Dasra Giving Circles - A giving circle scorecard for measuring performance and impact



Dasra Giving Circles ‚Äč- A giving circle scorecard for measuring performance and impact

(This case study is extracted from “Circles of Influence: the impact of giving circles in Asia”, © Rob John, 2017, published by National University of Singapore Business School.)


Dasra is a pioneer of modern Indian philanthropy; the organisation having emerged in 2003 out of India’s first venture philanthropy fund, Impact Partners. Dasra’s founders – who grew up in North America of Indian heritage – were committed to using their investment banking skills to serve the charitable sector in India.

Dasra supported nonprofits in their ambitions to scale up, but recognised the deficiencies of the ecosystem that brought organisations and capital together. Pioneers must also be system builders, so Dasra initiated programmes that developed the capabilities of both social entrepreneurs and social investors.

In 2010 Dasra launched the India Philanthropy Forum as a platform for Indian philanthropists to learn together and to showcase nonprofits screened by Dasra’s team. This led to the creation of Dasra Giving Circles (DGCs) – an initiative in collective giving that helped wealthy individuals and grantmakers club together to support high-potential nonprofits screened by Dasra’s team.

Dasra Giving Circles

Dasra Giving Circles depart from a typical model of collective giving in several significant ways (see Table 5). At first sight DGCs appear to be just a fundraising tool for a venture philanthropy fund — engaging high-net-worth donors and grantmaking foundations to provide resources for the fund’s portfolio organisations.

In reality the Dasra model is an innovative hybrid of an institutional venture philanthropy fund and a giving circle that is based on research, collective giving, capacity building, and rigorous performance and impact measurement (see Figure 2). Typically, between eight and 13 donors are convened into a giving circle only after an extensive sector analysis of a particular social problem has been carried out. The circle members are provided with one to three high-potential nonprofits that are deemed the best-in-class organisations addressing the social issue by Dasra’s research and due diligence.

The decision as to which organisation to support for an intensive three-year investment period rests with the circle members, but is guided by Dasra’s research and advice. The initial research reports are publicly available and can inform other funders and policy makers with the data and analysis they provide. Dasra will then work with the selected organisation to develop a Private Philanthropy Memorandum (PPM) that is presented to the circle members for review and ultimate approval.


As is typical of a venture philanthropy fund approach, Dasra selects nonprofits with a persuasive theory of change, credible growth plans, a capable management team and a track record of implementation. A package of financial and non-financial support is put together to support the business plan, with progress milestones and performance metrics agreed by Dasra and the nonprofit. The non-financial, capacity building services are provided formally by Dasra’s executive team and informally by circle members on a best effort basis. The pooled capital of members’ pledges typically totals US$460,000 over the three-year lifetime of a circle, and 15 percent of this is granted to Dasra to support their professional consulting team. 


By the beginning of 2017, Dasra had initiated 13 giving circles based on its sector research and analysis, of which five had come to the end of their three-year funding period while one had been extended for a fourth year (see Table 6 in full study PDF).


The giving circles have engaged 126 members (individuals, couples and a few grantmaking foundations and corporates) and channelled US$5.5 million to 13 nonprofit organisations. One fifth of members joined multiple circles, and nearly a quarter of members were recruited by other members. While the majority of giving circle members reside in India, a quarter live in either the United States or the United Kingdom. The circles’ gender is reasonably well balanced (57 percent male).


Quarterly Scorecard Reporting

The Private Philanthropy Memorandum signed off by the nonprofit executive team, Dasra and circle members covers a three-year proposed plan for scaling up that includes the goals of the organisation, operational plan, and logic model for achieving the goals which include activities, outputs, outcomes and impact assessment indicators for each quarter.

Dasra and the nonprofit organisation collaborate to design a quarterly reporting template, drawing on the information they have agreed upon in the due diligence and PPM processes. This template is shared with giving circle members for feedback and then becomes the primary tool used for measuring quarterly performance and aggregating social impact over the course of the programme. This process means that all three stakeholders (the nonprofit, the Dasra consulting team and giving circle members) have contributed to the design of the reporting template, and so have bought into the scorecard as the tool for the three years of their mutual engagement.

(CONTINUED: To read the full case study, please download the PDF)


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