Ten things you might not know about South African Philanthropy: South African PhilanthroFacts 3

Gabrielle Ritchie | Director, The Change Room | 23rd May 2017

Many multiple months have passed since I wrote South African Philanthrofacts 1 and 2 (no need to check back!) – but better late than never is one of my life mottos, and it applies here too.  So this is South African Philanthrofacts 3!

PF 1 was about the common knowledge that “little is known about South African philanthropy” – so I provided ten possible sources that could be consulted and pursued so that we could find out more about this terrain.

PF 2 was about the politics of philanthropy and who benefits from the ever-changing and whimsical sympathies of the benefactors.  That piece looked specifically at summer fire-fighting in the Cape Peninsula area, and the politics of an incredibly successful radio appeal for funding support for fire-fighting.

The focus for South African Philanthrofacts 3 is TEN things you might not know about South African Philanthropy:

  1. The first-ever Chair in African Philanthropy has been established at the Wits Business School. Acknowledgement loudly goes to Dr Bheki Moyo and Southern Africa Trust, and Wits Business School, for pulling this initiative together.
  2. I am the first PhD student (actually, I might be the first student!) under the new Chair (Professor Alan Fowler). It is also the first Chair in Philanthropy on the continent.  Big FIRSTS.
  3. The Social Justice Initiative has been established to provide a smooth mechanism for South Africans (and others) to support social justice work with their philanthropic giving – including work around gender-based violence; women’s economic empowerment and other issues central to South Africa’s social development.
  4. There are a number of different estimates around the ZAR scale of private philanthropy in our country. The Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa (IPASA), when it was still the Private Philanthropy Circle based at Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, estimated that it represented around R1.5billion (in 2014) in annual grant spend.  It is not possible to extrapolate this out because, although IPASA represents somewhere between 25 and 35 philanthropic entities, the number of formal donor foundations in South Africa is completely unknown.  I have been told verbally in passing (and am not able to reference this), that recent research has revealed that private philanthropy in SA is worth over R40billion annually – but I am reserving my right to see this as a bit of a stretch and I really look forward to being able to unpack that number.
  5. South Africans with disposable income don’t give enough. We don’t give enough. I often wonder what we are holding on to.  If we are not investing in our own social development, then who on earth is going to?
  6. There are ENDLESS incredible projects to support. If you have disposable funds or are thinking of investing some money in social development, let me know.  I would be delighted to point you in some right directions.  There is superb work happening in job creation and support for micro-entrepreneurs – such as The Big Issue (declaration: I am the Chair of the Board!); in education – for example, Partners for Possibility; in health – health-e news is one such project; working to expose and end corruption – such as Corruption Watch; to develop community-based health care projects – like NACOSA is doing nationally; standing for our rights as citizens to be able to access information – such as Right to Know and Amabhungane.  Really endless, people.  It is not hard to find a project or a cause.  But if you are struggling to decide where to invest, I would be more than happy to provide information and find you some good, reliable, dependable, hardworking, effective projects to support!
  7. While many speak of things changing rapidly in the philanthropy space, this is not really the case. There is mention, for example, of the potential for incredibly exciting shifts and wild innovation such as consulting directly with communities and activists on the ground.  Yes, apparently this is new and wildly innovative.  It is also something that has been discussed for years, and for which calls have been made by the very people living in communities and working on the ground.  So perhaps it is “new” because the philanthropists are finally hearing it?  Come, people – there needs to be a far smaller gap between what how we do philanthropy and how we KNOW we should do philanthropy.
  8. There are very few people talking much at all locally about philanthropy, funding, grantmaking, social justice and social development. To listen to those who are sharing their pearls, follow these folk on Twitter:  @RAITHFoundation | @SocialJusticeSA | @BerthaFN | @OtherFoundation | @Tshikululu | @bheki_moyo | @shelaghgastrow | and me on @philanthropiSA | If you know of others, please share!
  9. Personal philanthropy is still not much of a discussion topic, not amongst traditional white wealth in South Africa anyway. I think we might be stuck a bit in the British tradition of “we don’t discuss money… it’s impolite”.  But how grand would it be if we all spoke about what we invest socially, why we chose those causes and/or organisations, whether others know of good projects needing support, how we decide as individuals whether projects are support-worthy, what we think we can achieve with our particular investment choices.  Wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it?!
  10. South African philanthropy is part of a much broader philanthropy space across the whole continent. As such, it is part of a growing conversation about practice, process, people, and pathways in giving money in support of a bigger social project.  It is exciting stuff – and these times will become ever-more interesting as our understanding of the breadth of practices of different kinds of philanthropies becomes more and more evident on the continent.

