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Foundation moves toward "Venture Philanthropy" model

Sudhi Rajagopal

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The foundation is increasingly moving toward a partnership-based model of giving, which can be thought of as “Venture Philanthropy.” In the past, we have made a number of one-off grants in an effort to be as inclusive and far reaching with our giving as possible. However, we have come to realize that we can achieve greater impact by forging long-term partnerships. Moreover, as a small family foundation, we do not have the operational bandwidth to sustain an open grant cycle (a common set-up in which many people/organizations apply for grants, we review applications, vet the organizations, and award grants accordingly). Rather, we have come to believe that long-term partnerships give us the opportunity to see long-term growth, have further engagement from family, and ultimately, get a “seat at the table” with the organizations we support.



Our overarching program structure can be thought of in terms of our two core values— social impact and family engagement. Our Core Fund focuses on social impact, and consists of the major partnerships we have cultivated. At the moment, Palayam Partners include the Altius Foundation, the Jeevan Stem Cell Foundation, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Other potential partners are Global Giving and CARE—organizations that focus on disaster relief. Our focus in the Core Fund is to develop these partnerships in new, creative, and sustaining ways.


Our second major program area is the Mukund Devan Family Projects (MDFP). MDFP focuses on family engagement, and provides an avenue for family members to try their hand at philanthropy by supporting causes they are passionate about. Past MDFP grantees include Akshaya Patra, GroundWork USA, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). It is important to note that MDFP grantees can eventually become Palayam Partners if they show potential for long-term impact and sustainability.


A third program area that we have recently implemented with the goal of encouraging family engagement is the Palayam Board Member Allowance. As part of this program, all board members receive a yearly allowance that they can channel to a nonprofit organization of their choosing. Board members can take as active a role as they wish in learning how to vet these organizations, connect with their staff, and monitor their impact.

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