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.

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 as active citizenship in South Africa


Gabrielle Ritchie, Director: The Change Room

19th May 2016

Do you regard yourself as an active citizen, as someone who is involved in and part of society around you?  If you do, you no doubt also feel a sense of responsibility for what goes on around you, and see yourself as very much part and parcel of your community, its dynamics, politics, economics and culture.  If you see yourself as an active citizen, you most likely have a deep sense of caring about what happens around you.  And you probably want to “make a difference”.  I am talking about an involvement beyond one’s day-to-day work/home/family existence.

As many citizens as there are, so too are there as many ways of being an active citizen.  This kind of energised and committed involvement in what goes on around, and the belief in your own potential to influence the future in some small (or big) way, can manifest in a wide range of forms.  Popular or common channels to express one’s commitment to the future of one’s neighbourhood, city, country, and/or globe included, amongst a myriad others:

  • starting or volunteering at a non-profit initiative in your community (eg. literacy support, support for girl children and other vulnerable groups, aged citizens care, feeding those without homes, animal rescue, after-school programmes)
  • involvement in community-level “improvement” initiatives (eg. street and park clean-up, donations of books to your local library)
  • participation in resident’s associations and pushing for improvements through a city council
  • writing a blog on what goes on in your geographic area, or your area of socio-political interest
  • writing op eds for news platforms on topical issues
  • involvement in community arts, music, theatre, choir, sports etc
  • initiating and/or signing petitions in support of a political, policy or environmental issue, for example
  • protest action, or support for protest action, related to local, national or global issues
  • speaking out in the face of injustice – on local, national and/or global issues.
  • making information widely available that is of public value that might otherwise be inaccessible to most

A key way of demonstrating your sense of commitment to social development is, of course, through financial donation and support for causes and organisations with which you share values and goals.  All initiatives need financial support, and providing this at a level appropriate to your own capacity to give, is a critical channel to express active citizenship.

You might already be doing some of the actions in the bullet-list above, or some of the many that are not listed.  This post, though, is to encourage you also to provide whatever financial support you are able, in whatever way you are able.

The Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards, South Africa’s annual awards programme recognising those who have made remarkable philanthropic financial contributions to social development, has demonstrated the extent to which anybody can be a philanthropist.  Across South Africa, individuals contribute what they can in support of a cause they believe in, an initiative they belief to be key to improving the lives of those around them.   These awards have not been about how much individuals have been able to give, but rather what they have been able to achieve with the levels of giving of which they are capable.

Philanthropy in South Africa (see @philanthroPISA for local tweets on this topic) is wide and deep and full of different kinds of giving in terms of how, why, when, to whom and how much.  There are examples of every kind of giving.  Where do you fit in? What kind of philanthropist are you? And how does philanthropy fit into your efforts to be an active citizen?

To read stories of inspiring philanthropy in South Africa, go to https://za.pinterest.com/inyathelo/inspiring-south-african-philanthropists/








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.




Philanthropy: You don’t have to be rich

It’s usually those with money who say “Money isn’t everything”, right? Now you can even be a philanthropist without necessarily having oodles of spare cash. In a July 2014 article in the Guardian penned by Cheryl Chapman of City Philanthropy (London, UK), effective philanthropy today is “not about what you give, but the way that you give it”. Size should not matter, writes Chapman – “it’s what you do with your resources that can really count” (http://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2014/jul/11/why-you-dont-have-to-be-rich-to-be-a-philanthropist).

I completely agree.

Agreeing with the notion that “you don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist” surfaces the obvious question, though, of “what is a philanthropist?” So allow me to share the working definition that I use:  a philanthropist is somebody who takes their own cash and spends it on supporting a cause that they believe in, a cause that they believe will improve their community, contribute to social development, and contribute to redressing social advantage/ disadvantage and crippling inequity.   There are many many kinds of giving, and many ways to give and many things to give of and to – but my working definition of philanthropy is that it is about giving financially (ie. money) and it is about supporting social development, and it is about giving in a way that itself is designed (in the giving process) to redress social inequity and injustice.  And you really don’t have to be rich, then, to be a philanthropist.

We should all, as engaged citizens, support social development.  We need to give what we can to causes and initiatives that we believe will make a quantifiable (or qualifiable) difference to the intended person, or groups of people, or issue.  We can give in small amounts, regularly.  We can give once-off when we have the money.  We can pool our resources and form a  giving circle, now becoming increasingly popular as a way of engaging in social development.  But it is about how the giving happens, what the intention is, what cause or initiative is supported, and what the long-term systemic impact is intended to be.  It is about active citizenship and standing up to be counted.  It is about being able to answer the question: “So what did YOU do to make things different?”.  Its the counter-balance to social and civil apathy and dependency.

Defining philanthropy as such is in no way intended to undermine or negate the enormous value of more immediate needs-based giving.  Such support is the very stuff of what makes us human, it is the essence of community, it is the thread that binds us.  People give to support people in crisis, giving food or blankets or money, for example.  We give to “the poor”.  We give because we want to “help those in need”.  We give time, we give energy, and we often give expertise and support.

