plan for each stage and decide when to concentrate efforts on each of the specific outcomes.

To narrow their area of focus and define appropriate metrics of success, it is crucial that philanthropists gain insight into the realities on the ground related to the sector in which they are giving or looking to give to. One of the most important learning experiences for philanthropists trying to define success is conducting field visits and meeting communities. This immersive experience enables philanthropists to create a bottom-up vision—one that addresses the reality of the situation and results in an accurate understanding of what success will look like.

Articulate a well-defined vision statement

The final step in defining a vision for change is to lay out a concise and clear vision statement that can then guide the future giving strategy. The effort of trying to convey a vision in a few words pushes philanthropists to consider all the relevant underlying factors that define their giving and, in turn, frame a succinct vision statement.

There are several benefits to a clearly articulated vision statement, the first of which is the sense of purpose it fosters and constant source of inspiration it provides. If there is more than one decision maker (e.g., other family members, executive members of the trust/foundation), it allows everyone to be in agreement on the direction of the philanthropy and act in accordance with it. The vision statement is thus the foundation for outcome-oriented philanthropy, translating aspirations into concrete outcomes and spelling out the unique definition of success for each philanthropist. Philanthropists may consider conducting a formal exercise to outline a vision statement for their giving in consultation with a philanthropy adviser. They may also attend donor education training such as The Philanthropy Workshop or Dasra Philanthropy programme to help them with the same.

Tips and tools to help you define your vision for change

  • Conduct visioning exercises with the help of philanthropy advisers.
  • Engage with sector experts and nonprofit leaders to better understand needs on the ground.
  • Study research reports and relevant articles to assess areas of need.
  • Visit communities to better understand ground realities.

Case study | Leena Dandekar

A dynamic, successful entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience working with the Camlin Group across multiple businesses, Leena Dandekar recently set out to embark on a new journey—that of philanthropy. What began as a search for volunteering opportunities at local NPOs led her to realise that she had the time and potential to contribute in a much larger, more focused manner. She recognised that a bold and clear vision was a prerequisite for bringing alignment within her family, creating a structured philanthropic plan and eventually bringing about meaningful change.

Over the next few months, Leena spoke to seasoned Indian philanthropists and engaged players like Dasra and EdelGive to better understand the philanthropy landscape in India and effective methods for building a strong vision for one's giving. She and her children also visited several nonprofit programme sites to witness first-hand challenges and recognise specific issues that especially resonated with them.

These experiences have culminated in Leena and her children defining a strong vision for their philanthropy, which entails strengthening rural economies whilst restoring the environment. Today, she understands that the process of arriving at a vision requires a fine balance between the head and heart. Having come so far in just 10 months, both Leena and her children acknowledge that they still have a lot to learn. They are looking forward to their first steps in this exciting journey to realise their philanthropic vision.

3. Determine your pathway to change

With a clearly defined vision for change, it is time to understand how to go about creating this change. Carefully thinking through desired goals and the most appropriate pathways to accomplish them is vital to creating a strategy with the potential to generate impact at scale. Here are some key approaches and actions philanthropists must consider as they move through this phase.

Understand the problem and existing solutions to address it

Before attempting to address a problem, it is important that philanthropists develop a sound understanding of it. This may involve identifying relevant stakeholders such as the government, businesses, philanthropists, nonprofits and the communities that influence the problem; exploring critical gaps and barriers to progress; and outlining the evolving political, economic, physical and cultural environment affecting the problem.

With this understanding, philanthropists may look to identify solutions currently being implemented to address the issue, including building awareness, creating new infrastructure or training frontline workers. Most often, there is no single pathway to solving a given problem. Given the complexity and scale of development problems in India, it is also often indirect and intangible interventions that have the potential to create the deepest and most systemic change. For example, within secondary education, the need today is not to build schools but rather to improve the quality of education in existing schools. That requires philanthropists to support strategies such as policy advocacy and teacher training. Providing such support requires patience along with an understanding that it may not yield visible or measurable impact in the philanthropist's lifetime.

