Keeping it in the Family

By Shirish Dayal
Tarsadia Foundation
Newport Beach

The Tarsadia Foundation got its start in 1999, but, for many years, it was operated solely as a charitable vehicle for its donor, B.U. Patel. In 2008, when Patel and his son hoped to involve the rest of the family, Shirish Dayal joined the foundation as executive director.

A longtime family friend, community activist, and businessman, Dayal was uniquely positioned to meet one of Patel’s specific requests: involve Patel’s extended family— nearly 50 individuals in all—in the foundation according to their personal capacity and availability. Dayal was also well positioned to help the foundation become more strategic in its giving.

All in the Family

At Tarsadia Foundation, involving family is more than just talk for its three-person board of directors, which includes Patel, his son, and Dayal.

Starting at age 21, all extended family members are welcome to join an advisory board that meets eight times per year to recommend grants. The advisory board also participates actively in site visits and connects with grantees through volunteer work.

In addition, the foundation started a junior board in 2009 that comprises the next generation of grantmakers ages 9 and up. The junior board’s goal, says Dayal, is to “educate the next generation about philanthropy at an early age in hopes that they understand the importance of giving back and continue to give as part of the foundation or on their own in their own way.”

From the family, Dayal heard clearly a desire to do more than just participate in foundation meetings. To this end, he organizes monthly service projects for family members at organizations the foundation supports in the Newport Beach community.

Dayal also organized a service trip for the entire extended family to India. There they visited a leprosy colony, with which Patel has worked closely for years, to volunteer and gain perspective on, and ownership of, the foundation’s work.

“One of the donor’s passions is to fund projects in India, where the family is from,” says Dayal. “When we started the process of refining our mission 3 years ago, we knew that this connection to the family’s roots had to remain a key part.”

Giving Back to Exponent Philanthropy

In some ways, Dayal still sees himself and the Tarsadia Foundation as a new kid on the block. Although he has been actively involved in community service throughout his life, the world of organized philanthropy was a mystery when he signed on as executive director.

Dayal was referred to Exponent Philanthropy by a consultant and attended his first Exponent Philanthropy conference, the 2009 Fall Seminars in Boston, soon after joining. He sees the ability to attend Exponent Philanthropy programs and connect with members from across the country as two of Exponent Philanthropy’s most important member services. 

Dayal has since become even more involved with Exponent Philanthropy, including serving on Exponent Philanthropy’s Development Committee, and he and his junior board joined a fellow Exponent Philanthropy member foundation this June for a “Youth on Board” retreat at Disneyland.

Says Dayal of the foundation’s decision to support Exponent Philanthropy with a grant above dues, “Giving to Exponent Philanthropy is a no-brainer. Exponent Philanthropy has been a big part of our transformation, allowing us to meet new foundations and learn about new avenues to accomplish our goals as a foundation. Our support will help all members to grow and will advance the sector.”

Of the foundation, he describes its work as evolving every day. “For Tarsadia, I see continual growth with new things on the horizon. We’ve only just begun, and any challenges that lie ahead are exciting opportunities to do things the right way.”

ASF has been a big part of our transformation, allowing us to meet new foundations and learn about new avenues to accomplish our goals as a foundation.