I spent the last eight years working with Inyathelo, an organisation based in Cape Town, South Africa on communicating almost the same message.  In South Africa, we have been promoting the notion that anybody can be a philanthropist, and can give their own money to a social justice or social development cause geared at addressing imbalances or at correcting systemic wrongs.  I came on board at Inyathelo to establish the annual Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards, South Africa’s key point of recognition for our local philanthropy heroes.  I came on to establish the concept and the process and to make this philanthropy promotion agenda a national one.

The key message shared every year at these awards, and across the now +60 people who have been recognised through an Inyathelo Philanthropy Award, is that it doesn’t matter how much you give, it’s what you manage to leverage with your giving that counts.  It doesn’t matter how much you give, its what you achieve with what you are able to contribute. And it doesn’t matter how much you give, it matters rather that you give in a way that reflects a different social dynamic – one that doesn’t get played out across the haves/ have-nots divide, but happens differently, as co-creation, co-development, co-activism.

This last one is the tough nut to crack.  How do we give in ways that are about co-creation, co-development and co-activism?  If we can get that right, and share resources in a way that doesn’t recreate and entrench existing structures and dynamics of power and privilege, then we will be on the right platform to start creating a just society.

Giving is the new black?

So giving is the new black?  It’s a catchy line.  I saw it on pinterest, via the Johnson Center for Philanthropy, and I like it.  It’s kind of witty, and clever, and a bit of lighthearted fun.  But is it even vaguely true?  I’m not so sure.  Giving being the new black implies that it’s hip and happening and, basically, everyone is doing it.  So let’s check “Giving” out:

1. Traditionally, pretty much every community in the history of the world has given of their own (time, energy, resources) for the common good.  This might have been done in the form of waqf or tithes, or similar, through politico-religious structures, or might have been represented by the pulling together of community to build a fence, hunt a buck, plough a field, dig a well.  For the common good. And for community development.

2. Which begs the question: have we moved so far from traditional community and the ties that bind us together as community, and have we privatised resources and access to resources to such an extent that we now have to be persuaded to “give”? To contribute to the common good?

3. Well, simply, yes.  So be it.  So we have moved on.

4. And now we are all going to hover around the kid in the playground who has the sweets while he or she climbs to progressively higher ground to get away from the open and, likely, grabbing hands. Or else we are the kid with the sweets, who ends up not going out onto the playground at break time because we would rather sit quietly on our own, or with the other kids with sweets, and eat our sweets in peace. Or, when there are enough of us, we will find and block off our own area of the playground and pay (with a sweet) some sweet-less kids to guard our turf and keep the sweet-less out.

3. And so we make a choice (and apologies for my fatuous use of the playground analogy, but i am quite liking it – cos its all about value and power and how these are constructed). If we are the sweets-holder, we can remove ourselves and surround ourselves with barriers (of all kinds – colour, language, dress, geography, transport mode and other trappings) in the hope that the sweet-less can’t and don’t break through.  We can choose every now and again to drop a sweet or two over the barriers. We can get the sweet-less to do stuff for us, for a sweet or two. We can become more open and transparent about what sweets we have, what we are keeping, and what we are willing to share.  We can tell the sweet-less what they must do with the sweets we shared with them.

4. Or we can move out from behind our barriers, and engage directly with the sweet-less about the sweets that are being shared, and how we can best share them so that everyone benefits. Or …. or … we could hand over all our sweets in a structured way so that they are most widely shared with most people over the longest time.  Nah, that wont happen.

So here we are, the generally sweet-less trying to persuade those kids occupying the best part of the playground that they really should share some of their sweets with us.  Because sharing is caring?  Because it will be better for all of us, including the sweet-holders, if we all had sweets?  Yes, fewer for each of us, but each one has something.

Okay,  I have to stop now with the sweet thing.  Glycaemic index is peaking.  Let’s go back to the fundamentals of giving and why we are in a position where the disparity between the rich and the poor is so great, so wide, so apparently unbreachable.  And let’s give some thought to how we all want to “End Poverty Now”.  By asking those with lots of cash to share some of it.

The really suspect part here is that we are asking those people who have the cash – who made the cash by denying others sufficient income to constitute a living wage, who have accrued wealth by maintaining levels of socio-economic poverty – to share some of that accrued wealth to end the very poverty they were part of creating.

While we ponder that, though, and while we wonder how we are going to end poverty by persuading those living in wealth to share some of their accumulated wealth, lets wonder also how to end greed.  Lets think about how to end political greed, individual greed, corporate greed, community greed.

And then, in the meantime, let’s give anyway – give strategically, invest in social justice, contribute to effecting systemic change in ways that break down the systems of rampant accumulation.  Maybe giving is the new black.  And if it isn’t, perhaps it needs to be.