Clearly articulate a theory of change

Ultimately, one must understand the problem before one can identify solutions. This can be articulated with a theory of change—a framework that depicts the path from inputs to outputs to short- or mid-term results to long-term impact. Theories of change also depict the assumptions that underlie a giver's reasoning and the evidence backing these assumptions. A good theory of change can reveal:

  • Whether a philanthropist's activities make sense, given his or her goals;
  • Whether there are approaches the philanthropist is currently taking that are not directly contributing to achieving the desired goals;
  • Whether additional inputs are necessary to achieve the desired goals; and
  • Which activities and outcomes the philanthropist can and cannot achieve alone.

Articulating an appropriate and effective theory of change means considering several factors, including research, needs of the community, one's own philanthropic values and available resources.

Carefully select nonprofit grantees based on a set of well-thought-out criteria

With a sound understanding of the most effective solutions to the problem at hand, philanthropists can now determine if they need to establish a new organisation to tackle the problem. It is ideal if philanthropists support existing efforts or partner with other stakeholders through collaborative vehicles such as giving circles, unless forming a new organisation fills a critical gap that cannot be bridged otherwise. Applying the expertise and experiences of existing organisations is a smarter and quicker method of bringing about meaningful change than investing additional time and resources to create a new entity. However, as India is home to millions of NPOs, selecting the right grantee partners can be overwhelming. In these cases, it is useful to consider the following parameters when evaluating organisations and assessing the fit with one's philanthropic plan:

  • Presence of appropriate registrations and legal compliance;
  • Strength of the organisation's programmes and demonstrated effectiveness;
  • Strength of institutional systems and processes;
  • Capability and vision of the organisation's leadership;
  • Alignment of the organisation's work to one's own vision and values; and
  • Growth stage and capacity of the organisation to absorb the grant amount.

Determine your mode of play

Besides the selection of specific interventions to support, there are other considerations that play a role in determining the eventual effectiveness of one's philanthropy. Specifically, as philanthropists look to become more strategic in their giving, they must consciously consider the following:

  • The structure of the giving vehicle. Giving through a family foundation or a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) fund, giving directly to organisations or giving through some combination of these vehicles all have differing implications for philanthropists and must be carefully considered as they formalise their giving.
  • The flexibility and purpose of the grant. The value of supporting an organisation's management capacity and capability is often underestimated in philanthropy. Philanthropists may consider funding not just specific programmes but also organisations' institutional building needs to enable them to carry out their work effectively.
  • The time period of engagement with grantees. Given the complexity, seriousness and scale of India's development challenges, sustained efforts over a long period of time are necessary to create true change. What's more, long-term engagement with grantees creates the space and infrastructure for them to learn, adjust and—at times—fail, thus enabling them to bring about faster and deeper change.
  • The level of depth and breadth across one's portfolio. Philanthropists must consider the degree to which their philanthropic investments are spread across multiple organisations or focused on a smaller set of organisations. In general, when high-potential nonprofits are adequately supported, they have the ability to create sustainable impact for a large number of beneficiaries. Placing big bets on a few organisations and their leadership has been a powerful approach to maximising philanthropic effectiveness.

Tips and tools to help you define pathways to change:

  • Engage with sector experts and nonprofit leaders to understand the problem and create effective solutions.
  • Study research reports and relevant articles to identify evidence-based practices.
  • Engage with an intermediary organisation to conduct due diligence on organisations.
  • Visit programme sites to evaluate the work of potential nonprofit grantees.
  • Engage with philanthropy advisers and participate in donor education training to reflect on the chosen approach.

Case study | Amira Shah Chhabra

The daughter of first-generation entrepreneurs who founded Signet Chemical Corporation, one of India's leading pharmaceutical raw materials distribution companies, Amira Shah Chhabra spends a significant portion of her time guiding and shaping her family's philanthropic efforts through the Harish and Bina Shah Foundation. It was her research for a public policy think tank that ignited her interest in the social sector and propelled her to spend three years at Dasra, working to build the capacity of high-potential nonprofits to scale their impact. Equipped with the knowledge and skills from these experiences, Amira decided to join Signet and develop the business skills she believed necessary to effectively navigate the development world.

Today Amira, along with her parents, sister and husband, is deeply involved in growing the foundation's team and building a robust strategy for generating impact across areas such as women's empowerment, governance, education, health, anti-sex trafficking and menstrual hygiene. The family's involvement in several giving circles served as an important mode of engagement with nonprofits that helped them understand the value and meaning of adopting a strategic approach to scaling impact.

