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.

Data for a better South African philanthropy

Gabrielle Ritchie: Director, The Change Room

28th September 2016

Data is at the centre of many current debates in the development sector.  Certainly, data on philanthropy, grantmaking and donor funding is in hugely short supply in South Africa.  In a recent blog I attest to the absence of helpful data that can serve to inform strategy both for grantmakers and grantseekers, and that can support the rigorous development of a philanthropy infrastructure for South Africa.

Lauren Bradford, Director of Global Partnerships at the Foundation Center in the USA, recently wrote an article about the need for data globally to support the development of grounded understandings of patterns, trends, impacts, successes and failures in the grantmaking and philanthropy space towards improving grant impact.   Bradford makes a fundamental point when she explains that “… for data to be collected, processed, analyzed, and eventually shared—all while taking into account individual country contexts around the world—the data has to exist in the first place”.  South Africa is a perfect example of the absence of philanthropy data, and highlights the extent to which real analysis – of effectiveness and impact in grantmaking – is impossible in such a data-empty context.

The Foundation Center has adopted a particular strategy to tackle this yawning gap, towards developing a much-improved understanding of the impact of the billions invested in social development of one kind or another, and towards amending approaches where results have been disappointing.  Bradford outlines this approach as follows:

Foundation Center has developed a partnership program that it is implementing with philanthropic infrastructure organizations around the world to work to create a culture of data, build much needed data management capacity, and create and use data for more effective development and grantmaking outcomes. This program aims to strengthen local foundations, and associations of foundations, to develop their own long-term sustainable in-country data strategies, better understand and fill their capacity gaps through skill development, and highlight and provide tools to enable foundations to better work with data. 

One project undertaken by the Foundation Center in Kenya was designed to support those working in the Kenyan philanthropy sector to:

  • identify and agree on principles for collaborative data and knowledge management
  • identify the biggest data challenges and needs in the Kenyan philanthropy context
  • use appropriate technology effectively for collecting and sharing data and knowledge
  • agree on a set of the most important goals and priorities for data collection and knowledge management for philanthropy – both in their own organisations and as a sector in Kenya.

There are a number of disparate research initiatives and projects related to philanthropy, sources of funding, funded sectors, funded activities and foundation practice.  There have been efforts at developing an indication of the size and scope of philanthropy in South Africa – with varying degrees of success.  For example, National Treasury has recently produced a research report covering aspects of South African philanthropy, and Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement is still completing a size-and-scope study funded in 2013 through the National Lotteries Commission (no update/ current status available).

Lauren Bradford closes her article with the following persuasive encouragement to get involved in, and take responsibility for, contributing the development of the philanthropy data field:

“… next time you’re doing research to guide your decision making and you’re wondering why you can’t find data you need—from general information about an organization to a particular program’s impact or funding—ask yourself: Do you think the data exists? If not, think about how you might help to create it.”

Importantly, the “Treasury Report” indicates that almost a third (32%) of the Foundations contacted for the study did not provide any information on the required facets of the provided matrix (and received a rating of ‘None’ on the disclosure of information scale).  This references directly to the challenges of trying to identify trends in South Africa philanthropy, and to the general lack of data – which is further addressed in a report titled A Snapshot of South African Philanthropy, published in February 2016. This snapshot report provides the most recent general overview of the state of the philanthropy sector in South Africa.

To develop a national data project that would best serve the development sector – both grantmakers and grantseekers – the Foundation Center approach is sound.  We need to be thinking how, in South Africa, we could develop a similar framework to encourage the development of a national data platform on philanthropy, grantmaking, sector foci, grant amounts, strategies, partnerships, collaborations, funding impact, failures, and other key philanthropy considerations.

We need to be thinking: Does the data exist? If not, how might I help to create it?


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




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.



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.




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 http://www.inyathelo.org.za)
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 http://www.philanthropy.org.za
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 http://www.sji.org.za
8. we could review the work of the Private Philanthropy Circle (www.philanthropy.org.za), 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.