For low-income children, there is a computer STEM lab at one Brooklyn school and a scholarship program at another, thanks to Dr. Manju and Dr. Naren Bewtra. For hurricane victims, hot meals. For struggling homeless military veterans, assistance with affordable housing. And due to a special interest the couple has in women victimized by human trafficking, the devoted grandparents are funding a program to assist girls in New York City who are trying to escape the commercial sex industry.
The key to these diverse projects, the couple says, is Goodnation, and its founder, Rob Hansen.
When the world of philanthropy seemed vast and overwhelming, Goodnation helped the couple direct their desires, concerns and a lifetime of achievement to help causes they are passionate about. The Bewtras have since invested in over a dozen grants through Goodnation.
The Bewtras sat down on a crisp autumn morning in their suburban New Jersey home to discuss their philanthropy. They explained that it was not always a clear path.
In 2015, the Bewtras sold their successful IT company, which provided consulting services to the U.S. Government, to spend time with their grandchildren. They set aside a portion of the proceeds to donate to charity. But the task was daunting. As immigrants – each came from India in the 1960s to enter PhD programs at Cornell University, where the former acquaintances fell in love – they wanted to give back to their adopted country, the United States.
“We realized that in America, there are so many people who need support, financial and otherwise,” said Naren. “But we can’t give to everyone, we can’t do everything. What to do? It was like throwing a dart on a wall. We were struggling with that.”
Hansen met with the Bewtras and helped them to coalesce and prioritize their areas of concern. “He took our random thoughts, and helped us to correlate those into different categories – hunger, vets, education and battered women – and projects within those categories,” Naren said. “He presented compelling projects and he presented data,” Manju said.
In business, the Bewtras were very focused, Naren said. Now, through Goodnation, they can apply the same deliberate and thoughtful approach to philanthropy. For each of the grants, Goodnation provides a single report, showing how the money was spent. “We love that. We know our money is going to uses that we care about,” Manju said.
All projects associated with Goodnation are verified by third party foundations, which also invest in projects that appeal to the Bewtras, they said. “Those charities are vetted,” Manju said.
Both Manju and Naren come from modest backgrounds; Naren said there were times when he and his 12 sisters and brothers had to worry about their next meal. But each of the couple’s parents were focused on education, and it made all the difference. Now, the Bewtras want to help provide educational opportunities to others, Manju said.
Basic human needs are also vital, said Manju, as she leaned forward and touched her stomach. “I really feel the pain when I’m hungry. I want to help provide food to people who don’t have a meal,” she said.
When it comes to philanthropy, Naren says, “all of the credit belongs to Manju.” She raised children who care about philanthropy, Naren said. And it was the Bewtras’ son, Neeraj Bewtra, himself highly involved in philanthropy in New York City, who put his parents in touch with Goodnation.
“These things don’t happen on their own. They happen when people have inner-feelings and belief,” Naren said. “Manju has that. I’m the supporter. She is the architect,” Naren said. “I feel we are very blessed. We are thankful to God and thankful to our nation. We have received a lot. How do we give back? How do we give back to the people, to the community, that needs something?” Naren said.
“There are millions of people in our country who need help. Who deserve help. Who should be helped.”
Manju said Goodnation provides the vital key.
“We feel there is a need, and there are people with money,” Manju said. “Goodnation is setting up a platform to channel people’s money to worthy causes.”
The Bewtras look forward to continuing their philanthropic journey through Goodnation in the coming years.