Disruptive Philanthropy: must philanthropy be disrupted?


Image from: Cause Capitalism

Gabrielle Ritchie

Director, The Change Room

20th October 2016

Collaboration, partnership, disruption, innovation, grantmaking for empowerment, risk, big bets  – these are all key concepts in the current philanthropy moment.  The African Philanthropy Forum has just had what looked like a fantastic 2-day annual meeting (17th – 18th October 2016) in Rabat, Morocco – with many of these topics on the agenda.

The next philanthropy forum gathering on the continent is the Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa‘s annual gathering, which takes place in Johannesburg from 25th – 26th October 2016. In line with this forum’s overarching theme, Disruptive Philanthropy, the programme offers a session juxtaposing the notions of Disrupting Philanthropy and Disruptive Philanthropy.  This is a great topic, and worthy of some investigation – since our current general love of the notion of disruption, dating back at least as far as 2010 as a  hot topic for philanthropy forums, doesn’t look to be fading any time soon.

There is a volume of resources available on disruptive philanthropy, the meaning of disruption relative to philanthropy,  how to be more disruptive with one’s philanthropy, and so on. Jho Low, Director of the Jynwel Foundation explains that disruptive philanthropy captures the idea that:

to effectively address the complex challenges faced by society, people need to treat giving as a significant, long-term investment in their collective future

The Charities Review Council, in their outline for their 2014 Forum, DISRUPTIVE PHILANTHROPY: IMAGINE, CREATE, INNOVATE,  defines disruptive philanthropy as:

a transformative event or moment, an act of giving and relationship building that is a departure from the status quo. It may not be easy, endorsed or comfortable, but it is necessary to inclusively create a shared vision, a new sustainability, innovation, imagination and growth

This second definition expresses a far more disruptive energy than the first definition above, which reads as safe and as not much of a departure from existing, smart, effective grantmaking. Jho Low does go further, however, and breaks the Jynwel Foundation’s disruptive mission into five practical steps:

  • Dig deep. The foundation researches and talks to experts until it discovers the root of any given problem.
  • Collaborative design. Motivated by cross-continental thinking, it works to bring partners from all walks of life together in order to plan its programs.
  • Think very long term. The foundation believes that nothing can be solved in 3-5 years, so it makes commitments of 15-30 years or longer.
  • Invest big. The foundation actively looks for places where its funds will have the greatest social return, and invests accordingly.
  • Measure to grow. Each program is carefully evaluated every step of the way, and partners are brought in to make the foundation’s efforts even more powerful.

Lee Fox, of Cause Capitalism, seems to suggest the approach that a disruptive philanthropy might require a different approach to grantmaking.  She comments as follows:

the ideology of disruptive philanthropy identifies how a new population can participate in a way that was historically only accessible to an elite group.

Disruption implies a tipping up, a disturbance, a changing of the shape of things.  For philanthropy to be disruptive, it needs to disrupt not just the social challenges it seeks to address and the solutions it seeks to support. It also needs to disrupt its own dynamics, how it functions, sets strategy, develops grantmaking programmes, and distributes its funding.

