The inaugural summit on July 30, 2010 brought together around 75 members of the club, renowned philanthropists and leading policy makers, covering a range of topics from sharing their personal journeys in giving to defining the importance of private philanthropy in today’s world.
The one common element that was echoed through the first session on “How much to Give” was, who they ended up helping most was actually themselves. Mr. & Mrs. Salwen shared the outstanding story of how their family set out to make a small difference by donating 50% of their wealth to charity and ended up transforming themselves in the process. “Half is so obvious, its rational!” was the proclamation by Mr. Udani, when you share a cookie or a popsicle with your sibling or a friend, the natural instinct is to split into half, then why not follow the same principle with one’s wealth. Mr. Udani presented various benchmarks on giving with religions setting the range of 2.5% – 10% to the wealthy US HNI index of 8-11%, followed by the recent $600 billion challenge by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. He also shared snapshots of Indian givers such as Vineet Nayyar, Shiv Nadar, Nandan and Rohini Nilekani, who have all set aside a significant portion of their wealth for charitable purposes. He summarized that the key to maximize giving is to follow a systematic approach, starting first with a financial plan mapping out the needs and liabilities, and then a giving plan of how much and where to give and eventually leading to a legacy plan.
Contrasting the “power of half” was Mr. & Mrs. Chandra who did exactly the opposite – they started thinking in “doubles”. They created two pools – one pool where every conceivable need was doubled, enough to meet their lifestyle and the needs of their children. And the second pool was then allocated for philanthropy. Answering the anxious new givers, Mrs. Chandra said, “It was a matter of starting. Once the ball sets rolling, it takes over our life. I started with giving half-an-hour a month to now being on board of an organization.”
The second session was focused on engaged and strategic philanthropy. Inspiring the gathering was Dr. Nachiket Mor, who urged members to share professional skills in the area they chose to support. Dr. Mor spoke about the organic way in which his engagement with Banyan deepened over time eventually moving from mere interest to long-term involvement. Crediting Mr. Mor on being the driving force behind the setup of Banyan Academy, Mr. Nash broke down the donor engagement in 3 phases. The honeymoon phase where both the donor and the NGO are in their best behavior, the second phase which moves onto an open and honest communication between the NGO and the donor being aware of the real issues and needs, followed by the final “value-add” phase where the engagement moves onto the level of blue sky thinking and bringing their talent and skills to the forefront. Speaking on strategic philanthropy, Mr. Sanghavi highlighted the need to look beyond charity to the personal ecosystem of maids, servants and drivers. He encouraged people to strategically think about specific and measurable outcomes through their giving, and further emphasized on understanding the sector that one wants to get into and getting hands-on experience. This would make the engagement more valuable and also help in figuring out the growth points, institutional funding opportunities, and bring about openness to fund the management that takes the organization to another level.
Mr. Mahajan opened the third session by being inspired by other speakers through the evening on how much search had gone into their internal motivations and also the means/methods to achieve them effectively. Giving an oceanic description of how employment generation (livelihoods) is central to other dys-functionalities seen is society, from poverty to urban congestion to disturbed states; the root cause of all could be traced back to inability to generate incomes. 45 million of our population is unemployed, in addition the demographic increment, i.e., people seeking employment every year is roughly about 10.5 billion. Off the 500million employed, 60% are employed in unproductive work and cannot cross the poverty line.
The issue of livelihood is deeply rooted and can be addressed only by going beyond the world of charity and strategic philanthropy, as part of the mainstream economic concerns. Essentially there are 2 ways to track this problem – first being amassing capital to serve cause of livelihoods and second to bring this to attention of policy makers – civil servants and politicians. The latter was possible by working systematically along with capital to produce high quality human resources, contacts, networks and that eventually leads to a policy change. He concluded the session by expressing that along with money, the time commitment that the members had made has the potential to take the respective causes that they may espouse to the next level.
The evening concluded with a lively panel discussion on the role and importance of private philanthropy featuring Dr. Nitin Nohria, Ms. Nandini Piramal, Ms. Anu Aga, Mr. Francoise Debiesse, and Mr. Kevin Salwen. Talking about the increasing trend of investment in NGOs and spending money in India, Dr Nitin Nohria, the first Indian dean of Harvard Business School, said “Rather than fear of taxation, there was more fear of what they had today would be gone tomorrow. People thought there was need to be conservative in their approach toward money. The fear has now transformed into confidence, reflecting a profound psychological change in the last two decades. People feel more secure and confident of giving and are sure of their future.”