Long-term support and a healthy balance of programmatic and institutional funding based on the needs of the organisation guide the strategy of the Harish and Bina Shah Foundation today. Additionally, based on a nuanced understanding of what it takes to empower women and girls, the foundation places a significant emphasis on nonprofits' willingness to engage men and boys in their programmes.

As a driving force of the foundation, Amira has ensured that philanthropy forms a core part of the work at Signet. Having selected top talent from the company to spend time on the foundation's activities, she ensures that site visits are a fundamental component of the experience. She believes that conducting site visits is key to developing independent thinking, understanding the realities and needs on the ground and ultimately adopting a solution that is closely aligned with them. Her foundation team shares this view and sees these visits as transformative experiences that changed their approach to the work.

Over the next year, the foundation plans to deepen its engagements with grantees and continue to strengthen the strategic principles that guide its approach to creating greater and faster impact.

Case study | Bharat Sheth

Great Eastern Shipping (GE), led by Bharat Sheth, embraced CSR in the wake of the amended Companies Act of 2013. Bharat did not know that what began as a mandate would soon get the top slots in his schedule and become an emotionally rewarding journey. What he did know, however, was that giving back is important and needs to be done well. Thus, by early 2015, GE had a functioning CSR Foundation (GECSRF).

GECSRF constituted an internal CSR committee, led by Bharat and composed of other senior GE leaders, to expedite decision making around grants. Whilst Bharat meets with nonprofit leaders and conducts exploratory meetings with the CSR team, this committee also meets every month to provide an interface with other senior leaders, share experiences from the ground, address questions and allow for quick and effective decision making. Above all, these meetings encourage alignment between GE's leadership and CSR arm, allowing greater agency to the latter.

Today, GECSRF aligns its work with the Sustainable Development Goals, adopting a focus on improving education, healthcare and livelihood across geographies that receive limited funding from corporations. Additionally, long-term, programmatic and institution-building support to early-stage organisations is key to guiding the foundation's strategy. Given these approaches, Bharat's personal investment and the rigour with which the foundation's CSR activities are carried out, it is no surprise that over the last two years, GECSRF has touched more than 40,000 lives in and around Maharashtra and continues to scale and further strengthen its work.

4. Amplify the impact of giving

Whilst contributing funds is no doubt a critical aspect of philanthropy, it is certainly not the only one. Increasing the quantum of funds will only go so far in enhancing impact. Most givers are restricted in the amount of capital they are able to give. A valuable step for philanthropists looking to heighten the effectiveness of their giving is to move beyond providing funds to applying their skills, networks and time to benefit nonprofits. Involving one's family in the philanthropy journey can also be a rewarding experience and play an important role in sustaining one's giving over time. Here are some steps givers can take.

Give time in a way that aligns with one's skills

More effective givers understand that funds alone are limited in the change they can bring about. Such philanthropists look beyond cheque writing to contribute other forms of capital they may have in a manner that achieves synergy with the skills and networks they have to offer.

Resourceful nonprofits are always looking for relevant experience and skills to minimise their overhead costs. Moreover, nonprofits aren't always able to fully and effectively use money that comes their way because they lack a sustainable plan that takes into account strategy, information technology (IT), infrastructure, organisational structure and research and development, among other things. Philanthropists who provide guidance in these areas make an invaluable contribution. For example, several philanthropists with strong business backgrounds sit on the boards of nonprofits and provide strategic direction and advice on organisational development. Philanthropists can provide other forms of assistance and guidance, from supporting talent recruitment to using their technology skills to build and test effective systems.

Philanthropists' relationship capital—their network of employees, board members, clients and the people they know—is another valuable alternative or supplement to monetary giving. It facilitates nonprofits' access to a pool of new, prospective donors and, more importantly, allows them to connect with experts they would otherwise have had to hire at potentially high costs. Highly skilled resources with extensive expertise in technical fields like IT, law and finance are hard to come by in the development sector. Connecting nonprofits to such expertise at low or no cost and engaging with them more deeply has the potential to multiply the philanthropic impact.

