Philanthropy Leadership Confluence brings Indian donor association a step closer


Priya Viswanath


Priya Viswanath

Priya Viswanath

The Philanthropy Leadership Confluence (PLC) was held in Mumbai on 15 June 2011 and organized by the Centre for the Advancement of Philanthropy, one of India’s leading philanthropy resource centres and Samhita, a philanthropic initiative that aims to create an enabling ecosystem for NGOs, donors, volunteers, service providers and other support organizations. The meeting brought together grantmakers, private wealth individuals and philanthropy support organizations to explore setting up a network or association of donors. The day-long meeting was attended largely by Mumbai-based donors who are engaged in local and national grantmaking.

The organizers brought together an impressive range of donors. Established family foundations and trusts, including the Tata Trusts, N M Wadia Trust, Mahindra Trust and Rangoonwala Trust, were present alongside emerging new wealth and corporate foundations: Axis Bank Foundation, Destimoney, Edelgive Foundation, Forbes Marshall, Altamount Capital, Volkart Foundation, Johnson & Johnson and Wockhardt Foundation to name a few. The Bombay Community Public Trust and Navam represented the community foundation sector. The India Foundation for the Arts, the country’s leading arts grantmaker, also participated, as well as support organizations such as GIVE, Dasra and Credibility Alliance, and organizations promoting social venture philanthropy including Acumen Fund, LGT Venture Philanthropy and Asian Venture Philanthropy Network. The presence of established grantmakers, many of them well known to the field of grantmaking in India – such as Russi Lala, Jamshed Setna, Deanna Jeejabhoy and Anmol Vellani – provided rich insights and perspectives. A range of bankers, venture capitalists, financial advisers and development consultants were also present and participated in a lively discussion on Indian philanthropy, grantmaking and the needs of this sector.

Rohini Nilekani, founder of Arghyam and the face of the new age of philanthropy in India, delivered the keynote address and reflected on the potential for collaborative philanthropy. Talking about the power of aggregation, she referred to some of the new initiatives that focus on successful collaborative engagement – the Public Health Foundation, Indian School of Business and Pratham. ‘Our society rests on three pillars – sarkaar (government), samaaj (civil society) and bazaar (market forces). Philanthropy has a critical role to play in filling the gaps that the sarkaar or the bazaar cannot plug so that samaaj can thrive,’ she said.

Vijay Mahajan, chairman of BASIX and president of the Micro Finance Institutions Network, spoke about ‘co-creation’ in his keynote address. He reflected on the ecosystem of symbiotic entities and the current need to adapt and change, in order to leverage the power of giving. He urged participants to focus on identifying key issues of our times, pooling knowledge with humility and honesty to learn mutually and develop supportive legislation and to act to co-create between donors and grantees.

Paula Johnson, VP and director of the Center for Global Philanthropy, The Philanthropic Initiative Inc, shared her insight on global trends in philanthropic giving and networking while emphasizing that support networks are essential to assist foundations to create more impact. WINGS reported 200 foundations in India, and estimated grantmaking in India at about US$5-7 billion. ‘The time is right for India to have a network that can support the work of donors and assist the new philanthropists,’ Johnson added.

In his address, Noshir Dadrawala of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy aptly remarked: ‘Having a donor network seems like an idea whose time has come!’ He reflected on the growth of wealth and the development of the sector in India and the importance of having a learning-sharing network to enhance the growth of philanthropy.

The PLC followed a part-learning, part-interactive format, with the second half comprising interactive sessions. The keynote addresses of the day were followed by simultaneous roundtable sessions that discussed the need for a network of donors, and the activities that such a network could undertake.

The need for a network that would act as an information provider, knowledge builder, adviser, collaborative facilitator and advocate for the sector were some of the aspirations outlined by participants, summarized Anmol Vellani, executive director of India Foundation for the Arts, who led the concluding session.

The day ended with pledges to fund such an initiative, establish a taskforce to follow through on suggestions and develop a road map for the network’s development.

Priya Viswanath is co-founder and managing director of Dāna Asia. Email

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Comments (1)

Rita Thapa

A donor's network - its time is come obviously in India. But i feel it is important at the same time for cross-learning across the field both inter and intra countries in the region. How can lessons and learning generated and strengths demonstrated go beyond geographical and "class"divides? How can philanthropy - be truly altruistic and humble and empower the disenfranchised - for social justice? Interested - owing to the work i have been engaging in for the past 16 years since i founded the Nepal women's fund - "Tewa".

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