IPASA Best Practice Guidelines during Covid19

As leaders in philanthropy, we recognize the critical need to act with urgency to support our non-profit partners as well as the people and communities hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19.

We invite our IPASA members to show their leadership commitment in the philanthropic sector in South Africa by joining us in making these commitments and collectively holding ourselves accountable to them.

These commitments are:

  • To ‘loosen or eliminate the restrictions on current grants so that grantees have maximum flexibility to respond to COVID-19 by allowing grantee partners receiving project support to convert the project grants to general support.
  • To provide additional general support funding currently to help grantees deal with operational issues arising from the crisis
  • To accelerate or change the payment schedules to assist grantees to access funds faster to deal with urgent issues arising from the crisis
  • To not hold grantees responsible and not withhold or claim back funds if conferences, events, and other project deliverables must be postponed or cancelled due to Covid19
  • To make new grants as unrestricted as possible, so non-profit partners have maximum flexibility to respond to this crisis.
  • To reduce expectations and deliverables of our non-profit partners, delaying grant deliverables, postponing reporting requirements, site visits, and other demands on their time during this challenging period.
  • To support new organisations and new projects that have been created and led by the communities most affected by the virus, that we may not fund currently.
  • To contribute to community-based emergency response funds and other efforts to address the health and economic impact on those most affected by this pandemic.
  • To communicate proactively and regularly about our decision-making and response to provide helpful information while not asking more of grantee partners.
  • To commit to listening to our partners and especially to those communities least heard, lifting their voices and experiences to inform public discourse and our own decision-making so we can act on their feedback.
  • Support, as appropriate, grantee partners advocating for important public policy changes to fight the pandemic and help the populations who will be hardest hit by the coronavirus emergency.  Together with our grantees, we can use our platforms to advocate for these kinds of policies.
  • Learn from these emergency practices and share what they teach us about effective partnership and philanthropic support, so we may consider adjusting our practices more fundamentally in the future, in more stable times, based on all we learn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus collaboration challenge by Nazeema Mohamed, Executive Director Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement  

 

 

Coronavirus collaboration challenge

The coronavirus pandemic underlines the urgent need to address poverty and inequality through a robust civil society sector, says Nazeema Mohamed, Executive Director Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement

 

South Africa has received the biggest contribution from local philanthropy in its history. South Africa’s President, Cyril Ramaphosa, initially revealed that the Rupert and Oppenheimer families had each contributed R1 billion to help small businesses and their employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Motsepe family, in partnership with companies and organisations that they are associated with, also pledged R1 billion to help with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and its related challenges.

 

The Charity Aid Foundation Southern Africa has responded by setting up an emergency fund to support local NPOs impacted by funding shortages due to the Covid-19 crisis. The organisation is calling on individuals and corporates to donate to this fund, as they are already flooded with more requests than they can fund.

 

Facebook and other social media platforms are underpinning matchmaking efforts that are enabling donors to channel funds to NPOs that are working to help those desperately in need.  For example, Gift of the Givers, Africa’s largest disaster response NPO, has partnered with Vula Mobile, a network of over 11,000 health professionals, to help identify areas in need of support. Many other NPOs have created COVID-19 action plans to help those who will be hardest hit by the pandemic.

 

The rallying together of all stakeholders to prevent the transmission of the corona virus, curb the increase in fatalities and render support to the most vulnerable communities, demonstrates the power of philanthropy, collaboration and effective communication.

 

Examining government’s response to the pandemic, we should recognise the positive initiatives that have been implemented. Government’s Solidary Fund, chaired by Ms Gloria Serobe, is enabling, individuals and organisations to support relief efforts through tax-deductible donations.  The African Union COVID19 Response Fund, too, was established on 26 March. Members pledged the sum of $12.5 million and an additional $4.5million to the Africa Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.

Having acknowledged all that is positive, it is also important to note the cognitive dissonance of many during this time.   While grateful for the proactive approach by government and the funding made available by philanthropy, posts on social media offer critique and express cynicism and discomfort. Sentiments expressed portray concerns that 26 years after the birth of our democracy, South Africa still has large numbers of informal settlements; and  basic human rights such as the right to employment, housing, education, health care, safety and security are far from being achieved.  The lament is that if we had made progress in this regard then the fight against this virus would have been a less complex one. There is anger over all the wasted government funds siphoned out through corruption. Horror is expressed at the level of wealth of South Africa’s wealthiest families.

The blame game at this time is not helpful but it is important that our historical trajectory and failures receive robust and critical analysis.

 

There have been clarion calls for non-profit organisations (NPOs) to assist with the distribution of food parcels and water, for support to parents responsible for home schooling, for assistance with communicating the importance of social distancing and the actions required to stay healthy. Non-profits which work in sectors such as food security, gender-based violence, youth and children, care for the elderly and popular education are finding that the social issues that led to their formation have amplified and that they are increasingly being asked for support.

 

We also notice the fissures and cracks coming to the fore. Many non-profits will not survive because of funding constraints.  The ability to organise in a time of lock-down requires financial capacity and support and new ways of working.  At the very basic level of operations, data has become an issue. In lock down, technology platforms like WhatsApp, Zoom and Skype have assisted greatly with our ability to do work, but many NPOs cannot afford the data costs that accompany the use of these platforms.

The challenges we have on data reflect the challenges of implementation and support by the relevant arms of government.  Central to the role played by government is the limited capacity and accessibility of the Directorate for NPO support in the Department of Social Development (DSD). There is also a concerning attitude towards civil society that sees worthiness only in the work of NPOs that facilitate the work of the DSD.

 

The absence of the non-profit sector in the discussions of national government at this time is a reflection of this line of thinking.  I also believe it is the consequence of an innate weakness in the conceptual and implementation capabilities of national governance systems when it comes to the sector as a whole.

