In the Annual Review of South African Philanthropy 2019, published by the Independent Philanthropy Association South Africa (IPASA) two things stood out. The first is that there remains confusion and complexity around how philanthropy works in South Africa and how it is influenced by government. The second is the shift towards a more strategic methodology. A methodology more focused on long-term and sustainable results in areas that have remained challenging and in need of change.
Change is, in fact, one of the biggest trends identified by the report. Change in how philanthropic activities are managed, the organisations engaged in the process, and how collaboration is redefining the ways in which business engages to achieve results.
And yet there are still eight further trends that can be learned from this report and from philanthropic research:
Philanthropy doesn’t mean what you think it does
The etymology of the word is, essentially, Greek for ‘to love mankind’ but this has changed over the years to become more altruistic. Some define it as a ‘concern for human welfare’, others as ‘voluntary action for the public good’ (Robert Payton, founder, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy).
In Africa, philanthropy isn’t a word that many feel comfortable with. They prefer giving, charity and sharing.
Today, the term has been reshaped by culture, changing to mean something so much more than just to give or to care. It is about volunteering, corporate social investment (CSI), corporate citizenship and the collaboration between individual and organisation to make a practical difference.
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South African needs transparency
To truly leverage CSI, volunteering, and the multiple facets of philanthropy, it is essential to create a level of transparency. This is being driven by organisations such as IPASA (Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa), but should be part of the dialogue between agency, CSI programme and organisation. This will not only cement philanthropic endeavours in business and society as solid investments into the future of the country but it will also add no small measure of credibility to South African society.
CSI defines employee engagement
Green thinking, millennials, Generation X, plastic straws, climate change, no-fly holidays, veganism, volunteering – the world is changing. Employees don’t care that the 80s were shoulder pads and hedonistic spending or that the 90s laid the foundations for today’s climate crisis. They want ways in which to make a real difference and they work for the companies that give them that opportunity. Research from multiple organisations and sources prove that CSI programmes that get people involved also get the right people.
Relationships are the most important resource
The relationships between the organisations that orchestrate philanthropy and the ones that fund it are key to longevity. Neither one is a resource. Both are essential to long term success. Working together, collaborating and focusing on a shared vision gets the results.
Monitoring and evaluation are key
These principles are not there for the donor or the box ticking. They are there to ensure that the project and any associated volunteer work make a recognisable and measurable impact. This is what makes the difference between painting the classroom and building a foundation.
“When they arrive with their paint and their brushes, I direct them to the wall in the corner. It already looks thicker than the others.”
– Anonymous, Primary School.
Tax is still there. And it is still a challenge
Tax laws both locally and globally have a problem with defining exactly what charity is (the complexity of 18A tax exemptions being aligned to the “National Development Plan” being an excellent example).
While South Africa introduced innovative tax legislation in 2001 subsequent amendments have seen the tax laws still retain drafting anomalies that prejudice NGOs – they certainly could provide more broad-based support for volunteerism, philanthropy and social enterprise. Rosenthal goes on to explain that the legislation that came into effect in 2001 was the first attempt by the country to reformulate ancient fiscal concepts that were first drafted in England four centuries earlier.
At forgood, we’ve seen an interesting trend in BBBEE SED spend allocation. Obtaining the tax benefit of this standard 1% Net Profit After Tax budget item is paramount for business. Not all NGO’s have the infrastructure or skills to obtain the 18A compliance required to provide the tax benefit back to business. Thus we see most SED spend going to the same segment of “larger” NGOs. There is no trickle down and 80% of the NGO sector are subsequently soft locked-out of the corporate funding model.
Climate change is not a conspiracy
The world needs leadership to effect real change in the face of this growing crisis. This is where CSI programmes can make tangible differences to their return on investment and reputation. Leadership in South Africa has been sorely lacking on the political frontier but behind the scenes people like Barbara Creecy (in the area of forestry) and Gwede Mantashe (greenfields mining projects) have been making solid strides towards tangible change.
Anyone can be philanthropic
From starting your own foundation to volunteering for a good cause or working within a CSI programme, you can engage in philanthropy in multiple ways. There are no barriers to investing into philanthropic endeavours and well-developed CSI programmes offer employees a powerful tool for exploring these endeavours in a targeted and meaningful way.