South African PhilanthroFacts 1

Not enough is known about South African philanthropy.

We don’t have access to the kind of information that would make possible a deeper analysis of knowledge, attitudes and practices of South Africans who do (and who don’t) give their own money towards social development. I am going to write a series of blogs, then, to deliver up an insight into what we do know. There is some information available – what I would call “surface information” – so let’s at least get that up on the table.

First, a quick list of categories of information that we know we are able to access:
1. we could get information from non-profits on the amounts or relative percentages of funding support received from individuals and from foundations and trusts in South Africa. This would require a bit of research (some of which is currently being undertaken by @Inyathelo
2. we can access generalisations on who gives and why they give
3. we have access to research on giving in South Africa, conducted for example by Nedbank Private Wealth and published in The Giving Report (of which there are two studies conducted to date). This is self-reported giving and comes therefore with its own challenges (how do people report their giving, how do we account for individuals wanting to be seen as more generous than they actually are etc)
4. we know what academic research has been done and can readily compile a comprehensive reading list of this research – mostly for Masters and PhD degrees
5. we can access the local media coverage of South African philanthropy, South African wealth, the richest men, the richest women, and an idea of those who give publicly and who are known to give
6. we have access to a great list of philanthropy role-models in South Africa – across the broadest range of the South African demographic in terms of age, geography, culture, religion, colour, gender, cause and so on – go to
7. there are new initiatives afoot to promote different kinds of giving, and to develop a strong case for support for giving to social justice causes – see for example the Social Justice Initiative at
8. we could review the work of the Private Philanthropy Circle (, the first forum of private South African philanthropy foundations, which has a number of foundations as members and represents only the tip of South Africa’s “foundationberg” (see what i did there?)
9. we know of other foundation networks, for example the network of community foundations in South Africa
10. which means we could also do research on the concept of a community foundation and its applicability in the South African context
11. we know and can analyse the tax environment for philanthropy in South Africa, and what does and does not support the growth of individual philanthropy
12. we have access to databases of funders in South Africa and can trawl and analyse for philanthropic foundations associated with South African individuals
13. we can access information on the growth of philanthropy based on the increasing numbers of banks and wealth management companies offering philanthropy-focused services, and on the increasing numbers of people becoming part of the field of philanthropy advisory services (myself included).

In South Africa we don’t have access to tax records, for example. This source of information is where researchers in the USA are able to draw such comprehensive analyses of giving patterns, top ten lists, and the kind of giving detail that researchers are able to write about and profile. That said, the list above shows that we do have access to vast amounts of information that, while perhaps carrying insufficient specific detail on who is giving and how much they are giving and what they are giving to, nevertheless does provide us with enough information to draw patterns and extrapolations and conclusions.

Forward, onward then – to developing a fuller picture of South African philanthropy and individual giving in our country. Watch this space for South African PhilanthroFacts 2.


One thought on “South African PhilanthroFacts 1

  1. Pingback: Ten things you might not know about South African Philanthropy: South African PhilanthroFacts 3 | philanthropediaSA

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