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Redefining philanthropy together as a family

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Shloka Mehta and Akash Ambani
Next generation philanthropist Shloka Mehta with her husband Akash Ambani
 
For philanthropic families, the transition of decision-making and wealth can be a critical and challenging period. Given that respect for and deference to elders is a core family value in India, conversations to redefine philanthropy for the family can be difficult for Next Generation Philanthropists to initiate.
But this is also a great opportunity to drive discussions, align multigenerational values, and create an institution that embodies the family’s ideals for generations to come. Next-gen philanthropist Sapphira Goradia says, “It can be helpful to sit down and individually come up with a list of your most important values, then share these lists as a family. More often than not, you will find more commonalities in values than differences.”
This can be a tool to build cohesiveness and a starting point to work together on philanthropy as a family. Dasra’s Philanthropy Guide, ‘Giving as a Family’ outlines key factors to help philanthropists examine how they would like to approach philanthropy as a family.
On completing her studies abroad, Shloka Mehta―who recently tied the knot with Akash Ambani―returned to India aspiring to create impact in the education sector. She found that the Rosy Blue Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Rosy Blue Group that her family owned, had tremendous scope to become more effective.
“From my previous experiences in volunteering with NGOs, I was very frustrated by how affected organizations are by the grants they receive,” she told Dasra. “A lot of organizations typically change their programme to accommodate or follow the mandate of a certain grant.
Funding sometimes seemed to be a huge limitation. We had tools like the Rosy Blue Foundation but no one was solely managing it or recording and measuring its impact, so I volunteered for the position because I knew the foundation had greater potential.”
Today, as Executive Director of Rosy Blue Foundation, Shloka supports NGOs and initiatives that promote mentorship for underprivileged children in India. She has also been instrumental in setting up ConnectFor – a volunteering platform that links people willing to give their time and skills with credible NGOs.
For the first three months as Executive Director, Shloka focused on conducting research on philanthropy and grant-making to answer questions such as, “What does philanthropy mean? How should grant givers assess implementing organizations?” She met NGOs to understand their programmes and intermediaries such as Dasra to decide what sector to focus on and how to create meaningful impact.
She leveraged this information to create a theory of change for the Foundation. She also highlighted the importance of research as part of the grant-making process and outlined new structures that were needed for the foundation to become a more efficient funding agency.
She says this would not, however, have been possible without the support of her family. Shloka had formal and informal discussions with her family to bring them on board, relying on evidence to help her family view their funding more objectively.
“We realized that giving shouldn’t only be motivated by our desire to help people meet their needs, but that the value of what we want to give can become much more sustainable if we do it right,” Russell Mehta, Shloka’s father says in Dasra report A Generation Ahead, adding, “By conducting research, we saw that our impact could lead to greater change than anything ad hoc.”

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