Indeed, would these very terms and practices still be valid in a disrupted philanthropy? Would we need to talk about a qualified disruption?  Is philanthropy inherently conservative?  Is it possible to maintain the existing relations of power with regard to decision-making and fund management, and still achieve a disruptive social result?

Certainly for philanthropy to be disruptive, philanthropy itself must be disrupted.  Anything short of this implies a lack of capacity for self-reflection about one’s own participation in existing philanthropy power relations – relations that themselves serve to maintain a certain status quo and that would serve to prevent any real disruptive potential for philanthropy.  If disruption, relative to philanthropy, is understood as defined by Jho Low above, then perhaps it is not so disruptive after all?

As with social justice, however, different meanings would be ascribed to different combinations of the terms “disruptive/ disruption” and “philanthropy”.  In the case of social justice, “social justice philanthropy” and “philanthropy for/in support of social justice” mean different things – appropriately, I believe.  The first refers to the very practices of grantmaking, where social justice considerations are taken into account and implemented in how grant decisions are made/ who makes grant decisions.  The Other Foundation is an excellent example of efforts at more participatory grantmaking processes, and of working to practice social justice philanthropy.

The second phrase refers to philanthropy that supports social justice initiatives but where the grantmaking process and practice are “business as usual”, and the social justice aspect refers to what is supported rather than who makes decisions and how they are made.  Similarly, disruptive philanthropy could (or should?) imply a funding context in which the very practice of philanthropy and funding is in itself both disrupted and disruptive, and challenges existing / traditional/ “business as usual” grantmaking.  This would support an agenda of going beyond the limits of simply funding initiatives that are designed to disrupt, which is perhaps better described as “philanthropy for disruption”, or “philanthropy in support of disruption”.

If a philanthropy is working to support disruptive initiatives, rather than being designed as disruptive in itself, my sense is that such philanthropy continues to operate in a “safe zone” and has the longer-term potential to get stuck in its own echo-chamber, limiting its capacity to be an energetic catalyst in a genuinely disruptive process toward fundamentally disruptive solutions.

Funding our future with philanthropy

Gabrielle Ritchie

Director, The Change Room

22nd September 2016

South African civil society is broad and diverse, and its funding requirements can feel somewhat like a bottomless pit. This is particularly highlighted in the arena of social and welfare services, previously provided by the state with some support from non-governmental organisations.  Increasingly though, NGOs are the only structures providing any kind of social support such as counselling, trauma support, wellness services, and health information and related services at community level, and they are receiving wholly inadequate levels of funding for this critical community health provision.

Since citizen engagement and civic action take place increasingly through the formal structures of nonprofit organisations, NPOs in South Africa are currently the key vehicle for effecting systemic change. Given the scale of the current non-NGOised student movement across South Africa’s tertiary institutions, it remains to be seen how effective such movements will be in achieving and sustaining the desired change without formalised funding and grant management.  This is an important area for monitoring, towards understanding the dynamics and efficacy of non-funded movements.

While there are many social movements and organisational forms which don’t require funding to effect their mission, it is certain that for social change and development organisations to be effective in achieving their aims, effecting change and delivering services, funding support is required.  This begins to map out the basic link between social change nonprofits and philanthropy – where both endeavours are points on continuum of change and work best as partners in development.

Nonprofits are central to ensuring and securing a positive and progressive social development agenda. Likewise, philanthropy is also critical in achieving social change, through (amongst other practices) funding support for the work of non-profits and, where appropriate, working in partnership to craft strategies and programmatic agendas for change.  Resourcing Philanthropy is an online resource that provides an extensive review of The Atlantic Philanthropies Reconciliation and Human Rights funding programme in South Africa.

This resource delves into the many ways in which funders can work with organisations, co-craft agendas, convene donors and grantees, use their power-linked networks to leverage additional influence and support, and provide operational support (among many other grantmaker strategies and practices). This is little-explored territory in the South African context, and the Resourcing Philanthropy platform provides a first effort at really unpacking how a grantmaker’s approaches worked (in this case The Atlantic Philanthropies) and the ways in which their grantmaking strategies achieved measurable change and positive impact.

