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.
Advertisements

The South African NPO Funding Crisis – again?

quote from www.resourcingphilanthropy.org.za

Gabrielle Ritchie, Director, Change Room

4th May 2017

If you think that the South African NPO sector is in a particularly tight and horrible funding crisis right now, battered from all sides by events impacting negatively on funding sources, that’s understandable.  You will have been bombarded with a range of tweets, blog posts, articles and chat around which latest local, national, regional or global event is going to make it harder for us to raise funds – and how or why it might make it harder.

I kind of have news for you, though.  Raising funding in support of your non-profit work has never been an easy task. It takes incredibly hard work, and consistent excellence in the practice of a few fundraising basics.  While it isn’t rocket science, it does take commitment, and it requires investment – in whatever way your organisation is able to invest.  This might be budget, for a staff post, a marketing campaign, the implementation of a donor CRM database, or the development of a 5-year strategy and operation plan for attracting funding.  It might be staff time, to conduct 1 hour of prospect research every day, or to staff fundraising events, or to contribute to your organisation’s public profiling efforts.  It might be your volunteers, your board members, or a series of video stories.  However your organisation is able to define “resource”, your organisation will not attract funding without some well-planned resource investment.

So is there a crisis?  Is it getting worse?  Do we need to be on constant watch for what Zuma said at #WEF2017, or Trump’s bulldozing efforts to cease foreign funding (or at least significantly contract existing funding programmes). How impactful was Zuma’s Cabinet Reshuffle, and how will those impacts play out? Does non-profit funding at a local level require economic confidence at a global level?

For every action, there is a reaction.  Basic physics, really. And funding streams have not been predictable for South African non-profits for quite some time, if ever. Since 1994, and no doubt prior to that, non-profits have been hit with one or other “latest funding crisis”.  In 1994, foreign donors decided to channel their funding through the new government’s RDP initiative, rather than fund non-profits directly. These crises have continued emerging, and will definitely continue to do so.  Change is the only constant!

This means that non-profits cannot EVER take funding for granted.  This is a serious and difficult challenge, because all organisations are focused on doing the work they were set up to do – and if funding seems to be taking care of itself, then little attention is paid to building new relationships and identifying new prospective funding sources.  For example, many social justice organisations in South Africa are funded in most part by a well-known group of social justice-focused funders.  My advice?  Do not take your eye off the ball.  We know there are no guarantees that funding will continue to come in from those same sources, but we often ignore this basic funding rule in the interests of being able to get on with the work.  Unsurprising.  But, just like in most for-profits where the next contract/ customer/ client is being sought or pitched to or chased, so too in non-profits we need to identify potential partners and pursue with vigour and commitment to bringing in that next funder, to support us in driving our work forward.

If only the funding crisis would just settle already. It isn’t going to. So is it indeed a crisis?  It feels like it for organisations struggling to find support for their work, but it has levelled out into the “existing state of affairs”. The funding terrain has its peaks and troughs, it’s easier times and rougher times – but if you had to ask any non-profit who has successfully attracted sufficient funding and support to cover overheads, “programme” costs, and growth, you will find an organisation with a strong focus on profiling their work, identifying funders, networking, building relationships – by any means necessary.  And even then, it ain’t easy.

In short, then, it is almost guaranteed that any morning news headline could be argued to have a potential impact on South African non-profit funding.  So keep your eye on what is happening out there, but definitely keep focused on building your organisational profile, ensuring excellence in organisational governance, and don’t stop looking for opportunities in their multiplicity of forms.

 

 

Digital space, civil society and nonprofits in South Africa

dfmmzzi3rmg-william-iven.jpg

Gabrielle Ritchie, Director, The Change Room

25th November 2016

So what is the state of play in South African digital civil society?  My last post looked at the importance of defending digital spaces in South Africa – but now I go back a bit, to the nitty-gritty of digital civil society. This broad phrase refers to a broad mix of concerns, approaches, practices and activities ranging from building the public profile of a cause, to defending current levels of freedom, openness and accessibility of digital space.

