AVPN Global Conference 2023 | 20 - 22 June 2023


Case Study

Ishk Tolaram Foundation

The history, values, and vision of the family business informed the momentum in developing the foundation’s strategy and operations.

Year of set-up: 2017

Market(s) based: Singapore

Markets active: Estonia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Singapore

Key Impact Areas: Education, Healthcare, Skills Training 

Partners include: Multiple

Networks & Memberships: AVPN, African Philanthropy Forum (APF), African Venture Philanthropy Alliance (AVPA), Nigeria Network of NGOs (NNNGO), Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC)

Setting Up: The logical step to expand and formalise giving 

Philanthropy at Tolaram has taken many forms – personal and formal – across generations, and individual business units over its 100-year history. With the family’s growing commitment to strategic giving, Ishk Tolaram Foundation was set up in 2017. In professionalising their giving, the Foundation’s mandate is to create deep impact in a way that is strategic, innovative and needs-driven within the communities Tolaram has called home for decades.


Set Up Structure: Spearheading the process in house while working with trusted partners

Given the business and family’s history with Singapore, the founding team was familiar with the robust standards of governance that hold institutions here accountable. The team felt that setting up the Foundation in Singapore would therefore enable it to be more effective in its operations and support its credibility in other geographies.

The Foundation’s registration was managed in-house with the support of some of the business’ service providers and partners. It is registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG) registered with a charity status under the Commissioner of Charities. In addition, it is also a Grantmaking Philanthropic Organisation (“Grantmaker”) with IRAS.

The Foundation derives its income from the Tolaram Family Trust, of which it is a 25% beneficiary, and from investment returns from the initial endowment. To ensure efficient capital management and flow, funds are held at headquarters and distributed every quarter to local teams to fulfil their operational needs.


Programme Strategy: Align areas of expertise and existing needs for impactful giving

The Foundation is both an operating and a grantmaking organisation. The team identified education, healthcare and skills training as key focus areas for their programmes and funding activities from the onset. Programmes were then developed for each geography within these areas, based on the team’s existing knowledge and experience.


In Indonesia, the Foundation runs a teacher training program to improve the quality of early childhood education and is developing programs in community healthcare. In Nigeria, it runs two core programmes: one providing free prosthetic limbs under its community healthcare vertical and the other for unemployed youth under its skills training and entrepreneurship vertical. Through its grantmaking in Singapore, the Foundation partners to support holistic education programs for children and youth and skills training for vulnerable individuals. So far, the Foundation has supported 10 impact organisations in Singapore through multi-year grants.  


Key Learnings:

While the Foundation is headquartered in Singapore, it has teams in each geography driving local operations. Key learnings that inform this approach include:

Focus on the needs of the individual

In every market, the Foundation adopts an evidence-based, human-centered and collaborative approach to driving impact. Understanding the needs of the community, researching the systems they operate within and collaborating with them to design effective interventions leads to greater success of the programmes.

Build on trust and deep relationships

With the family and business having been a part of these communities for over 70 years, the team is able to build on trusted relationships with local stakeholders, leverage their expertise and work with them more effectively to move the needle on the systemic issues they face.


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