Share what is learned and encourage greater giving

Peer interactions provide philanthropists with an opportunity to share their experiences and influence greater and smarter participation in philanthropy. Many Indian donors said they have peers who are their philanthropic role models and who inspired them to begin giving, increase the quantum of their giving and be more strategic whilst doing so.

Beyond inspiring others to give, philanthropists should share with their peer philanthropists what they learned from successes, failures, challenges and effective approaches. This can be a powerful way to replicate effective practices and avoid duplication of efforts or repetitive mistakes. In fact, according to a recent study commissioned by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, 92% of funders cited their peers and colleagues as their primary source of knowledge on philanthropy.

Platforms to share and learn may take the form of intimate gatherings with one's own networks but can go beyond that to include, for example, philanthropy events, social media, newspaper and magazine articles or a philanthropist's own website. Philanthropists may also look for platforms that promote expertise from within the group. For instance, if topics such as grantee management, monitoring and evaluation or tax and regulatory compliance are of interest, philanthropists can find platforms that are curated to match their learning requirements.

Collaborate with other stakeholders

No one philanthropist alone has the resources and influence to solve India's complex and intractable development issues. Complexity means that solutions cannot be static and single-pronged approaches; they need to be dynamic and concerted efforts led by multiple stakeholders. Philanthropists can thus collaborate with other stakeholders to make significant change within the sector. Other stakeholders can include the government and state institutions, civil society, the private sector, academic institutions and other funders.

Collaboration is a complex process and requires investing considerable thought and effort into building healthy, trustful relationships among the key players. However, the advantages are numerous: Philanthropists benefit from collaboration by accessing greater resources, building knowledge and learning best practices, and achieving a wide variety of goals whilst effectively managing their own time and resources. The change that comes from a collaborative, all-round approach is also deeper and often more scalable than results from separate, siloed initiatives.

The government is one of the most significant stakeholders with which philanthropists can collaborate. Regardless of the cause, government funding and policy are bound to affect the results and are critical to creating powerful and systemic social change. Collaborating with the government can introduce an element of unprecedented scale for nonprofits. Advocating with the government and legislators is also the only way to ensure necessary changes in the law to achieve lasting change.

Partnering with other funders is another important way to amplify the effectiveness of one's philanthropy. The benefits of collaborating with other donors include learning opportunities, dilution of risk and increased impact through larger or longer-term grants. The most tangible example of collaborative giving is a giving circle, which allows for larger contributions, building a community of givers and creating new leaders in philanthropy. Engaging with other givers can become a catalyst for more thoughtful giving, in turn ensuring that the impact on the end beneficiary is maximised.

Tips and tools to help amplify the impact of giving:

  • Host gatherings to expand the community of givers.
  • Join philanthropy peer networks.
  • Share information about philanthropy through events or media platforms.
  • Engage with nonprofit leaders to understand nonmonetary needs of the organisation.

Case study | Aparna Piramal Raje

Aparna Piramal Raje, columnist and writer on business, design, urbanisation and workplaces, focuses her philanthropy on organisations with strong leadership and the potential to scale their work, regardless of the sector they serve. However, from the very beginning of her giving journey, she viewed her role as going beyond cheque writing to fostering a community of givers in India and influencing greater and smarter participation in philanthropy.

She believes that a strong network of philanthropists not only serves as a platform for cross-learning but is also a way of sharing and spreading the joy of giving. This led her to mobilise seven other families from her apartment complex in Mumbai to give collaboratively to a nonprofit named ARMMAN in support of their innovative technological solution to improve maternal and child health in the city's urban slums. This action was also guided by her belief that collaborating with other philanthropists and jointly committing funding has the potential to create far greater and more meaningful change than any one individual is capable of creating through a single contribution.

Beyond spearheading a giving circle with her neighbours, Aparna has hosted gatherings at her home, shared documented impact studies and brought potential funders on site visits to stir interest in and eventually commit funding to ARMMAN, Magic Bus and other nonprofits she supports. Applying her background in journalism, she also regularly publishes articles related to the Indian development sector as a way to increase awareness around social issues and encourage greater participation in philanthropy.

Today, the idea of amplifying effectiveness beyond monetary contributions forms the foundational principle guiding Aparna's philanthropy. Over time, she plans to involve her children in her journey, increase the amount of capital and time she contributes to philanthropic activities and ultimately serve as an active proponent of strengthening the philanthropy movement in India.