Partners for Change

Nonprofits, as change partners working with philanthropic funders, serve also as the operational vehicle through which funders are able to craft and service their own funding and change agendas. A number of important questions arise in starting to examine the potential for organisational-philanthropy partnerships in effecting real change.  These include (as a starter list):

  1. What is the change we want to achieve?
  2. How does this map to the context, and to current change agendas?
  3. Who sets these agendas, and who should be part of this agenda-setting process?
  4. Is there potential for a shared social change agenda, when there might exist inherent tensions between funding agendas and organisational agendas?
  5. What is the role of citizens, government, business and philanthropy in crafting and effecting social change?
  6. What is the role of philanthropy and of donors in achieving this, and how can this role best be played?

The philanthropic practice of giving, or grantmaking, or donating (and so on) inevitably carries with it the deep dynamic of an unequal power relationship.  This is likely to be the case in instances of giving and receiving between individuals; between entities; within a community – as much as it creates a power dynamic if this relationship exists between countries. In discussing and practicing philanthropy, funding and grantmaking, these dynamics must be considered and tackled in efforts to build partnerships to effect social change and development.

For nonprofit organisations, this funding dynamic is essential to take into account in how NPOs position themselves in a potential funding relationship. As formal organisational structures, nonprofits are the entities that provide the platform, or conduit, or vehicle through which foundations, trusts, corporates and government are able to achieve their goals.

Too often, NPOs understand themselves (often in spite of some stern self-talk) as the recipients of good will, rather than as partner agents in a trajectory of change.  More and more, NPOs need to shift their frame of perception and positioning, to disrupt fundamentally the begging bowl approach.  Philanthropic funders could contribute here by challenging themselves more thoroughly on what a “disruptive philanthropy” might look like, and how they can genuinely contribute to a new, transformational kind of funding practice, adopting strategies that have a greater chance of achieving social change.

NPOs, as part of civil society, occupy pole position when it comes to shaping how nonprofits operate and position themselves, and how they can grow and strengthen civil society.  A core dynamic in this is the NPO/ funder relationship.  Philanthropists therefore need to tackle the power dynamic inherent in their fund-holding position, in an effort to forge real partnerships based on mutual interest, shared values and agendas, and a clear vision of a desired future.

Philanthropy (foundations, private individuals, and wealth management advisors, amongst others) needs to take on the task – with donor and grantee partners – of pursuing and building a new kind of funding approach and grantmaking practice in South Africa.  Achieving change, in line with a social justice approach to development, cannot only be about the work of nonprofits.  It must, necessarily, be built also on a more inclusive, consultative, progressive approach to grantmaking.

Previous articles that touch on this topic include those listed below:




GrantCraft is one of my most favourite resources for guides on, and insights into, grantmaking practice, the challenges of effective grantmaking, and a range of related topics.  Those listed below focus specifically on partnerships:




The article below is an excellent challenge to whether grantmaker-grantee partnerships are in fact possible, or are currently more fiction than fact:




A perfect pinotage pairing: wine farmer philanthropy in South Africa


Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

13th July 2016

Let me start by saying I wanted to write an energising piece about the increasing predominance of wine farmers linked with philanthropy – and it would probably have ended up sounding a tad romantic, with visions of committed philanthropists making funding decisions to change South Africa’s entrenched dynamics of poverty and injustice, while sipping on a glass of world-renowned pinotage as the sun sets over their vineyards and workers bring in the last of the day’s grape harvest.

This blog hasn’t turned out quite that way.

