2017 Annual Report
When Abi, Vishrudh, and I took over the day-to-day operations of the foundation in 2015 our pitch was simple: Give us two years to revitalize the foundation. To that end we brought on an energetic board and began the work of rebuilding. For the duration of our two-year “pilot period” the brunt of our work has been operational and structural—restating our bylaws and articles, managing our finances, updating our documents, increasing accountability. On the surface, it was a largely administrative and, to be frank, less-than-exciting undertaking. But it was our hope that this operational “reboot” would set the foundation for an efficient, generationally sustainable organization that could be focused on the truly exciting stuff—the causes, programs, and people we support. As we begin 2018, we can proudly say that, thanks to the active engagement of a volunteer board and family members, that time has come!
2017 saw our biggest giving year yet, a testament to both our financial growth and increased ability to focus on programs. We gave a total of $62,964, and crossed the $500,000 total giving milestone over the life of the foundation. Our new program structure allows us to focus on strengthening long-term partnerships while encouraging ever-increasing engagement from family members. Palayam Partnerships allow us to leverage long-standing relationships while decreasing the administrative bandwidth spent on vetting new organizations. The Mukund Devan Family Projects program—which will see increased emphasis in 2018—encouraged family engagement while providing an “incubator” for possible partnerships. Finally, we have implemented a Board Allowance program that provides each board member the opportunity to engage in philanthropy by giving to an organization of their choice.
For 2018, we can truly think of ourselves as a fully functional, up-and-running family foundation. We are excited to induct three new board members--Vasu, Kousalya, and Siddharth--representing greater involvement from all of the five families. We are also very pleased to announce that all of our original “pilot period” board members have elected to stay on for an additional term to maintain continuity as we continue to grow.
We look forward to continuing our momentum this year. We have some new projects in store, and as always, we encourage you to apply for a Family Projects grant to support a cause you are passionate about!
We wish you all the best for 2018,
Executive Director & Board Chair
February 2, 2018
2017 BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Sudhi Rajagopal, Chair - Oakland, CA
James Rajagopal-Durbin - Lander, WY
Nivedita Gopinath Sarathy - San Francisco, CA
Vikram Ranganathan - San Ramon, CA
Vasu Devan - San Francisco, CA
Kousalya Ranganathan - Danville, CA
Siddharth Raghavan - New York, NY
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.
Mukund Devan Family Projects
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.
Board Member Allowance
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.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is the nation’s largest grassroots organization working in the area of mental health. In partnership with hundreds of local affiliates, state organizations, and volunteers, NAMI provides access to mental health education, services, and advocacy for those in need. Of unique interest to our family, NAMI is committed to furthering culturally-responsive mental health care by working to educate the public, reduce stigma, engage with families (not just the individuals who suffer from mental health issues), foster community-level awareness, and work on the dire and extremely vital issues of public policy and criminal justice reform. Our partnership with NAMI continues in 2018 with some exciting potential projects that will focus on culturally responsive mental health services, increasing healthcare parity and access to services, and reducing mental health stigma in diverse communities. Stay tuned for more on our newest partnership!
Based in Chennai, India, the Altius Foundation continues to be a strategic partner for the Palayam Foundation. This year we contributed towards the Altius' Karka Math Labs and Gift-A-Future scholarships. With our continued support, Altius launched Math Labs in various school settings, and they have had proven success evidenced by increased graduation rates and higher scores. We will continue to support this innovative and impactful program. We will also continue to support Gift-A-Future, which provides scholarship funds for primary school age children who otherwise don't have access to quality education. Earlier this year we announced a project to launch our own scholarship named "M.S. Rajagopalan Family Scholarship" through Altius to provide opportunity for students who have graduated from the Gift-A-Future program and are seeking higher education. We are continuing to work with Altius to finalize details, and we expect the first students to enroll in our new scholarship program in 2018.
In October, the board approved an additional grant to the Jeevan Stem Cell Foundation, continuing our two-year commitment to help fund their salary and administrative costs. With the aim of enabling quick and free or affordable access to life saving stem cell transplant to Indian patients suffering from blood cancer, Thalassemia and other blood diseases, Jeevan operates three core projects: a Public Cord Blood Bank, a High Resolution HLA typing laboratory, and an Adult Stem Cell Registry. Palayam Foundation's partnership with Jeevan has helped increase their registry and inventory size from 1,300 and 4,706 to the current size of 3,745 adult stem cell donors and 5,932 cord blood derived stem cell units respectively. In addition, Jeevan has been able to release stem cell units for seven successful transplants. Jeevan's Stem Cell Registry is in full swing, with more than 10,000 potential donors in the registry. Jeevan hopes to find 20,000 new donors in 2018 and 100,000 by 2022. Click here to download Jeevan's Annual Report.
Mukund Devan Family Projects Update
Last year, the Mukund Devan Family Projects (MDFP) program enabled three family members to support their own charitable causes. More information on all three projects can be found on our 2017 Mid-year Report. Our budget for the MDFP program will increase in 2018 an we look forward to reading and approving many more applications in 2018. Please click here to learn more about the program or apply for funds.
At the end of the year, our total giving came out to $62,964. Our largest single donation in 2017 went toward solidifying our partnership with the Altius Foundation. Another grant was sent to the Jeevan Stem Cell Foundation, continuing our two-year commitment. We sent additional funds to help with the South Asia floods and to help with Hurricane Harvey relief. There were three Mukund Devan Family Projects causes: Groundwork USA, CARE, and the Akshaya Patra Foundation. Additional funds went toward the Board Allowance Program.
2017 was another year of significant growth for the Palayam Foundation. Our total assets grew 18% year-over-year as a result of generous donor contributions, as well as investment gains. The increase in our asset base will allow us to continue to grow our charitable giving, and our positive impact around the world.
The Foundation saw investment gains of ~11% by investing in a number of mutual funds, ETF's, REITs, and other Public Equity assets. We remained quite conservative throughout 2017, deploying only 50% of our investable capital. Each of our allocation areas returned positive performances in 2017: Global Equity (+15%), REITs (+12%), FICC (+6.5%), and Alternatives (+4%).
Looking forward to 2018, the Finance Committee has increased the total investment allocation to 70% of investable assets. Our portfolio remains well diversified across the allocation areas defined above. In accordance with our Investment Policy Statement ("IPS"), we have increased our exposure to Socially Responsible investments, and funds that exhibit positive Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance ("ESG") practices. Currently, 15% of our investment assets are allocated toward these positive impact funds and we will continue to increase this allocation consistent with our investment objectives. We continue to believe that our Endowment's investment lineup should reflect our values as a Family and a Foundation.
Thank you to our 2017 Donors
Vasu and Latha Devan
Vishrudh and Nivedita Gopinath Sarathy
Anirudh and Mayura Kumar Sarathy