2015 Annual Report
Six months ago our board voted to give Abi, Vishrudh, and me the opportunity to revitalize our family foundation. This pilot period came at a critical juncture for the Foundation—its operations had been relatively dormant, family involvement was waning, and responsibility diffused. We had some fundamental questions about the Foundation’s future: Was it sustainable? Did we have the bandwidth to give the Foundation the attention it needed to grow and thrive? Could the Foundation become a truly meaningful and interesting endeavor for the whole family? We have now been able to answer many of our important questions, and I hope you’ll see in this report, the past six months have been both informative and transformative and informative.
A number of things strike me as I look back on this pilot period. First and foremost, I am truly awed by the extensive impact the Foundation has already had--both in India and globally--since its inception in 1999. One of our tasks in the past months has been to compile an exhaustive record of past projects. It has been heartening to see that past grantees—some of whom would not have been able to undertake their work without our support—have become widely recognized and continue to have a positive, measurable, and sustainable impact in underserved communities in India. Globally, we have responded to crises in a number of locations including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Darfur, Haiti, and New Orleans. Our record of giving has been nothing short of stellar, and we hope you will take pride in this family achievement.
Secondly, I have been struck by the solid framework—largely conceived by the senior generation—that has been put in place to give us the opportunity to not only invest in the future of our native country, but also to invest in the philanthropic spirit of future family generations. As we propose in our vision statement, the Foundation can and should be both a family investment, and an investment in family. A major task during the pilot period was to crystalize the raw existing framework into a formal structure that reflects this value. We have done so by committing to four core areas of giving: a Fellowship Program, an Education Fund, a Family Projects Program, and a Disaster Relief Fund. Balancing our giving between these areas gives us the chance to leverage our giving in India, form a connection with future change-makers, and broaden our scope of giving to encourage global awareness, family involvement, and personal passion-fueled projects.
Finally, I have been energized by the real opportunity that lies ahead. When Abi returned from the National Forum on Family Philanthropy, he told Vishrudh and me about other family foundations still going strong after four or five generations with core family leadership and cohesion. This pitch was what ultimately captured our interest. And to be sure, as we have brought our operations more in line with best practices of other small family foundations, I am beginning to understand the preciousness and potential of our stewardship of the Foundation. I am imagining, ten or fifteen years from now, kindling a spark of interest in Kieran, Aarya, Jai, Niam, and other future little ones. If, when that time comes, any or all of the next-next-gen take an interest in learning about, connecting to, and giving back to our country of origin—and to the world at large—then this endeavor will have been worth every bit of the time, money, and energy we have collectively invested.
I ask you to consider this as you look over our annual report, and I urge you to ask yourself how you would like to become more involved. Is there a specific project you would like to learn more about? Would you like to visit a grantee or scholarship recipient while in India? Can you commit to an increased level of financial support? Over the past six months our executive team has given us a much needed injection of energy and vitality; our newly minted board of directors has given us fresh ideas and oversight; and our donors have given us an extraordinary boost of capital. But the Palayam Foundation is a collective endeavor, and it will only thrive if each of us takes pride and interest in its future.
Thank you on behalf of the Board and the Executive Team,
The Palayam Foundation
April 30, 2016
The Palayam Fellowship Program supports individuals who have the passion and vision to drive sustainable social and economic progress in India’s underserved communities. To build on our successful track record of supporting impactful individuals through the Fellowship program, we have revamped our application process and expanded our outreach and networking efforts in order to cast the widest possible net in our search for change-makers. For 2016, we have allocated $25,000 for fellowships.
The Palayam Education Program empowers underprivileged youth by improving access to quality education while forging meaningful connections between our donors and beneficiaries. To solidify education as a core component of the foundation’s giving, we have formalized an ongoing partnership with the Altius Foundation. In partnership with Altius we will support primary school and university-level education through the creation of learning labs and by awarding yearly higher education scholarships to a handful of students from underserved communities. We have allocated $12,500 for our Education Program in 2016.
The Palayam Family Projects program fosters a sense of social responsibility and a spirit of giving in current and future family generations by expanding the scope of giving to include global and personally meaningful issues. Our goal was to increase awareness among family members in order to encourage involvement and create a sense of ownership in the foundation. To that end we have simplified the application process and will continue our outreach efforts. We have set aside $5,000 for family projects in 2016. Family members can apply for funding through our online application.
Disaster relief allows us to contribute in the aftermath of major crises and natural disasters around the world. While our giving is focused in large part on India, it is important to act as global citizens and to maintain an awareness of events that impact an increasingly interconnected world. We have built in flexibility in the amount we allocate to disaster relief year to year to account for the unpredictability of these events. The most recent of these events occurred in 2015 when the city of Chennai was hit by torrential rain for several weeks, causing devastating floods throughout the region. In December, the foundation immediately deployed $10,000 to flood relief efforts. Additionally, we ran a successful fundraising campaign for flood relief efforts, targeting both family members and non-family members. For 2016, we have allocated approximately $7,500 for disaster relief.
With the uncertain and volatile nature of the global financial markets and our desire for stable returns, the Palayam Foundation's 2016 investment strategy focuses on capital preservation while providing a reliable income stream. We employ this strategy by investing in a number of mutual funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs). Looking through these funds into the underlying securities, we have a 50/50 allocation split between Equity (Common Stocks) and Fixed Income (Corporate Bonds, Bank Loans, Government Bonds). We have primary exposure to the US markets, with smaller exposures to Japan and other developed and emerging markets. Our investment portfolio is +2.6% YTD vs +2.3% for S&P benchmark.
We are in the early stages of implementing a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy at the Palayam Foundation. An SRI strategy prioritizes investments in companies or funds that employ positive Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance policies. SRI is a relatively new strategy in the financial marketplace and we are researching appropriate methods for implementation.
2015 was an incredible year for the Palayam Foundation. Not only did the Foundation enter a new phase of leadership, but our fundraising numbers were significantly higher than in recent years, thanks in large part to two substantial unrestricted donations toward the end of 2015. In addition, our fundraising campaign for the Chennai floods helped us contribute $10,000 to the Bhoomika Trust to help with the relief efforts. Your donations will continue to be a very important part of the Foundation's strategy. We realize last year’s inflows are an anomaly, however moving forward our fundraising targets will remain high. As we continue to grow our Foundation's assets through fundraising and investments, our charitable giving will grow accordingly.
Thank you to our 2015 donors
Vasu and Latha Devan
Anirudh and Mayura Kumar Sarathy
Vishrudh and Nivedita Gopinath Sarathy
Prakash Janakiraman and Rachna Nivas
Ranga and Kousalya Ranganathan
Vikram and Janani Ranganathan
Harb and Kanwal Alhuwalia
Obaidullah and Farhath Khan
Gita and Jani Janakiraman
Disbursements Since 2002
Board of Directors
Sudhi Rajagopal, Chair - Oakland, CA
Mukund Devan - Oakland, CA
James Rajagopal-Durbin - Bozeman, MT
Nivedita Gopinath Sarathy - San Francisco, CA
Vikram Ranganathan - San Francisco, CA