Priya Patil

Member Profile: Priya Patil


Priya Patil Makes Strategic Giving Her Life’s Work - And Honors Her Calling


Priya Patil’s career path started with a simple and powerful realization - she wanted to help people. 

A native of State College, Pennsylvania, Patil attended high school at Dana Hall, the exclusive, all-girls boarding school outside Boston. With three older brothers, her years at Dana Hall provided her freedom and space to focus without distraction.  

She went on to graduate and then to study Biological Psychology and Statistics at the University of Chicago. With such a course of study, the next logical step was for Patil to attend medical school. Yet, she wasn’t convinced. 

“I was running clinical trials at the University of Chicago Hospital at the time, and so I had a lot of exposure to hospitals, doctors of various types, surgeons, patients,” she recalls. “And, yet, it was in that experience that I realized that although in medicine I could help people, I realized pursuing medical school wasn’t my passion. My calling was to try to affect larger populations;  Large, vulnerable populations.” 

In that realization the next steps became clear. Patil chose to pursue and graduate with her Masters and PhD from Johns Hopkins University in Infectious Disease, Epidemiology and Demography. “That’s what I was to do,” she said. It’s been years since she made that strategic choice, and she still speaks of that realization with unwavering certainty and clarity.

Her first job post-graduation? Working as a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the refugee camps on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. She was responsible for supporting the design a reproductive health and family planning program. It was one year before September 11. 

When PEPFAR, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was signed in 2003, Patil traveled to work in Africa. HIV and STDs was a topic of interest for her; even more so though was the process of identifying the characteristics of villages and communities that were at greater risk to make more strategic giving choices. 

She went on to work for think tanks as well as organizations including The World Bank, the Milken Foundation, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Although work took her all over the world - from Haiti, Guyana, Asia, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam - her goal was always the same: not only to identify vulnerable populations and get help there, but also prioritize where it was most needed and in the form that could best be received. Little did she realize that it was the beginning of her strategic giving career.  

Though she didn’t know it yet, Patil was already developing into a strategic thinker. Her capacity to empathize with vulnerable people helped her to think beyond simply throwing money at a problem and consider more exactly what the needs were, how to connect, and how to best affect change for good.

It was in the midst of this important work that life caught up with Patil. Newly married, Patil was living in Washington D.C and working a dream job for the United Nations; her husband was running a startup in San Francisco. The two saw each other only one weekend a month. 

She needed to make a choice. 

Patil left the UN and moved to San Francisco. It was there that she started a consulting practice focusing on helping different philanthropic foundations deploy their capital overseas. It was work she was originally exposed to at the Milken Foundation through FasterCures, where she worked to develop a large-scale strategic giving platform.

But for Patil it never was - and never will be - just about writing a check or giving hours, it is about finding purposeful, strategic ways to give. This is philanthropy at a whole different level. It is giving with thought and intentionality behind it. 

Today, Patil and her husband live in Charlotte with their twins who are now in kindergarten. Patil tried her hand at teaching at UNC Charlotte long enough to realize her heart was in the field. “But more so than in the field,” she admits, “my heart was at home.” 

She leaned into her heart, something she’s been doing her entire career. This time though, she leaned in differently. “I made a choice to move toward my family,” she shares. “And being in Charlotte has afforded me choice to be at home.”

Patil joined the Women’s Impact Fund three years ago, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors. She has served on the Strategic Planning Committee for the past couple of years. Together, they reworked the vision, mission and values; now, they’ll work on the strategic objections, tactics and execution. “That’s my sweet spot,” Patil says confidently. “Thinking through all of that and framing that.” 

She calls it creating alignment. We call it the strategic giving that honors her calling. 


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