 

It highlights a problematic approach that excludes organisations that play an important monitoring and evaluation role, a watchdog role that seeks to promote social justice and protect our Constitution and democracy.

 

To date, the President’s addresses to the nation on COVID-19 and actions that will be taken to mitigate the risks have excluded the non-profit sector.  It is extremely worrying that a sector of this size has been omitted from government’s disaster management plan rescue package. This situation must be corrected and it is important that philanthropy and the NPO sector collaborate and draw government’s attention to the oversight.

 

We cannot carry on without fully addressing the huge challenges of poverty and inequality, and this requires a robust civil society.  We also cannot carry on working in silos.  In the NPO sector there is a need to work collaboratively.  It is important to raise our concerns about the state of civil society and the potential destruction of the non-profit sector, more so because the sector has taken 25 years to recover from the leadership crisis that emerged with the recruitment of non-profit leaders into government.  We cannot afford another crisis.

 

Contact: info@inyathelo.org.za. The Ask Inyathelo site here is home to a wealth of online articles, video clips, podcasts and other resources;  and the Inyathelo Non-profit Clinic here  provides one-on-one mentorship, training and advice to NPOs and higher education institutions, with a specific focus on their sustainability and Advancement needs.

 

 

From Credit Suisse to COVID-19 to Strategic-No-Brainer – By Lindy Van Hasselt

 

“It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose.” – David Quammen

 

The Credit Suisse Global Investment Returns Yearbook, published by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, in collaboration with London Business School and Cambridge University professors, is the authoritative guide to historical long-run financial returns. This article was going to be a summary of the third chapter titled, ESG (environmental, social or governance) Investing.

Well the Covid-19 bomb blew that idea out of the water, along with going out for a cup of coffee or a stroll along the Sea Point Promenade. So here is what I wrote instead as it became crystal clear that Covid, bats and investing are closely related.

 

If the realisation of the impact of climate breakdown on our sustainable future on earth can be likened to a flickering torch beam slowly getting closer, Covid-19 is the equivalent of beaming a halogen spotlight on those activities that impact on planetary health. Several theories propose that it is our destruction of the environment that created the conditions for this pandemic, a hidden cost of unbridled human economic development. David Quammen, author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Pandemic, recently wrote an article in the New York Times titled, “It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose.”

 

Caught in this blinding Covid-19 spotlight is the philanthropic community, together with our investment advisers, stockbrokers and banks. In pursuit of maximising returns most of us invest our endowments in successful mining, manufacturing and construction companies. Companies that often drive environmental and social damage. We invest significant time and effort in giving away four or five percent of our endowments but turn a blind eye to the collateral damage of our investments, the harm-causing activities, some of which we expect our grantees to address. For example, we fund health programmes and invest in British American Tobacco; we fund early childhood development and foetal alcohol syndrome research but are invested in brewing companies; we fund environmental programmes and invest in high carbon emitting mining companies; we fund social justice and invest in companies that exploit the poorest and most marginalised.

 

We subject our grantees to rigorous selection processes and onerous monitoring and evaluation, yet we may not have considered applying the same rigour to the funds or companies we invest in to account for their environmental, and social impacts. By not aligning our most powerful weapon, our assets, with our missions, we may unknowingly be undermining the causes we so passionately advocate for and confining our efforts within a damaged system rather than tackling the necessary changes to the system itself. It seems we may have lost sight of the invisible connections between the wellbeing of humans, other life on earth and ecosystems.

 

In fairness, pre Covid-19, the subject of ESG (environmental, social or governance) investing, also known as responsible investing, was a topic gaining traction. Simply put, how do we want our assets to be a force for good, or at least do no harm?  Approaches range from removing (divesting) from the investment portfolio and avoiding (exclusions) adding to the investment portfolio, corporates or sectors that fail ethical criteria – though to shareholder activism to influence or force change where there is room to improve.

 

Now we sit, caught in the spotlight of Covid-19, watching our endowment values plummet at the same pace infections rise. We are grappling with what we can do in this time of crisis and simultaneously wonder what the financial impact is going to be on our ability to support our grantees in future. Do we continue to chase maximising returns or do we  join the rising groundswell of opinion that we need a new economic order, one that acknowledges that if we carry on at the current rate of pillage and exploitation of the earth, and one another, Covid-19 is going to look like just a warning shot across our bows.

 

This is where Chapter 3 of the Credit Suisse Global investment Returns Yearbook comes into the spotlight. It asks and answers the question: “Does virtue have its own rewards in terms of higher returns and lower risk? Or do ESG investors need to sacrifice return and diversification opportunities as the price for their principles?”

 

I will skip straight to their conclusions. “Investment strategies based on exclusions (avoiding corporates or sectors that fail ethical criteria) are on average likely to face a small return and diversification sacrifice. The magnitude of this is unlikely to be material.” Their research also showed that “deep engagement with investee companies offers financial as well as non-financial rewards” and “when an activist cooperates with other investors this enhances the success rate for such interventions. “

 

What the Credit Suisse data analysis is telling us, is that investing responsibly is a win-win scenario, it’s not going to impact your bottom line and its good for the planet. And if we act together, we will have greater success.

 

As asset owners we have significant power and leverage to shift systems and catalyse change. Covid-19 is an immense opportunity for philanthropy to lead the charge and use our collective assets to champion responsible investment. What that halogen spotlight is highlighting is responsible investing is no longer a choice for philanthropy, it is a strategic no-brainer.

 

Lindy Rodwell van Hasselt – Relationship Director – The Lewis Foundation

Cell: 082 493 1991 – Email: lindy.r@global.co.za