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.

It’s 2016! Some early thoughts on South African philanthropy.

Gabrielle Ritchie, Director at The Change Room:  4th January 2016


It’s the start of 2016 and South Africa has got off to a rocking start with a number of key hashtags in response to the ongoing, appalling, tiresome, tedious, offensive racist vitriol that white people seem to think it okay to spew all over social media.  Sigh. The first excellent hashtag is #TheYearWeMispronounceBack – a strong statement about the insistence amongst white people (turns out this is experienced the world over) to find “black names” too challenging to bother with.  It’s not that the names are too challenging.  We know this. But rather that so many of “my people” just frankly don’t consider it important enough to bother with black names.  Shocking horrible dismissive arrogant racist stuff.   The # takes the mickey out of traditionally white names, while making a key political point about respect, language, culture, supremacy, privilege and a range of other social factors and dynamics at play.

The second hashtag is #PennySparrow. Or #JustinVanVuuren. Or #ChrisHart. Or #DennisDyason.  All of whom are white South Africans who have spewed forth some ugly ugly stuff in the last 36 hours or so.  Not repeating any of it here, as it doesn’t warrant further sharing.  The bottom line out of all of this is that #RacismMustFall, and it is the responsibility of white South Africans – me included, obvs – to speak out loudly in support of anti-racist measures, to call racism out when we see it, and to stand up and raise our voices against any form of racism (yes, even our own). And we can’t expect any accolades, medals, or awards for it.  We must simply get on with it and do it. If white South Africans have any work to do, it is being constantly vigilant about our own behaviour and that of those white folk around us.  No complaints. Just get on with it.

So what does all of this have to do with philanthropy in South Africa?  A good question, you might be thinking. And this is really directed at us white South Africans.

Okay, so philanthropy is about someone giving financial support for a cause/s which that person believes in. It is about “doing good”.  It is – as has been shown in a number of recent South African research reports – about believing that one can “make a difference”, that by giving one can “contribute to change”.  Giving therefore has to start with the questions “what do I care about?”, “what is the change I want to see?” and “what difference do I want to contribute to making?”.  Asked and answered honestly is where the line gets drawn, between those who want to be “helpful to those less fortunate” (and I am not knocking that, really) and those who actively want to see change.

One of the key areas of real change required in South Africa is that #RacismMustFall.  Spend a good few minutes thinking about that, and thinking about how your own giving and your personal philanthropy can contribute to tackling your own prejudices – not just in what cause or organisation you support, but also in the way in which you offer such support.  The real impact is often felt in HOW we do things, and philanthropy is no different.  The HOW of philanthropy is crucial in effecting real change.

If you are looking to support any social justice cause this year, and you are also looking to ensure that your own racism and that of those around you is tackled, then your support needs to be committed; your approach will be consultative; your ears will be tuned to listen to the voices of those doing the work (rather than to your own voice); and you might look to contribute to work already happening rather than foregrounding your own way of doing things.

There is so much going on out there – amazing initiatives by incredibly energetic and creative people.  And they need your financial support.  Think about what you want to support this year, and how you are wanting to offer that support.

Please share any thoughts you have on this 🙂   Our young democracy depends on you.




How do we know when FREE is worth the effort, or just a waste of time?

Non-profits generally love FREE!!  And donors usually get really excited about low-cost/ no-cost opportunities for their grantees to access skills-exchanges and new knowledge.

But How do we know when FREE is worth the effort, or just a waste of time?

Here is one virtual online conference you can be sure will be worth the effort.  Organised and hosted by Resource Alliance, an organisation with a global reputation for its excellence in capacity development products and services for non-profits (particularly their conferences!), you can’t really go too wrong 🙂

This two-day event is being held on 13th and 14th May 2015 and all you need to do to be part of this fantastic learning event is register here. Over the two days, 16 sessions will be presented by leading experts in digital marketing, online fundraising and social media marketing, from within and outside the non-profit sector.

Full details on the programme are available here and include the following:-

  • Six practical methodologies to enable you to get started – Dr Scilla Elworthy (UK)
  • Charities don’t tweet, people do – Euan Semple (UK)
  • Adapting to a changing world: the innovation imperative – Colin Habberton (South Africa)
  • Seven ways to use mobile to build your supporter base – Nick Allen (USA)
  • Integrating digital into your old fashioned fundraising stuff – Sean Triner (Australia)
  • Crowdfunding for fundraisers – Ronald Kleverlaan (Netherlands)
  • Five learnings from masters of social media you can use in your fundraising today – Touko Sipiläinen (Finland)

According to Resource Alliance, who host the regular Netherlands-based International Fundraising Conference,over 2 000 delegates from 120 countries participated in last year’s Fundraising Online, which once again aims to help charities of all sizes successfully navigate the shifting sands of technological change.   With a focus on “empowerment and bridging the gap between online and offline initiatives”, Resource Alliance explains that this online initiative makes it possible for delegates to “benefit from the expertise of renowned speakers in the comfort of their own workplace, wherever and whenever it suits”.