The grape-growing and wine-making industry in South Africa has two interlinked histories.  These are stories of honour, but more stories of horror. Firstly, there is the honour of regular multiple international awards for our excellent quality wines. Superb wines.  And, secondly, there is the horror of the industry’s historical roots in slave labour and the dop system (which saw farmers compensate farm workers for their labour with part-payment in rations of low-grade alcohol), resulting in the Western Cape remaining in first place for the highest incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world.   While the dop system is now almost (but not entirely) defunct, the legacy of addiction, alcohol abuse and its related social dysfunction continues.

Farm workers in South Africa continue to suffer dire and exploitative working conditions, often without – according to some reports – any paid leave (sick, vacation or maternity); and often living in dreadful conditions on farms.  The more I read about links between wine farmers and philanthropy, the more I only came across material documenting the ongoing state of exploitative and oppressive labour practices on wine farms in South Africa. Two reports in particular stand out, both of which caused much controversy at the time of their release – the Human Rights Watch report titled Ripe with Abuse, and the BAWSE report titled Farmworker Voices: Reflections of Worker Conditions on South African Farms.

That said, there have clearly been massive efforts to clean up South Africa’s wine industry in terms of its dubious history and inheritance of oppressive labour practices, and to break down the entrenched whiteness of the wine-making industry. There are – amongst a range of other interventions – empowerment initiatives; winemaker support programmes to diversify the demographic profile of South Africa’s winemakers; commitments by representative bodies to hand over to the police any farmers found still engaging in providing alcohol on a daily or regular basis to their farm workers; and many wine farm owners who have made the requisite effort to provide decent lodgings for their farm workers (often seasonal), and generally offer improved conditions of service.

In the last decade or two, many wine farm owners have woken up to the heritage of horror in their industry, and have started doing what they can not only to right these wrongs on their own farms, but to engage in philanthropy more broadly.  The Western Cape, in particular, has not only seen a number of philanthropists buying wine farms, but a number of wine farmers becoming philanthropists.

It seems, perhaps, that wine farming and philanthropy are becoming an increasingly well-matched pair.  Wine estate names whose owners are involved in philanthropy include, amongst many others, Jordan, Val de vie, Graham Beck and Meerendal.  Two names, however, stand out for me in terms of the various initiatives undertaken by each to improve not only conditions on their farms but to engage philanthropically in broader social issues.

They are Wendy Appelbaum and Mark Solms.

Wendy Appelbaum is, by some estimates, the richest woman on the African continent.  Now owner of De Morgenzon wine estate in Stellenbosch, Wendy is one of Africa’s most active philanthropists, having donated over R274 million to date.  As the daughter of Sir Donald Gordon, Wendy now oversees the Donald Gordon Foundation and the Gordon family philanthropy.  The De Morgenzon website states that while Wendy has had a long, highly successful career in business and in financial investment (amongst other areas), her philanthropic involvement includes her being a director of the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre (Wits University’s Faculty of Health Sciences’ teaching hospital); a trustee of The Donald Gordon Foundation (one of the largest private charitable foundations in Southern Africa) and also sits on the boards of various other non-profit organisations.  In addition, Wendy is a member of the Global Philanthropists’ Circle (GPC).  For more information, go to http://www.demorgenzon.co.za/about_people.html

Mostly recently, Wendy demonstrated the power of philanthropic involvement in defending citizen rights.  In 2012 Appelbaum learned that garnishee orders had been obtained against some of the workers on her wine farm, with up to 80% of their monthly income being attached via illegal emolument attachment orders (EAOs).  It has happened in many EAO cases that workers were left with no take-home income at all. Taking the whole matter to court through the Stellenbosch University Legal Aid Clinic, the focus was on the root causes behind the EAO system.  The court ruled in their favour against these illegal attachment orders, but the fight is apparently not yet over.

