Sheth Sangreal Foundation Founder Brian Sheth on Running a Successful Nonprofit

Take it from venture capitalist and philanthropist Brian Sheth: running a successful nonprofit takes passion and a dedicated, properly trained team to get the job done.


Sheth is the founder of the Sheth Sangreal Foundation. The organization has taken on 430 projects to date and has saved 50,000 miles of forest, spared 83 species from extinction, and positively impacted over 120,000 children internationally. Working with more than 80 countries, the Sheth Sangreal Foundation has invested approximately $60 million toward saving the planet.


Sheth says one of the first orders of business in the nonprofit space is placing more value on nonprofit entities.


“I think there are a lot of things in this country [and] in the West in general that are problematic around how we value things based on what we pay people,” Brian Sheth says. “So it’s not just nonprofit. It’s education, it’s teachers, it’s health care providers. I think it’s a pretty tough nut to crack — this kind of idea that we could change compensation. So over time maybe we’ll pay folks in the nonprofit world as much as we will in the for-profit world.”


Sheth says remembering why a nonprofit has been started and what it’s trying to accomplish is another key facet to making or breaking an organization.


“I think one of the things that I’ve seen time and time again in my business when we take companies private or buy them is there’s been mission creep for the organization,” he adds. Mission creep is a military term used to describe a gradual shift in objectives. In the nonprofit world losing focus of the endgame can mean a mission failure.

“And in conjunction with that mission creep, the political aspects of building out a bureaucracy become so important that there was a less effective [dynamic].”


Sheth advises nonprofits to avoid mission creep by staying hyperfocused on the original purpose of why it all began.


Harness Technology for the Greatest Impact


With a background in technology investing and software, Brian Sheth has long lauded the importance of incorporating tech into business strategy and how tech can be used to problem solve.


Sheth says his childhood friendship with Wes Sechrest, who later became the CEO of Global Wildlife (now renamed Re:Wild) allowed him to gain clarity on some of the major problems affecting Earth and its inhabitants.


“The global impact, the one that people recognize today, is really around climate change and global warming,” Brian Sheth said during a Milken Institute panel discussion.


He also says it’s crucial to examine the issues surrounding species extinction and habitat destruction and really understand its impact from a human standpoint, as well as how that’s affecting Indigenous people worldwide.


Sheth confides that he felt compelled to get more involved. And he knew he had the chops to make a difference. As a business leader, he says he’s always looked to technology to resolve and solve some of the speed bumps along the way.


“I found that many of the organizations that I went to talk to as a donor had a different perspective,” Sheth explains. “And so, thankfully, I had this great friend who was a scientist and involved in one of these large [nongovernmental organizations], and he had a great network. And we had this idea about creating a science-only network where we could pull together about 20 scientists who formerly worked full time for these other NGOs.”


Together with his wife, Adria, Brian Sheth went on to do the research, assemble the strongest team, and partner with organizations around the nation and the world to promote wildlife and species preservation.


Holistically sharing the lessons and best practices information and leadership through its portfolio of charities and programs, the Sheth Sangreal Foundation’s focus reaches beyond providing funding. When one portfolio partner scales, the entire network’s impact grows.


Focus on the ROI, Not the Spend


Leveraging his business acumen in the nonprofit sector is one of Sheth’s secret weapons in his fight to save the planet. Laying out the dollars and cents to make sense of the necessity of enterprises getting ecologically involved is a vital part of his game plan.


“It’s one of these great things — and we’re still working with financial institutions going toward financial leverage to help [them] understand how to really account for this,” he explains. “But in a real dollar term, every billion dollars that we invest in environmental preservation has about 110 times return.


“[It’s about investing in] not just clean water, clean air, and clean food, which are all pretty important, but actually direct benefits to folks in terms of arable farmland, soil preservation, and things like that.”


The Sheth Sangreal Foundation works behind the scenes to focus on creating real results while sticking to its mission of ensuring total sustainability and well-being for the planet and its inhabitants.


Define Your Success, Then Work Backward, Says Brian Sheth


When Brian Sheth started the Sheth Sangreal Foundation, he says he realized the clock was already ticking on climate change and it’s something that needed to be addressed sooner rather than later. Laying out a clear-cut plan and solid foundation was essential to establishing his vision. He says it’s vital to ask questions and look at the bigger picture.


“If you’re starting a nonprofit, what are you trying to solve and how are you going to measure whether or not you’ve been successful?” Sheth says. “I think if you kind of [define] that early on, you’ll be ahead of the game and it’ll be easier for you to raise money.”