Case study | Dhruv Khaitan

A serial entrepreneur, Dhruv Khaitan has helped conceptualise, create and scale high-technology ventures in India and has strategically mentored these companies through their inception, growth and eventual divestment. Over the last year, he began to consider how his expertise can help create catalytic growth for organisations in the nonprofit sector. Whilst he had already been funding midsized organisations to help them scale, he now believes that he can multiply the effect of every rupee he contributes by directly engaging with nonprofits and providing them with strategic direction and guidance.

With this goal in mind, Dhruv is building a Strategic Support Group (SSG), which brings together professionals, experts, business people and donors who are interested in giving their time to build the capacities of the nonprofits they support. These individuals, including Dhruv himself, use the skills they developed in their professional practices to bring new capabilities to organisations in areas such as strategy, technology, marketing, financial planning, process excellence, scaling, unit economics, innovation and government relations.

The SSG also facilitates synergistic partnerships between nonprofits that have complementary strengths. The idea behind bringing partners together is to provide access to and encourage them to share best practices, skills, knowledge and experiences. Nonprofits working together can also fulfil their strategic objectives of scaling and expanding to new geographies rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel alone.

Providing strategic support along with capital amplifies the impact of Dhruv's philanthropy, enabling nonprofits to scale efficiently and effectively and achieve better and faster outcomes. Over the next few years, he aims to build a sector-agnostic portfolio of 10 to 15 organisations that the SSG can support in a meaningful way.


Engaging in philanthropy itself is an honourable act, regardless of the quantum, nature and approach of the giving. Yet, given the magnitude and urgency of India's development challenges, the need for philanthropists to adopt a strategic approach is now more pronounced than ever before. The four mindsets outlined in this report encapsulate what it means to be strategic with one's giving. The four processes offer concrete steps that philanthropists can take to embrace these mindsets and create greater and faster impact on the ground.

For instance, adopting not just a "today forward" but also a "future back" mindset can be achieved by defining a clear philanthropic vision. The steps may involve revisiting the motivations that guide giving and articulating an audacious yet focused vision statement. Similarly, evolving beyond contributing funds to become a trusted collaborator can be done by utilising relevant skills, sharing findings and involving other stakeholders.

Ultimately, every philanthropist will chart a unique course for his or her giving in a manner that resonates with his or her values and experiences. The India Philanthropy Report 2018 serves as a guideline for how to give more strategically. Applying more structure to this journey by no means diminishes how personal it is. In fact, being thoughtful in how one gives produces the most sustainable and powerful social returns on investments of time and capital. In the long run, reflecting on the four mindsets and the processes to embrace these strategic mindsets can help philanthropists chart a journey that more deeply aligns with their own goals and values and creates sustained and systemic impact on India's development sector.

As one of the leaders of the developing world, India has adopted ambitious yet necessary development targets. The onus of bolstering the country's efforts to meet these goals lies with each one of its citizens. The India Philanthropy Report is an effort to encourage those who have the capabilities and resources to contribute, to do so in an effective manner—and bring about systemic and sustainable impact. Within the constraints that they each may have, this report enables givers to maximise their impact at every stage and ensure that their contributions are catalytic in elevating India's global position.

About this report and acknowledgements

The report is the result of collaboration between Bain & Company and Dasra. The report was co-written by Anant Bhagwati, a partner with Bain & Company who leads the firm's Social Impact work and Digital practice in India; Arpan Sheth, Bain partner and a leader with the Private Equity practice; and Deval Sanghavi, co-founder of Dasra, with input from Srikrishnan Srinivasan, principal at Bain & Company.

About Dasra

Dasra, meaning "enlightened giving" in Sanskrit, is a pioneering strategic philanthropic organisation that aims to transform India into a place where more than a billion people thrive with dignity and equity. Since its inception in 1999, Dasra has accelerated social change by driving collaborative action through powerful partnerships among a trust-based network of stakeholders (corporations, foundations, families, nonprofits, socially responsible businesses, government and media). Over the years, Dasra has deepened social impact in focussed fields that include adolescents, urban sanitation and governance, and it has built social capital by leading a strategic philanthropy movement in the country.

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