Mark Solms and Richard Astor are co-owners of the Solms-Delta estate in the Franschoek Valley.  Through the Wijn de Caab Trust, established to benefit the historically disadvantaged residents and employees of the farm, the Solms-Delta estate has transformed the farm’s housing, education and health care facility, the general quality of life, and has fundamentally empowered the farm community. The 180 people living on the farm are now all shareholders in the wine-making business, and benefit from their work, the wine business and the many other income-generating activities that the farm offers.  As a result, Solms Delta is recognised as one of South Africa’s most progressive wine estates, a far cry from its once oppressive, slavery-based structure.

For this, the wine farm owners receive an Inyathelo Philanthropy Award for the innovation shown in tackling entrenched impoverishment in wine farming in the Western Cape, and ensuring that workers were able to gain a sense of ownership of the land.  To watch a short film about Solms-Delta, go to http://www.inyathelo.org.za/philanthropy-awardees/item/mark-solms-and-richard-astor.html .

A dash of philanthropy with your glass of wine, then?  Of course! Award-winning wines are best accompanied by award-winning philanthropy.

Top trends in South African philanthropy

TopTrends in Philanthropy





Gabrielle Ritchie: Director, The Change Room

12th July 2016

What are the top trends in South African philanthropy? This is a question that is extremely difficult to answer – so if you have any thoughts or contributions on this very opaque area, please share!

  1. Is there a trend amongst high- and ultra high networth individuals to establish institutionalised giving structures? Is there an increase in the number of private philanthropic foundations being established? There is almost no access to stats and data on this, and we don’t have access to tax return information such as is available in the US from which data and trends are determined.
  2. Is there an increase in numbers of intra-community support structures such as stokvels and burial societies? Also, some argue strongly that these are indigenous philanthropies, while others argue that while they are key mechanisms for building community cohesion, there is less evidence that such structures are geared toward social change.
  3. Are donor-advised funds a thing yet in South Africa? Or are we still limited to the first – and only? – donor-advised fund established by Citadel a few years ago?
  4. Are social impact bonds a thing yet? Never mind a trend, is there a growing interest in such social development funding mechanisms? Impact investing – are there any trends in this regard? Are philanthropic foundations with investments actually making mission- and impact-focused investment decisions with their capital?
  5. Are existing funders in South Africa becoming more involved in supporting social justice? Are there evident trends in this regard?
  6. Is there any remarkably different philanthropy developing in South Africa?

The short answer to all of this is that the levels of research on such topics, while growing, remains limited – and access to information and data about who is investing what on which causes remains sketchy.

If you have answers, thoughts, information,data – share! Knowledge is key to growing philanthropic giving in South Africa, regardless of how you define #philanthropy.

For the latest resources on South African philanthropy – reports, insights, short films, references, links to further information – go to Resourcing Philanthropy at www.resourcingphilanthropy.org.za




Philanthropy Advisors and Service Providers: building the infrastructure for South African philanthropy

money 1

Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

12th May 2016

South African philanthropy is growing.  About that there is no doubt. In terms of growth, it is not only the encouragement of giving that is growing, but the whole field of philanthropy that is seeing an energetic exercising of its margins.  This is reflected in a range of ways in the South African non-profit funding and organisational context.

Indicators of growth include, amongst others (adapted from Resourcing Philanthropy – see below):

  • A growth in the volume and scope of media coverage about philanthropy and related issues
  • An increase in the number of financial institutions and wealth management companies offering philanthropy-specific advisory and support services
  • Greater numbers of consulting firms, small and large, that provide philanthropy advice to their clients (including tax, legal and strategy advice)
  • A notable growth in the development of public (particularly social media) profiles amongst private donor trusts and foundations in South Africa
  • A growing interest in sound research on the size, scope, practice and nature of South African giving, not only amongst high- and ultra-high net worth individuals and foundations, but also across a range of different kinds of giving, sharing and intra-community support mechanisms
  • The establishment of a Chair in African Philanthropy (at Wits Business School) http://mailimages.vibrantmedia.co.za/2015/wbs/chair_african_philanthropy/chair.pdf
  • The availability of greater numbers of information sources on South African philanthropy, the latest and greatest (and I say that with full disclosure here that I am one of three co-authors of this spectacular resource!) being Resourcing Philanthropy at http://resourcingphilanthropy.org.za/  Check it out, really – films, interviews, thoughts, insights, reports, new perspectives, different lenses on grantmaking in social justice. Fantastic stuff.

