Sonal Sachdev Patel: Philanthropy, Tradition With A Twist
Discover the portrait of Sonal Sachdev Patel, who runs the GMSP Foundation.
“My parents were very private, and my mother felt that speaking about what they were doing took away from the beauty of giving. I don’t look at it like that – if you talk about the issues, you can engage other people in helping solve the problems we face.”
Ms. Sachdev Patel, CEO, GMSP Foundation
“When my parents came to the UK, they had nothing. But they always gave whatever they had,” says Sonal Sachdev Patel. “It wasn’t big, grand philanthropic gestures, but within our community, whatever they could do, they would do it. I have watched this example of giving growing up, and it has inspired me.”
UK-born, 37-year-old Ms Sachdev Patel still feels a strong connection with her family’s Indian roots. And part of that includes a commitment to philanthropy. A former strategy consultant, she now runs the GMSP Foundation, established in 2006 by her parents, Ramesh and Pratibha Sachdev, with the wealth they had accumulated primarily through Lifestyle Care, a successful home care business. The foundation is active in India, where it focuses on investing in women and girls, and in the UK, where it supports black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) women who face gender violence.
Ms Sachdev Patel—who started working full-time at the foundation two years ago—has not pursued a radically different philanthropic path from that of her parents. Connections with India still guide their giving strategy, with much of the foundation’s funds directed to Gujarat, the family’s home state. With more than £8m in funds distributed so far, the foundation supports organisations that help women and girls.
From her parents, Ms Sachdev Patel learned the art of humility. She cites a grant supporting the development of an app designed to promote maternal health. While women loved it, she says, much of the advice it delivered could not be followed since many women lacked access to folic acid or clean water. “Their issues were a lot more basic,” she says. “So the lesson from my parents is about getting on the ground and listening. Mutual respect and partnership is key” she says. But while she sees her role as essentially continuing the family giving tradition, Ms Sachdev Patel is also harnessing digital tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, to spread the word about the causes the foundation supports and to increase the impact of their funds.
In being more public about the causes the family supports, Ms Sachdev Patel is forging a new path. “They were very private, and my mother felt that speaking about what they were doing took away from the beauty of giving” she explains. “I don’t look at it like that—if you talk about the issues, you can engage other people in helping solve the problems we face.” When thinking about the future, the family’s focus is on passing on these values to the grandchildren by taking them on trips to visit grantees in India and engaging them with social causes in the UK. “We want them to be good human beings” she says. “We hope they’ll continue but they’re still really young, so it’s a work in progress.”