A move towards innovative philanthropy

By Tina Thiart

The Southern African Community Grantmakers Leadership is a Network of Leaders in South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe that brings together leaders of community grantmaker organisations in a knowledge-sharing and peer-learning partnership to strengthen social justice philanthropy in Southern Africa. The Forum (SACGLF) aims to enhance the growth and sustainability of the independent development funding sector in the region by developing the knowledge and capacity of leadership personnel, with a special focus on sustainability and governance issues.

As part of our sustainability strategies we work with business and individuals and influence philanthropists to consider more investment in social change and poverty alleviation in the region. During the past year we have noticed more innovation investment in business development and more investment in the strengthening of governance and sustainable business models. No longer do investors look for the “feel good” organisations but rather they want to build local business to ensure that their own businesses are sustainable and that they meet the requirements of the local governments to invest in local business. This in itself is not a bad idea, as we still have a small number of African businesses that can compete in the region and only a few self-made businessmen who are at this stage taking up all opportunities. Enterprise Development has become the new vehicle to address poverty and increase the number of people who are doing business, and philanthropists are investing in building new business and new business partners in the region.

During the last “Mandela Day—give 67 minutes of your time to an organisation”,  we also noticed a shift in giving, and top businessmen started to invest in sharing knowledge and ideas. Business leaders who spend the time to work around increasing reporting structures, marketing plans and accountability also step up to look at the challenges of the non-profit sector from a different angle, and suggest more investment in moving small income-generating projects to scale and encourage enterprise development. Once again we experience the move away from traditional forms of philanthropy, charitable contributions and a move towards innovative forms of philanthropy that leverage the unique skills of company leaders.

Many companies in South Africa now invest in employee volunteerism and encourage the employees to work with charitable organisations, rewarding the organisations with a small grant towards their operating cost. The corporate volunteer can also access equipment, other skilled workers and can bring more services to the organisation, which can be a big savings on operating cost, while providing valuable services that may otherwise be a financial burden on the organisation.

Community Grantmakers who want to partner with business need to embrace innovation and move to meet businesses in their efforts to invest in social change.

Tina Thiart is the Director at Southern African Community Grantmakers Leadership Forum and previously from INWF, and currently serves on the WINGS Board of Directors.

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