Gotta go now … off to register 🙂  I am not missing this one!

South African PhilanthroFacts 2 – When we give, who is it who gets?

The picture above was taken by Carmel Loggenberg/EWN, published at http://ewn.co.za/2014/09/07/3-die-from-shack-fires

Blog by Gabrielle Ritchie 16 March 2015

What prompts us to give? Five motivators to giving money to social causes:

Summer at the Cape Peninsula in South Africa is always a time for truly wicked bushfires.  The combination of dry weather and outrageously strong winds is a recipe for disaster.  Summer 2015 has been no different.  Huge fires that last for days are, thankfully, quite rare, and so it seems that this summer was to be Cape Town’s first real “big fire” season in quite a few years.  Bush firefighting is a massive community endeavour, heavily reliant on volunteer firefighters, drivers, food donations, co-ordination, evacuation assistance and so on.  The recent Cape Town fire (which started 1st March) used more than 400 firefighters, burned for 5 days, turned to charcoal more than 5,500 hectares of land – and at many points seemed unstoppable, with huge flames and the front line spreading for kilometres.  On the 4th day of the fire, a local radio station hosted a fundraising phone-a-thon for one of the volunteer firefighting services, and raised – in the space of about 12 hours – approximately 14x their original target.  Corporates and individuals called in, pledging their financial support to the firefighting non-profit.  It was a truly spectacular fundraising success.  To the volunteer organisation’s enormous credit, their social media campaign was impeccable all the way through the 5-day fire.  It was textbook campaign excellence and the phone-a-thon results reflected this clearly.

Along with this fundraising success came the very necessary questions from concerned members of the public and social media commentators.  These questions focused on how non-profit causes are promoted; who decides on which causes are provided with media platforms for fundraising; whose lives and homes are privileged for fundraising, while others’ are deemed unimportant; does money always go to the already-resourced organisations; what about the hundreds of people routinely losing everything to shack fires that break out in squatter communities?

These are just some of the questions that put the notion of “fundraising success” under a social justice lens, and which invite scrutiny and interrogation of the politics of public fundraising appeals.  I have had many discussions, arguments and debates since the fires about the profiling of some causes above others, and about the role of activists and organisations in shaping public understanding about social issues. While those discussions are far-reaching and complex, the key question remains about how individuals make decisions about what they are going to give their hard-earned cash to.

Below are listed the five top reasons, in my opinion, why people give:

  1. Passion – what is in our hearts. Often this isn’t something we can account for or necessarily explain at first, but when it connects, you feel it. As per the recent Cape Town example, if we care about the environment in general, and the Table Mountain National Park in particular (which was spectacularly affected in the fires), then supporting a volunteer firefighting organisation is a “no-brainer”.
  2. Values – and the ability to identify with a cause. The issues or causes that connect with our values are those most likely to catch our attention and hook us in. So if we value grit, determination and perseverance, for example, then again the “Cape Town Fires” cause is an obvious one to support because of the sheer scale and duration of the firefighting effort.
  3. Urgency – this is often a key reason, where crisis can play an important role in getting involved in supporting an issue or cause. If it is apparent that your giving, right at the moment, is going to make a difference, if your immediate action is going to make an immediate and visible difference, then this is often what will pull individuals towards getting involved through funding support. We like to see how our contribution is making a difference.
  4. Availability of information – it is much easier to give to a cause when we know the the current state of play of a cause, and what kind of support is required – with clear and easy-to-access information on the different ways in which we can help or the different kinds of support we can provide. With social media, most people expect to be able to access immediate and up-to-date information. Not being able to do so is likely to lose an organisation its support quite quickly. The Cape Town fires are a really excellent example of up-to-the-minute communications – at any given point those with access to facebook and twitter were able to get information not only on the status of the fires, but on what particular help and support was required at any given time at any given fire station. Good, timeous communication is the key to any cause attracting support.
  5. Easy processes for giving – linked directly to the point above, the easier it is to help and support and contribute and donate, the more likely people are to do it. Social media provided an incredible platform for sharing information about the fires and how to support. Drop-off points for material donations were clearly advertised, specific calls were made about what to donate and where to take it, and banking details were repeatedly made available online on facebook pages.

There are a number of other motivators for giving:

  1. Low-risk causes – If a cause is low-risk, and there is unlikely to be some kind of negative social impact on oneself in being associated with a particular issue. For examples, children and animals are very popular to support because they are what we call “soft issues”.
  2. A public face – If there is a public figure, or a face, or a character that fronts a cause, and if people are able to identify with that figure
  3. Telling a good story – If there is a particular story associated with a cause, and people can relate to the story.

Gabrielle Ritchie on Cape Talk Radio and Radio 702, in discussion with Bruce Whitfield about what motivates people to give