The work of NFI is driven by the vision of a plural, equitable, and democratic society
In the year 1990, Bharat Ratna recipient, late C. Subramaniam, late Dr. Kamla Choudhary, and Dr. M. S. Swaminathan along with personalities from the worlds of art, media, business, academia and the government came together to seed National Foundation for India (NFI).
Headed by Dr. Gordon Conway, the office of Ford Foundation, Delhi commissioned an in-depth study on the state of philanthropy in India. Pushpa Sundar presented this study in June 1990, which led to the birth of NFI at Raj Bhawan, New Delhi in January 1992. The launch was inaugurated by Dr. Manmohan Singh and a permanent office was established at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi in 1995.
Other founding trustees - Mr. Ratan Tata, late Mr. S.P Godrej, Dr. Devaki Jain, late Dr. V Kurien, Begum Bilkees Latif, and Dr. David Arnold (the representative of Ford Foundation at the time), played a key role in shaping NFI’s management structures and program strategy. Our board of trustees have always reflected gender and regional balances, the two core mandates upon which our programmes are built.
P. B. Krishnaswamy, our first Executive Director, a retired civil servant, laid down a robust foundation of systems and practices. Late Shankar Ghose with his experience in the private business sector succeeded him and invigorated the organisation financially. Ajay S Mehta who spent a decade with NFI, shaped NFI’s thinking and enhanced its role as an institution. Amitabh Behar strengthened NFI’s financial health and spread the organisation’s ambit to new areas and launched projects on governance, especially Sustainable Development Goals. Our first female Executive Director, Jashodhara Dasgupta, is redefining NFI as an institution responsible for shaping Indian philanthropy and strengthening civil society through the core areas of governance and inclusion.
Thirty years into our journey we are a tightly-knit team working to develop and evolve civil society in India.
The birthing of NFI- from an idea to an organisation to an institution
The President of Ford Foundation, Susan Berresford visited India in 1990 and stated, “A country as large and diverse as India should have a professionally run philanthropic institution to support initiatives of national importance. Such a not-for-profit, autonomous, philanthropic institution could become a professional grant making organisation, promoting unity of purpose amidst a diversity of approaches.”