Barun Mohanty, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation

TITLE: Managing Director

FUNDING AREAS: In urban areas of India and South Africa: child poverty, education, childhood health, family economic security

CONTACT: Barun.Mohanty@msdf.org, 512-329-0799

IP TAKE: This veteran consultant takes a data-centric approach to urban child poverty eradication in India and South Africa. Mohanty oversees grants to organizations addressing education, health, and economic opportunities for families in the foundation's priority regions.

PROFILE: The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is committed to the eradication of childhood urban poverty, and spends about $85 million a year to accomplish this goal. Much of Dell's work takes place in the United States, but the Austin-based foundation also makes substantial international investments in its two priority countries: India and South Africa. Leading Dell in its international programming is Barun Mohanty, who oversees a grant portfolio that ranges from $10 million to more than $30 million each year.

Mohanty, armed with an MBA from the University of British Columbia, comes to Dell after 15 years with international consulting firm McKinsey & Company. During his time with the global business consultant, Mohanty worked with clients in Canada, India, the Netherlands, and Portugal. Originally from India, a young Mohanty graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering.

At Dell, Mohanty concentrates his giving on three program areas, all of which were strategically chosen to most effectively alleviate child poverty in the foundation's target regions. How Dell pursues its pet programs does vary depending on which country it's working in; different solutions for different problems, and so. Below, IP details the three issues Dell focuses on internationally, with attention to geographic considerations for each:

  • Urban education - A full two-thirds of the foundation's expenditures go toward expanding educational opportunities for children in urban areas. In India, Dell focuses its efforts on children growing up without access to basic schooling, supporting efforts involving in-school and after-school programs that worked toward increasing students' academic success, integrated school programs toward improving leadership and high quality assessments. In South Africa, Dell's funding interests lie in creating pathways to college for vulnerable and impoverished urban youth, and in ensuring that those students actually complete degrees and obtain employment upon graduation. Dell has a thing about data, so would-be grantees would do well to emphasize metrics in whatever education proposals they put forward.
  • Childhood health - In India, more than 250 million children live in so-called urban slums. The lack of clean water, sanitation, and healthcare these children receive results in many problems, immediate and long-term. To counter these trends, Dell supports school-based health programs, as well as clean water and sanitation interventions in cities nationwide. In South Africa, Dell concentrates its philanthropic energies on a different set of problems plaguing children in metropolitan areas, namely, those associated with HIV/AIDS. The Dell Foundation supports organizations that provide services to AIDS orphans and children whose families are affected by HIV/AIDS. Also in South Africa, Dell gives grants for projects that deliver vaccines, clean water, sanitation, and better nutrition in urban areas.
  • Family economic stability - Poverty is often a cycle perpetuated through generations. Dell recognizes this unfortunate truism, and wants to fund projects that can not only lift individuals out of poverty, but that can also disrupt the multi-generational burden that poverty imposes on families. To accomplish its anti-poverty goals, Dell concentrates on whole-family programs, reasoning that if parents are able to educate, house, and financially support themselves, their offspring will emulate this behavior, and pass on similar values and opportunities to their own children. In both India and South Africa, Dell's family economic stability grants relate to urban microfinance, consumer protection standards, vocational skills, and affordable housing. 

To provide some more context on what kind of projects Dell looks for, what follows is a list of recent grants that foundation has made in India and South Africa:

  • $378,401 to the University of Pretoria in South to refine standardized tests for high school students and train teachers in using student performance metrics as teaching tools.
  • $103,840 to the Vikramshila Education Resource Society to provide underserved youth in Calcutta with employment skills training and job counseling.
  • $736,608 to support disadvantaged students succeed at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

Applying for Dell funding is about as grantee-friendly as it gets. Any organization with a good idea to combat urban child poverty in India and South Africa can apply online for support at any time. A few things to keep in mind before submitting your proposal: Dell likes details - lots of details - and emphasizes measurable results. In general, Dell's international grants range in amount from a few tens-of-thousands of dollars to more than a million. Also, Dell doesn't want to be the only funder for whatever it is you're doing. The foundation usually limits its support for projects at 25% of their budget, and its support for operations at 10 percent. 

VIDEO:

Lori Fey & Barun Mohanty - 2010 Annual Giving Report Video from Dell Family Foundation on Vimeo.