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.
Take the case of Donald Lobo. Moving from Mumbai to the US in the early 1990s to pursue a post-graduate degree in computer science, he 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. India Philanthropy Report 2018 by Bain & Company states 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.
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.