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SAPP Q&A: Yatin Patel on photography + philanthropy

February 26, 2012

We are delighted to have internet entrepreneur, artist, and photographer Yatin Patel with us.  Yatin contacted us to share a little bit about his approach to integrating artwork with charity fundraisers for organizations he cares about – a creative way to use his talents to help nonprofits, particularly in the Orlando, Florida area.  We at SAPP are always interested in hearing more from people like Yatin and all of you about your experiences as volunteers, donors, fundraisers, or board members. 

Welcome to SAPP, Yatin!  Tell us a little bit about your vision for integrating your artwork with charity fundraising efforts. More specifically, how would you define “The Sutra Experience“, as your website calls it?

Art is a powerful vehicle for communication and a medium for cultural enlightenment. Spreading knowledge of the arts is an indispensable foundation for an enlightened citizenship.  Philanthropy has a role to play in building a stronger civil society; it is a way to promote the love of mankind.

Combining art and philanthropy on the same platform creates a very unique experience that allows people to achieve enlightenment.  Traditionally, philanthropy is built with very conservative practices and platforms. Conversely, when people come to our Sutra events, they are engaging their senses and minds, and leave feeling enriched on many levels.  Our events are the perfect collaboration between the sponsoring nonprofit or foundation and us.

How does your business model work? For example, do some of your own business’s profits go back to the charities hosting the fundraisers?

If a nonprofit or foundation would like to host a fundraising event, and make it an art collaboration with Sutra, then we would show our work in a gallery-style event.  Then, we would work with the nonprofit to plan the event, and all sales of the photos would benefit both the host organization and my own charitable foundation.  There is a long-lasting effect of giving for the contributor; they now see a beautiful piece of artwork on their wall (like the one at the right), which reminds them everyday that they have given to a cause.  It becomes a conversation piece for their friends and family who get to enjoy the work too. The artwork is priced at $300 to $20,000/; there something for everyone.

I believe people are tired of traditional fundraising galas in a hotel ballroom. Art exhibits are a great new way to enrich our society and promote giving. This kind of event also works very well if you are “friend raising”; it is a non-threatening way to gather potential donors through a different and interesting avenue.

How did you transition from your work in internet entrepreneurship to professional photography?

Photography has always been my hobby. Growing up in India, I went to the top design/art school in the country for my degree, which was in industrial design/product design. I was always surrounded by creative people during my young adult life, which I loved.  When I came to United States 15 years ago, I got into the Internet business; it was a way to make money by using my creativity, and allowed me some freedom in running my businesses. With the sale of my last company, I was afforded the opportunity to give back. I started a foundation to help those in need in my hometown of Ahmedabad, India. Now that I have the ability and time to spend more time on my passion for photography, I have dove back into it full force.  I had the notion to use my photography and also promote philanthropy, so I’ve created this new platform to springboard into it.

How would you describe the state of philanthropy among South Asian-Americans today, and how could it be strengthened?

It could always be improved, but I must say that there are some really important and influential South Asian-Americans doing great things. For example, we are collaborating with world-renowned prostate surgeon Dr. Vipul Patel for the launching of his foundation supporting the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer around the world.  We would love to hear from South Asian organizations interested in partnering with us.  You can learn more at the link above.

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