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How you can be a donor to the right cause in a time of festivity


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.

There are many opportunities for constructive giving, depending on the donors’ passions or interests, but also, especially at this time of year, it’s possible to bring some relief to others less fortunate.

South Africans are perhaps not feeling very festive when the lights are out, but no doubt as more of us take our summer holidays, we will enter the spirit of the season and spend time on vacation or with family.

South Africa has more than 230,000 registered non-profit organisations. That does not include the unregistered entities. Every organisation views the work it does as extremely important and there are repeated calls from various sectors to prioritise. The argument is based on what can have the most systemic impact, in particular early childhood education, job creation, social justice and human rights, health and the environment. From different perspectives, these calls are all valid, but many donors flounder when trying to select where to make their contribution.

Research has shown that most individuals make donations to causes they feel deeply about and with which they have some sort of personal connection. This often means priority is given to religious entities, educational institutions or animal projects.

As we move into the festive season, people are giving thought to the potential of making a charitable contribution. Usually, any donation over R100,000 is subject to 20% tax, so it is important to know that there are actually tax benefits associated with giving to organisations registered with SARS as Public Benefit Organisations (PBOs) with 18A status. This means that the donor can deduct the amount of the donation against their taxable income. According to SARS: “The Income Tax Act allows for a deduction, against the taxable income of any taxpayer of any bona fide donation made to an approved organisation, agency, institution or department of government listed in section 18A(1) of the Act. The deduction is limited to 10% of the taxpayer’s taxable income.”

A claim can be made in your tax return based on an 18A certificate issued by the recipient organisation if it has qualified for 18A status with SARS. This can only be issued for donations received in cash or kind, but not for free or volunteer services and the donor cannot impose any conditions to the donation that could benefit him/herself or any “connected person”.

There are many opportunities for constructive giving, depending on the donors’ passions or interests, but also, especially at this time of the year, it’s possible to bring some relief to others less fortunate.

One way of making an immediate impact is to support the growing movement of after-school programmes that come in all shapes and forms. They ensure that children have some form of supervision after school and activities that keep them away from alcohol, drugs and even gang or criminal involvement. So many of these organisations have played a critical role in building self-esteem and have provided the opportunity for many young people to change their life circumstances.

According to the Western Cape Government’s After School Game Changer programme, there are “far too many young people in the province who are leaving school each day and entering unsafe, violent neighbourhoods and homes with no adult supervision. This leaves them at high risk of destructive and anti-social behaviour including abusing alcohol and drugs, engaging in sex and becoming involved in gangs, which threaten their future and, more often than not, leaves them trapped in a cycle of poverty.”

The After School Game Changer programme offers the following statistics on its website :

  • According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) survey of substance abuse, risk-taking behaviour and mental health of grade 8-10 learners in the province, 44% of grade 10 learners are sexually active, 27.6% of youth at school are regular smokers, 22.4% of youth at school are daily drinkers, 10% are regular cannabis users and 2.5% are hard drug users;
  • Among our learners, just under half who enter the school system drop out before matric, which is ascribed in part to falling behind academically and experiencing a lack of belonging; and
  • The narrow unemployment rate among our youth under 25 stands at 52% (Poverty and Inequality Institute).

The wide range of services offered in the area of after-school activities by non-profit organisations provide a match for the interests of most donors. Undertaking some internet research will reveal the myriad options available. However, as a caution, it is best to do some due diligence in the research. This includes checking if the organisation has a website, who its directors or trustees are as well as who else is funding it. If there is a solid list of reputable donors, then it is likely that the organisation is a going concern. If there is no mention of its board members or its current donors, that is a red flag.

Here is a list that might be of interest to those who want to make a positive contribution this festive season. If you are interested in the arts or music, either Buskaid which helps young black musicians in South Africa’s townships, the Kronendal Music Academy of Hout Bay or the Access Music Project in Makhanda would be a great start.

Sport offers huge opportunities to young people and Diski Nine9, the JAG Foundation or Waves for Change would fit the bill.

Other organisations that provide wonderful opportunities to youth include Life Choices in Cape Town and Ikamva Youth which has a national footprint.

Very specific after-school programmes are provided by Uviwe in Port Elizabeth, Hope Warriors in Soshanguve, The Viva Foundation in Cullinan and Thanda in Mtwalume, KwaZulu-Natal.

Hopefully, any connection made during these holidays can be sustained over time. Getting to know the organisation you fund can bring enormous satisfaction in knowing that you have played a part, no matter how modest, in opening up opportunities for young people and changing lives for the better. DM


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