The Shah Family Foundation has supported the Boston Foundation’s annual campaign for the Civic Leadership Fund. “The Boston Foundation is an excellent convener,” says Jill, who has attended the Foundation’s forums. “It’s at the epicenter of philanthropy in Boston and an important touch point. When we started spending significant time philanthropically, we thought it was important to support the work of the Boston Foundation, which provides access to information and data that otherwise is hard to find.”
What is the need and how can it best be met? This is one of the questions all entrepreneurs ask before they start a business. It’s also something Jill and Niraj Shah ask before making a grant from their charitable foundation, the Shah Family Foundation.
“Does it do something better? Are its leaders risk takers who are really looking at efficiently solving problems? Is it a breakthrough that could be exponentially powerful?”
Both Shahs are entrepreneurs: Jill launched Jill’s List, a leading online platform for integrative health-care practitioners that was sold to MINDBODY in 2013; and Niraj founded the internet retail powerhouse Wayfair. Their philanthropy is focused on solutions that sit at the intersection of health care, education, and community. They support the Boston Public Schools’ Hub and Spoke Project, which is bringing locally prepared, healthy, and delicious meals to schools in East Boston. The meals are freshly cooked, using recipes developed with renowned chef Ken Oringer and others—and the project can be replicated in schools throughout Boston and other cities.
Wayfair and the Boston Foundation both support Hack. Diversity, a program initiative of New England Venture Capital Association focused on bridging the gap between jobs going unfilled and Boston talent going undeveloped—with an emphasis on young people of color and women. “Hack.Diversity is helping folks who are talented and can be successful, but may not have access to a path that would get them a job at a company like Wayfair,” explains Niraj. “We’re always looking for talented workers at Wayfair.”