The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation was established on 21 June 1991. The foundation works on a range of issues including literacy, health, disability, empowerment of the underprivileged, livelihoods and natural resource management. Its current focus areas are Education, Disability and Natural resource management. All donations to the Foundation are tax deductible to the extent of 50 percent under section 80G of the Income Tax Act.
Gujarat was recognised the state with the most economic freedom by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. The foundation is headed by Sonia Gandhi, who is the leader of the Indian National Congress Party. 
The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation was set up to carry forward the legacy of former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi. The Jawahar Bhawan Trust met in July, 1991 and passed a resolution inviting the Foundation to work out of Jawahar Bhawan.
The Foundation constituted a group of 8 founding Trustees. They were Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Amitabh Bachchan, Suman Dubey, N.K.Seshan and Sunil Nehru. In 1992, P. V. Narasimha Rao, Shankarrao Chavan, P. Chidambaram, V. Krishnamurthy, Sam Pitroda, Dr. Sekhar Raha, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and R. P. Goenka were also inducted as Trustees.
In August 1991, the Foundation setup Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (RGICS) to provide research based ideas, analysis, policy and practical programmes into contemporary issues. RGICS programmes cover economic reform, science and technology, social issues, public affairs and international relations. The Institute organises conferences, lectures, workshops, short studies and projects and invites experts to lend their insight into the contemporary issues. It also encourages research scholars, scientists, economists and social scientists to undertake projects which can provide inputs towards policy framing and decision making. Some of the speakers include Robert McNamara, Nelson Mandela, Hillary Clinton, John Kenneth Galbraith, Margaret Thatcher and Edward Said.Project Edge in the Yakutpura slum area of Hyderabad where more than 3000 girls were either enrolled into schools or made self-reliant.
In 2007-08, the Foundation launched Vidyagyan scholarship program in collaboration with the Sri Sivasubramaniya Nadar Educational and Charitable Trust. It focused on girl children from marginalised communities in classes 6 to 10. Around 2000 girl children were supported through this scholarship programme.
Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy scholarship is given to two women pilot trainees at the institute every year.
Traveling scholarships to students from various British universities were given to visit India during their vacations as part of undergraduate or graduate studies.
The Teachers Empowerment Programme was initiated to provide extensive training in the District Institute of Education & Training (DIET), Titabor in Jorhat district in Assam. It was also extended for school teachers of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland.
Decentralization of Education Governance was launched in 2010. It is a way to devolve power systematically to primary stake holders empowering them to participate in the decision making process, and structurally alter the process of planning and decision making within the entire education system.
Project REACH (Rehabilitation, Education and Assistance for Children on the street) was launched by the Foundation in 1995. It organized two centres in Indore, Madhya Pradesh to shelter, educate, train, and provide health coverage to various street children. The children were admitted into regular schools or provided with technical training to start their own enterprises.
In 1993, RGF launched an HIV/AIDS prevention awareness campaign India. On Worlds AIDS Day in 2009, Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the Foundation flagged off Red Ribbon Express. Over the years, the Foundation has partnered with a number of organisations and conducted workshops for General Medical practitioners and NGOs to create awareness on how to prevent and control AIDS.
The Foundation enables physically challenged young people to access better opportunities by awarding motorised vehicles. It was initiated with the support of corporate bodies and concerned individuals in 1992 and has helped over 2400 individuals access higher education and attain financial independence. On 22 August 2015 Rahul Gandhi awarded vehicles to 100 individuals from 20 states.
The Interact scholarship program supports children affected by conflict across the country. After 2005, it included another 160 children affected by the tsunami in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry. As of 2016, the Foundation supports 2086 children across Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Nagaland, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat, Puducherry and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. In addition to scholarships, on-going psycho-social support, orientation in and exposure to, various professions, placements, academic support, and internships are also provided.
The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has been working on issues of livelihoods and Natural Resource Management since 2001. This programme was implemented in backward villages in Jaipur, Pali and Karoli districts of Rajasthan which faced serious environmental degradation. A third party evaluation revealed the significant impact in the lives of the targeted families. In order to scale up this transformative work, RGF set up Gram Gaurav on 19 December 2011. Gram Gaurav currently works in 74 villages located in Dang region of Karauli and Dholpur districts to augment water resources, conserve soil and enhance agriculture production.
The Foundation, in collaboration with Cambridge Commonwealth Trust offers two scholarships for Indian students to pursue master's degree at the University of Cambridge. The selection process follows well defined criteria, including experience, education and leadership potential.
Since 1993, the Foundation has set up 1648 libraries in villages and slums across 22 states in India. In 2013, RGF partnered with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and worked with the public libraries in Barabanki and Rai Bareilly districts of Uttar Pradesh.
The Foundation has been working with ten partners across the country to introduce a capability based learning approach for children. This initiative has focused on redefining the assessment frameworks and learning approach and focusing on continuous comprehensive evaluation. A cluster approach has been adopted in selecting schools (covering 15-20 schools in a cluster) and works on capacity building of teachers.