The Effect of Competing Giving Behaviours on Social Impact activity

The social impact space is buzzing. Social entrepreneurship is the next “rock star” career, there’s more investment flowing into social ventures, more pitching competitions and more attention to this wonderful philosophy of making money and solving development challenges – at the same time.

In the last year at forgood (South Africa’s largest volunteering platform), we’ve seen the following micro-trends playing out:

  • Corporate employee volunteering is growing – more than 18,000 employees are now registered on various forgood employee volunteering platforms.
  • Corporates still prefer tried-and-trusted volunteering events to more individualised, personalised volunteering interventions. We think this will change as employees start to realise just how broad the opportunity is to get involved with specific skills- based volunteering.
  • Causes (non-profits) are starting to embrace technology on a broader scale, increasingly leveraging Google Grants, social media and crowdsourcing skills to plug gaps in their organisations. Our favourite example is one volunteer on forgood who has built more than 25 websites for 25 different Causes – by himself!
  • The rise of the social enterprise. Increasingly, Causes are trying to lower reliance on donor/grant funding by creating sellable products and services, including launching for-profit arms.
  • BBBEE is changing – recent construction industry codes put more of an emphasis on building actual infrastructure in order to get SED points, a strong move away from companies just writing 18A tax-friendly SED cheques…

Yet it still feels like South Africa is behind the curve of “developed world” giving behaviours. The money donation market is tiny. The volunteering market is in its infancy. Workplace giving programmes are fragmented at best, non-existent at worst. Why? If anything, this space is low-hanging fruit in a country like ours.

At forgood, we’ve been playing with a theory for a while now: the effect of competing giving opportunities on giving behaviours. Like many challenges, these are often quite unique to our country.

When you think about giving, there’s a lot going on.

Extended Family Giving (Black Tax). While I’m completely unqualified to talk about this – giving within family units constitutes a very real flow of money in South Africa.

Community Giving (Stokvels and Community Support). Both formal and informal community giving programmes can take a fair chunk of your monthly income.

Faith-Based Giving. Tithing and church donations are right up there as mainstream giving behaviours in South Africa.

Socio-Economic Giving. For the privileged few, a lot of giving occurs within the scope of employment. Domestic Helpers and Gardeners are often the target of giving activity (sometimes whether they like it or not).

Traffic Light Tax. South Africa is a very unequal society, so from informal parking guards toreal victims of poverty that hang out at many major road intersections, the opportunity to give is never far from sight, never out of mind.

With all these factors competing for attention, it feels like there’s very little time for skills-based volunteering into the non-profit sector. Citizens don’t have a lot of headspace for this type of involvement… yet.

We think this will change – and we’re seeing it change. Last year, our corporate volunteering clients did more activity in one year than the previous three years combined. South Africans and South African companies are finally starting to learn how powerful volunteering can be. It’s a slow, but rewarding process. Watch it scale in 2019.

Andy Hadfield

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