Non-profit grantseekers are constantly looking for new ways to approach donors, to build relationships, to attract resources and to identify new audiences of potential donors.  Information about who is giving, how they are giving, what prompts their giving, and on what comms channels one is most likely to find these prospective donors.  Any new research on giving in South Africa, and related issues, provides insights that can be analysed and applied by local grantseekers.

These are then exciting times, and there is a groundswell of interest in and energy around the growth of local giving.  It is well-established globally that for local philanthropic giving to grow, a robust local industry infrastructure is required. See for example a report from the Bertelsmann Stiftung on this topic.  It is clear that for the South African philanthropy environment to continue growing, we need to step up our “infrastructure and support” game quite significantly.

It is absolutely critical for the growth of philanthropy and a support infrastructure in the field, for people to convene to discuss professional practice in the “advice and support” space.  It would be great, for example, to gain an understanding of the current state of the advisory field – what services are currently offered, and whether there are documented standards of professional service locally that are adhered to, such as codes of conduct, or codes of ethical practice.

For a year or so – back in 2013 – Inyathelo: The South African Institute of Advancement ran a Philanthropy Service Providers Network (okay, another disclosure – I was Inyathelo’s Programme Director at the time, and was responsible for the conceptualising and establishment of this network known as the PSPN).  This seems to have died down for reasons unclear. Perhaps those of us in the sector working as service providers and advisors in the philanthropy space will give some serious thought either to resurrecting this network (through Inyathelo or otherwise), or to forming a new forum for professional exchange and learning amongst such providers.

The field, as stated earlier, is growing and includes – amongst other kinds of advisors – the following:

  • The wealth management sector (eg. Citadel, Nedbank, Stonehage, Investec and others)
  • Grantmaking consultants
  • Donor capacity-development organisations
  • Payroll giving initiatives (eg. CAF Southern Africa)
  • Social justice philanthropy advocacy initiatives (eg. Social Justice Initiative and The Other Foundation)
  • Funders who have used/ had experience of such services
  • Monitoring and Evaluation consultants and experts (eg. Impact Consulting)
  • Other capacity development initiatives (eg. Technical Support and Development Platform)
  • Other initiatives such as the Southern Africa Trust, the African Philanthropy Network, the Bertha Centre at University of Cape Town, and GIBS at University of Pretoria for training and discussions.

It is time to get together to discuss, share, learn, build, grow.  South Africa’s philanthropy, social justice and non-profit sector need this, and are relying on it.  It is, after all, these service providers who are already engaged in advising those with potential philanthropy wealth, and who have the best chance of influencing and helping to shape giving in terms of focus, practice, approach, direction and impact.

Because if we aren’t here for the learning, the sharing and the impact, then what is it we are doing again?

Researching South African Philanthropy – for growth!

by Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

1st April 2016

Image source: CAF Southern Africa: I believe I can make a difference. Report on Giving in South Africa. 2015

In the last few weeks in South Africa – preceding the 31 March 2016 milestone ruling in South Africa’s Constitutional Court regarding #Nkandla – we have seen a couple of important events in South African philanthropy.  In some senses the #ConCourt judgement is as much a victory for philanthropy in support of democracy as it is a major victory for democracy itself.

Much has been happening in local philanthropy, aside from the extent to which Constitutionalism in our country has so fully been strengthened with philanthropic funding. The first event I refer to was the launch of a unique new online knowledge resource (at www.resourcingphilanthropy.org.za) which offers insights, thoughts, expertise and knowledge on practices of grantmaking in South Africa, and an overview of the current state of the local philanthropy field, with a particular focus on funding in support of human rights and social justice.

