London is home to some of the wealthiest – and most philanthropic – people in the world. In this series of interviews, we ask why they do it and how to enourage others to give

As told to Selma Day

How did your philanthropy journey start?
– Giving back was always in our DNA and we always wanted to make a difference. I saw all these people doing amazing work and thought, ‘you know what, we’ve got to do something’. And I spent quite a lot of time trying to convince the shareholders of my business that we should be contributing a certain percentage of our profits to charity.

Why did you set up your foundation?
– I thought it could be a way of uniting the family together in our philanthropic endeavours. We worked with a number of charities and people started approaching us once they saw the work we were doing. And then in 2013, I started raising money for kids and doing small fundraisers. Each of us was really busy with our work schedules. Anita would come home  from her job as a teacher, and I’d be like, ‘come on, we've got a black tie event in London’. And Anita was like, ‘I can't do this’. So I asked her to come and join the foundation.

Anita – I’d been working with children who were struggling with the curriculum, struggling with school, engagement and things like that. Bit by bit, I got more more exposure to the world of charity through going to events and seeing the suffering of young people and women, especially, and I thought, there’s work to be done here and I can help. That's what started my journey  – I joined the foundation and I've been involved since ever since. It’s not only donating money – it’s doing fundraising events, raising awareness and social media, speaking to others, encouraging others to give. And I started to do things around educating people. So we did conferences, fashion shows, and through those we talked about our charities.

Does it just make you want to do more when you see you're making such a difference to people's lives?
– Yes, and we just get more and more excited. We are always thinking, how can we evolve? Any conversation you have when you meet people gives you ideas. And I think you've got to share the work that you're doing so your networks just keep continuing to grow. But what's really exciting is that people from all walks of life can help us to grow our work so we can help young people even more. Everyday we are faced with new opportunities – it’s just a matter of keeping up with it.

Avnish – We see philanthropy as not just giving your money, but your time, your passion and your skills. It's easy giving when you're a multimillionaire, because that doesn't impact you, but giving when you've got less – I think it's really powerful. That's when you really know that you have the heart and the generosity to do it. Most of the charities we've got involved with haven’t just been about signing a cheque – it’s been going to visit projects, whether it's a rehabilitation centre in Jaipur with the British Asian Trust or the red light district of Mumbai to see how our money is helping these ladies keep their children in education, or to see the night care centres (for children at risk) to see the work firsthand.

It must be a huge responsibility and to know your money is going to the right places?
– As I was growing up, my parents would say, ‘be careful, because there's lots of charlatans out there, and that their money doesn't actually go to the right causes’. And I think people still have that narrative and sometimes it's almost an excuse not to give. You see lots of people in this rat race becoming more and more affluent financially and wealth creation is often a marker for success – and competition. Who’s the highest on the rich list, who’s going make it to billionaire status and who's going to have their private jet and so on.? And I think the majority of people don’t realise that once you get to a certain level, that extra million or whatever, isn't going to give you the same joy and juice as the first £10,000 £100,000 that you make. It helps you to do all the other things and give more to philanthropy, but actually the joy of giving to great causes actually starts to trump that wealth creation.

How can you encourage others to get involved in philanthropy?
Avnish – 
We are looking at how we can create a Giving Pledge for people who are not billionaires ,who’ve got wealth and they commit to giving 50 per cent of their wealth to charity in their lifetime. Because giving your wealth to your children is one of the worst things you can do. Give them enough so they can have a reasonably good quality of life but not enough that they lose that hunger to work, because it's the actual drive of wanting to create something and achieve something that really gives you that sense of self worth, that feeling of fulfilment. What’s the point of dying the richest man in the grave? Imagine what you could have done whilst you were living with that money. And the pleasure you could have got and the impact of opening an orphanage, curing a disease, building a village or an old people’s home for those that can’t afford it.

Do you find young people are getting more interested in philanthropy?
– We always try to get the next generation involved. So our youngest daughter is quite passionate about doing charity events and we’ve taken our daughters to see projects in India as well. I think the world of philanthropy is really opening up, specially within the education sector. With our Inner Spark programme, we’ve committed to working with one million students over the next five years and we’ve found that by going into schools and doing workshops makes young people more aware of the charities that are funding what they're experiencing.

Do you feel by sharing your experiences, you will inspire others?
– Yes.  I'm here is because I was inspired by others and I believe it's my duty to inspire others through role modelling and by people seeing what you're doing, and seeing the satisfaction that you're getting. Anita and I have very fulfilled lives – we count our blessings every day. We are lucky to have each other, have our health and that’s priceless. Money doesn’t buy that. The money can disappear tomorrow and we’d still be happy. Any philanthropist will tell you that the more that you give, the more comes back to you. No one ever got poor by fundraising. In fact, you get richer.

Avnish and Anita Goyal

Avnish and Anita Goyal are the driving force behind the Goyal Foundation – created in memory of Avnish’s late parents who arrived in the UK from India over 40 years ago with a vision of a better life for their family. The chair of Care England and founder of multi-award-winning care provider Hallmark Care Homes, Avnish received an CBE in 2022 for his work during the pandemic, while in 2021, Anita was awarded an MBE for her services to diversity and female empowerment. The couple are on a mission to help those less fortunate, both in the UK and abroad and their foundation supports issues such as trafficking, empowerment of women and education of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.