Enset has been running a global workshop series focused on supporting civil society organisations around the world to navigate what Enset refers to as “the complex digital landscape” to achieve online effectiveness.  Enset’s mission with these workshops and panel discussions is to identify and, likely, help create the best paths for the use of digital space by non-profits globally.

The Enset/ Resource Alliance panel discussion, of which I was a part – held at Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town on 4th October 2016 – was titled, “NGOdigitalspaces & Civil Society”.  The discussion addressed a range of issues and practice areas in the digital space, such as:

  • What is the role of Social Media in building civil society?
  • How is digital fundraising changing the donor relationship and giving overall?
  • What are some of the risks and challenges of digital spaces, and what can non-profits to address these?
  • What is the political / regulatory environment and implications of a new NPO Act in South Africa?
  • What is the future of digital spaces for civil society – opportunities, challenges and potential threats?
  • What is the importance of credibility and validation within the sector?

icw6qyocdlg-galymzhan-abdugalimov

A number of organisations and individuals spoke to their particular concerns, the work they do, and how their work serves to address their concerns.  The panel and issues included:

  1. Jeri Curry, president and CEO, Enset: introduction to the non-profit and civil society digital space, and to the work of Enset – and also navigated the panellists inputs, facilitating the discussion with great knowledge and expertise.
  2. Baratang Miya, founder and CEO, GirlHype: now here is somebody to watch and keep up with. Baratang spoke about her initiative to encourage girls into the digital and tech space, not as users but as innovators.  Great stuff.
  3. Michelle Jones, head of content for digital agency RogerWilco: Michelle shared lessons from a successful client project, showing how paying careful attention to messaging, content, design and site architecture can completely change levels, frequency and type of user interactions with your online presence
  4. Gabrielle Ritchie, Director, The Change Room: This is me – I spoke about the need to defend digital spaces, as these levels of freedom increasingly come under the state spotlight and as non-profit organisations are under pressure from government. I also shared insights about the legislative framework that currently governs this space in South Africa.
  5. Colin Habberton, IFC Ambassador, South Africa: Colin shared insights into the use of digital platforms for fundraising and for profile-building for organisations and causes, and stressed the importance – across a range of factors – of building an online profile
  6. Michelle Matthews, Head of ED and Innovation, CiTi: Michelle’s focused on trends in ICT and the digital economy, and she shared details of a fantastic digital project supporting start-up and established social enterprises and businesses, including the development of an innovative toolkit (which we all wanted a copy of!)

Are you starting to get the picture?  Around the breadth and depth of any discussions about “digital space”?

We can talk about developments in digital technology; the use of digital technologies for the promotion of civil society campaigns; the role of an online presence in promoting your non-profit organisation and in stakeholder/ supporter/ donor communications; the importance of content in building a profile and positive footprint in the online space; the role of civil society organisations in promoting and encouraging the involvement of girl learners in the digital tech space; the importance of an online presence for fundraising (both on- and off-line); the pressure (globally) on civil society and the closure of operating spaces, both physical and digital; and the legislative framework governing the use of digital technology (eg. drones for journalism) and online spaces.  That’s just the start.

In addition, there is a boatload of information that non-profits need to keep up with – such as the 2014 transition of the org.za domain (used by most South African non-profits for their web presence) to a new regulatory authority, and the implications for non-profits using org.za.  Again, just the start.

tmoegzw9ny4-william-iven

Enset’s work has had the effect not just of providing spaces to have discussions about digital spaces and civil society, but also of connecting activists and digital specialists locally and globally.  It is critical that we are talking to each other, in light of my particular concern – as per my previous post – about the defence of digital spaces as we see an increase in governments clamping down on activities that challenge their actions (or lack of action).

