Defend Truth


Who gives in South Africa and to whom?


Shelagh Gastrow provides advisory services to the philanthropy sector, higher education advancement and non-profit sustainability. She works with individuals and families on how to integrate their wealth and their values into meaningful and effective philanthropy. From 2002-2015 she was founder and executive director of Inyathelo and focused her efforts on strengthening civil society and universities through programmes to develop their financial sustainability whilst promoting philanthropy in SA. Her work has gained public recognition locally and internationally.

Three reports clearly show the drivers of charitable and philanthropic giving in South Africa, as well as the difference between charity which often provides for relief while philanthropy looks beyond the day-to-day issues towards socio-economic systemic change. Both ways of giving are important for our civil society and generally it is clear that South Africa is a nation of givers, regardless of levels of income.

Three recent reports on giving have provided information on charitable and philanthropic practice in South Africa. The latest is SA Giving 2017 which has been produced by the Charities Aid Foundation Southern Africa and it explores the different ways that people donate and volunteer and why they give; the second is the Nedbank Private Wealth Giving Report lll published in 2016 and the third, produced in 2016, is entitled Form and Function, published by GastrowBloch Philanthropies, and focuses on the financial and operational practices of South African Private Philanthropic Foundations. These three reports provide an interesting overview of the state of giving in South Africa and clearly distinguish between charitable and philanthropic practice.

The South Africa Giving 2017 focused on a wide range of income brackets and it was clear that the main driver of general giving in the country is alleviating poverty. More than half (58%) reported that they had made donations to help the poor, and a large percentage of those who volunteered their time also involved themselves in activities that alleviated poverty. In addition to helping the poor, the other most popular causes were religious organisations and support for children. The report revealed that the vast majority of South Africans (88%) had participated in charitable activities, and that 81% had given money. This money had generally gone to a charity, a faith-based organisation or to an individual. Of interest was that the most popular method of making a donation was a donation box in a supermarket or a shop and the median donation was R500. A high percentage of volunteers (48%) worked in their religious organisations.

The Nedbank Private Wealth Giving Report lll focused on high net worth individuals rather than the general population, 56% of whom had an income of between R1.5-R5-million per annum. Most of the respondents indicated that “professional success” was the source of their income, while others were involved in family businesses or start-up companies. More than 66% owned their own businesses or were self-employed and the majority were university graduates. Only 7% indicated that they had inherited their wealth. Similar to the South Africa Giving 2017 report, the most popular driver for giving was “social and community development” (69%) which would be aligned to alleviating poverty. Religious institutions were second on the list, as they were in the South Africa Giving 2017 report. The amount given was clearly higher than that reported in South Africa Giving 2017 as the sample group were wealthier. In this case 25% of givers made gifts of more than R50,000 and 60% gave less than R25,000. Givers that linked their giving to religious beliefs tended to give more. An interesting element to emerge from this report was the importance of networks and personal contact with individuals and organisations in determining where the funding should go. When asked what sectors they most trusted to effect social change in South Africa, they showed greater confidence in the corporate sector and religious institutions with “hardly any” confidence in government as a “change-maker”. However, non-profit organisations were supported by 64% of respondents, whilst advocacy groups and political parties were the least likely to receive funding (3%).

The Form and Function report focused on the practices of South African private philanthropic foundations and it is evident that philanthropic giving is substantially different from charitable giving in that there is often a clear strategy to leverage systemic change. The Giving Report lll provides a definition of Strategic Giving as follows : “Strategic giving relates to any contribution made according to a deliberate and considered plan to make an impact.”

The Giving Report lll points out that most givers made donations without any strategy or budget, although larger donations were more likely to plan their giving.

Where a major difference is evident between philanthropic foundations and individual charitable giving is in the recipients of funding. While individuals give to help the poor or to their religious organisations, philanthropic entities focus substantially on educational initiatives at all levels, from early childhood development through to higher education. Whilst some provided welfare funding, many of the grantees were required to measure the outcomes of the grants. Other areas funded including health, social justice, the environment, entrepreneurship and the arts. In contrast to the findings in the Giving Report lll that only 3% of high-net worth individuals would give to advocacy groups, established philanthropy saw great value in social justice organisations that were involved in research and advocacy. This could be viewed as taking a more strategic approach to making the changes necessary in our society in accordance with our constitution and human rights. The Giving Report lll revealed a greater alignment between philanthropy and corporate social investment in that 92% of corporates were giving to educational causes, followed by social and community development.

The above information is important for any non-profit organisation’s fund raising efforts. If an organisation wishes to target individual giving, there has to be a realistic assessment of the causes most South Africans would support. From the two reports that focused on individuals, it was clear that poverty was the leading concern and charitable funding was provided to improve people’s life experience.

The importance of networks and personal involvement in an organisation is a critical issue for non-profit organisations. Building relationships that result in trust between the donor and recipient is an important part of fund raising that is often overlooked as is the role, reputation and voice of organisational leaders. Our frequent reliance on submitting fund raising proposals without any relationship has mostly proved to be an exercise in futility. It was also important to note that despite the growth of on-line giving platforms, only 2% of HNW individuals used the platforms to identify potential funding recipients, although social media provided significant information on various organisations.

The Form and Function report also revealed that many philanthropic foundations did not accept unsolicited proposals and this made it difficult for grant-seeking organisations to identify and connect with potential donors. However, increasing numbers of South African philanthropic entities now have websites that outline their giving practice. It would be important to understand their giving priorities that have been strategically designed and also how to approach them as a first step in building a relationship.

These three reports clearly show the drivers of charitable and philanthropic giving in South Africa, as well as the difference between charity which often provides for relief while philanthropy looks beyond the day-to-day issues towards socio-economic systemic change. Both ways of giving are important for our civil society and generally it is clear that South Africa is a nation of givers, regardless of levels of income. DM


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