This is the first resource of its kind, offering a comprehensive look at the “as is” in local philanthropy, as well as documented insights and views from a range of key practitioners in the social justice and philanthropy fields. In addition, the resource offers illuminating insights into the innovative grantmaking practices and approaches of The Atlantic Philanthropies, a limited life Foundation which has now exited from its grantmaking in South Africa after funding more than $355million in projects, programmes, initiatives and capital developments in the Southern African region.  Remarkable stuff.

The second event I refer to is the launch of South Africa’s first Chair of African Philanthropy at Wits Business School (announced last year and launched recently), a long-overdue energy shot for building the field of philanthropy, not only in South Africa but also more broadly across the continent. This is most exciting, and a pan-African seminar has been held to kick-start the development of the academic programme under this new Chair.  With Professor Alan Fowler leading this development, the knowledge environment is seriously opening up for the local philanthropy field.

These are both clear signs of the growing energy and interest in the field of philanthropy in South Africa and on the rest of the continent – not just in the forms of giving, but also in who gives; what people commit their support to; the intentions behind giving; the reasons for wanting to contribute to a particular cause or organisation; how this giving takes place; and trends in amounts invested in social issues and in particular causes.

While these research initiatives and this energy are absolutely critical in the strengthening of the environment in which philanthropy is built and broadened, there is a range of other features required for local philanthropy promotion and growth.

The global experience in growing philanthropy indicates a number of key requirements for encouraging and improving the levels of philanthropic funding investments in social change.  These include the provision of encouragement and motivation for philanthropy; fostering an interest in and understanding of the field of philanthropy; developing a strong research-derived knowledge base in this area; and building a strong professional infrastructure around the business and practice of high net worth philanthropy. Additional to this is the requirement to ensure that the legislative framework for philanthropy actively enables and encourages giving, rather than inhibiting it.

To build, maintain and strengthen support for a strong change-focused agenda for civil society in South Africa, the following (amongst many others) are important enablers:

  • Active citizenship – the commitment and active engagement of South Africa’s people in the identification and removal of obstacles to rights and justice
  • The freedom to build democratic participation through social movements and civil society organisations
  • The willingness of philanthropists, nonprofit organisations and social activists, to define and implement programmes for social and political interventions for change
  • A Constitution which outlines the inalienable right to human dignity and equality, and which can be called upon directly in support of efforts to access rights
  • A legislative framework that facilitates the space for civil society activists to speak, organise and demonstrate where they deem necessary, without fear of sanction (or worse)
  • The political will of the state to ensure that civil society can operate openly without restriction, within the boundaries of the Constitution
  • A post-secondary education system and structure geared to engage responsively with the needs and requirements of a strong democratic culture, and not only to respond to the needs of commerce and industry
  • A progressive media that seeks out news and stories on issues of rights, civil society initiatives, and the watch-dogging of government and big business (for rights violations and other transgressions around good governance, transparency and accountability)
  • The financial resources to conduct the work required – to support the organisation of initiatives, the design and implementation of campaigns, the physical space where organisations can do their work, legal challenges in court, and the many other tactics that might be employed by a movement or organisation to achieve access to rights and justice.

Currently in South Africa, most of the above enablers exist – and some require a more demanding and vociferous public than others, for the realisation of the enabler.   While human rights and change-focused activism takes place all over the world regardless of the existence of any of these conditions, it is these which most directly and actively support the attainment and realisation of rights and justice.

However, it is the area of financial resourcing (outlined above), that surfaces as a key challenge in South Africa.  Any South African news channel will provide ample indication of the ongoing urgency for financial support for social justice initiatives at a local, provincial, national and regional level.

For example, we all want a free media but we need to learn to pay for it. So as my sign-off, I am providing my organisational PICK OF THE DAY for strong investigative journalism:

Amabhungane at http://www.amabhungane.co.za Support amaB. Support Democracy.