This space is absolutely critical for civil society organising, as a still-democratic space providing for the proliferation and platforming of a range of voices critical to debate, discussion, defining the languaging around particular issues, and moving away from the dominance of traditional media and their ownership of public discourse.  This has changed irreversibly, and this space must be defended.

Philanthropy in South Africa: Support for defending digital civil society

digital-civil-society

Image from Heinrich Boll Foundation. Creator: Niklas Hughes

Gabrielle Ritchie: Director, The Change Room

16th November 2016

Philanthropic funding is critical for a host of democracy-defending and –strengthening initiatives that would otherwise have little or no financial support at all to implement the tough work that needs to be done to defend our democratic space.  In South Africa, we must remain vigilant about our freedoms and must continue to push to ensure that rights – as per our constitution – are realised for all.

So where does digital fit into discussions on democracy, development and donors?

I have been thinking a lot about digital civil society – which, in my view, is the same thing (at least currently they remain the same) as civil society using digital technology.  A few weeks back, I had the energising experience of being part of an Enset/ Resource Alliance panel discussion in Cape Town about South African civil society and the digital space, which I will be writing about in the next week or so (so watch this space!).  It’s a huge topic, with so many sub-topics, not all of which link up neatly together.  The digital space and its implications for civil society has been a hot topic for precisely this reason – there is SO much to discuss!

One of my most favourite, self-proclaimed philanthropy wonks is Lucy Bernholz. Her latest blog post is about digital civil society and the looming threats to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, all the more threatened with the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency.   Her urgent call is that we all need to stand up, make our voices heard, and resist attempts to close down civil society space.

This is not a challenge limited to the US.  Far from it.  Increasingly across the African continent, there are noises and threats regarding the closure (or further constriction) of digital space, in addition to pressure on the physical civil society space – where it does exist – to organise and express challenges to governments.

As Bernholz says:

All our civic action – from philanthropy to protest, from petitions to polling – now takes place on a digital infrastructure. Every organization that is dedicated to helping the vulnerable, to free expression, or that understands it is simply an institutionalized form of our right to peaceable assembly and private action for public benefit should realize now that their existence depends on the rights now threatened. As civil society has closed elsewhere, so has it now been directly, overtly, and rather unabashedly threatened from the people elected to lead our government. 

The most important point that Bernholz makes, though, is that we all need to get ourselves trained up around digital space, the ways (both actual and potential) in which this space is threatened, and what we need to start doing about it. Right now.

Bernholz mentions a number of angles, including “capacity building, consulting, governance training, and technology support need to address digital governance and practices”.  And she goes on to stress that “It is not optional, it’s integral to running a safe and effective organization”.

In other words, this isn’t something we need to watch out for coming down the line.  Rather this is something that we need not only to be monitoring now, but we need to be managing the risks already, and putting place policies and practices that will ensure we are able to continue to work effectively and safely.

Ute Scheffer’s September 2016 article, No right for digital participation in many regions of the world, offers insights into the current state of play with regard to journalism and clampdowns on expression and organising.   According to Scheffer, South Africa ranked 39th of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index.  This is above the US, and only one place behind the UK. There are two thoughts on this – one is that this is very revealing about the squeeze on press freedom in these apparent bastions of democracy and freedom; the second is that having a reasonable ranking means we must maintain and increase (not loosen) our vigilance.

digital-philanthropy

It is critical to bear in mind that, with regard to digital civil society – and the digital space in which we operate – it is not just about access to news and information, but is also fundamentally about forms of communicating, organising, advocating, mobilising, and attracting resources in support of organisational and campaign work.

Organisations in South Africa working on these issues (and supported with philanthropic funding) suddenly become central to South African civil society then, right?  So who are they, what are they working on, and how do we find them?  Below are a few of the best known organisations working to defend our freedoms with regard to information, and the sharing of information in print and in the digital space.

Start engaging around our digital space, people – global trends (and Lucy Bernholz) indicate that the time is now.

Save

Save

Save

Disruptive Philanthropy: must philanthropy be disrupted?

disruptive-product-on-flickr-photo-sharing

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:

https://philanthropediasa.wordpress.com/2016/05/12/philanthropy-advisors-and-service-providers-building-the-infrastructure-for-south-african-philanthropy/

https://philanthropediasa.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/knowledgeonphilanthropy/

https://philanthropediasa.wordpress.com/2016/06/02/why-i-love-philanthropy-and-why-it-can-only-do-so-much/

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:

http://www.grantcraft.org/videos/supporting-a-new-partnership

http://www.grantcraft.org/curated-content/cross-sector-partnership-formation

http://www.grantcraft.org/guides/supporting-grantee-capacity

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

http://www.blueavocado.org/content/foundation-nonprofit-partnerships-fact-or-fiction

 

 

The struggle is real: NPO funding support in South Africa

money 1

Gabrielle Ritchie

Director, The Change Room

8th September 2016

I have been engaging recently, through training workshops, with a range of South African non-profit staffers who know what it’s like out there on the ground.  These aren’t the big-city non-profits.  These are people seriously slogging it out in under-resourced areas, looking into the big yonder and wondering how they will continue to fund the delivery of essential community services.

These services include, for example (and usually amongst many other services):

  1. HIV counselling and testing – most times these are the only entities in an area who provide this service.
  2. Trauma counselling – always these organisations are the only facility that has any capacity to provide support to those who have suffered violence, abuse, trauma, loss.
  3. Sex worker support – access to health advice, testing and treatment in a context where state clinics are unsensitised (and often hostile) to sex workers and the context in which they work.
  4. Sexual health education and resource-sharing – particularly for youth, where there are clearly insufficient resources and information available to guide and advise.
  5. Support for women survivors of gender-based violence – always the only place that women can turn to.
  6. Diversion programmes – designed to support juvenile offenders towards avoiding a life of wrong-doing and imprisonment.

These organisations are not about charity.  While they are about welfare, this is welfare in the “big” sense of the word, where these non-profits provide services and support to individuals within communities towards improving their emotional well-being and providing a place where they can be served, understood and where their issues can be held.

This is fundamentally an issue of social justice.  This is about access to wellness services.  This is about attending to the basic health and wellness needs of communities.  And this work is always under-funded, and often goes unpaid. Non-profits providing these essential services are struggling to get the attention of the state, of corporates, of individuals – and, most especially, appropriate levels of support from provincial funding pots in the departments of health, education and social development.

The work being undertaken, and the services being delivered, by these organisations are right up against the raw coalface of under-resourced and impoverished areas.  The work is often difficult and, because of under-staffing, can be hugely overwhelming.  It is becoming increasingly critical – for community support, development, and general physical, social and economic health – to ensure the long-term endurance, resilience and sustainability of these “social services” organisations.   There is no doubt that the government relies absolutely on such non-profits to deliver a range of health, wellness and support services – without which communities across the country would literally be left in the lurch.

Whether these kinds of services are needed is not up for discussion – they are critical in a global and local context of increasing inequality and social dysfunction.  Whether they must receive appropriate levels of support from  government is also not for debate – the government fully relies on this huge group of organisations, and the thousands of staff and volunteers who work at these NPOs, to  provide basic levels of community support. Whether they actually receive the required support is also a non-discussion – countless organisations rely on staff who are willing to continue working for months without salaries in times of zero funding.

These organisations are the heroes of our non-profit sector. There is nothing fun, exciting or edgy about the constant demand for their services, nor the overwhelming need for delivery of this huge range of social support interventions provided by these organisations.  But there they are – slogging it out, eking out their existence, working to make sure they are able to keep their doors open.  For the sake of the individuals who have nowhere else to turn.

Google “community counselling centre” or “sexual health centre/ clinic” in your area.  You will be amazed at what comes up. Find a local non-profit community counselling centre or clinic services centre and see how you can support the work they do. These organisations are the only option – and they are critical to our national well-being.