The value of information in donor communities By Nelson Amayo, Policy Analyst – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Together or alone. Those are fundamentally the two ways philanthropy is carried out all around the world. Each one has different objectives, interacts in distinct ways with grantees and other donors and, ultimately, values different things. In particular, there is one thing they value very differently –information.

The typical individual donor gives idiosyncratically, usually within a narrow domain of expertise or region of the world. It cherishes the freedom to choose whom to give to, values privacy, even anonymity, and often does not want any recognition for its giving – or for what that giving accomplishes. Most of the time, only the donor knows whether its giving achieved the goals it set out to accomplish in the first place.

Occasionally, perhaps because of ties to other donors or due to an event that brings them together, philanthropists build communities: groups of donors who share perspectives, tackle problems together and jointly finance activities where their interests and goals are already aligned. These communities arise when their members come to the realisation that what they want to achieve exceeds what they can accomplish by themselves: the benefits of being part of the community surpass what they have to give up to belong to it. These communities often disclose to what purpose and to whom they give, as a signal to other potential grantees of what they are looking for, and to build a reputation that carries this signal forward in time.

Even though working with other donors often entails a cost, perhaps giving up on one or more of the values that individually they treasure, communities of donors have emerged multiple times. The Open Philanthropy Project in the United States, 360Giving in the United Kingdom, Asociacion de Fundaciones Familiares y Empresariales in Colombia, among others, all embody an answer to the question, “What can we do together that we cannot do alone?” It is, therefore, of little surprise that these philanthropic communities also happen to be open and transparent – regularly sharing information with one another or anyone interested in their work. Why is that? Why do some, and not all, philanthropic communities emphasize sharing information and being more open? The answer rests on two things that foundations cannot do if they act alone: learn and partner.

Donors working in areas of economic, social and environmental development often tackle wicked problems: that is, challenges that don’t have a clear cut, simple solution and often involve complex social systems that interact with one another. Solving these problems requires exploration, testing and experimentation – a process of discovering a solution rather than just putting in place an existing one. In this space, having multiple and diverse attempts at tackling the problem can move the needle, as long as each attempt can avoid repeating the mistakes of others. The easiest way to do this is to communicate what they learn along the way: to track their path and make it know to others charting the same territory. In other words, to learn from each other.

This leads to the second reason, partnering. Donors are usually as free to give as they are to work with one another, and established donor communities habitually go beyond peer learning into co-financing common initiatives. Co-financing operations are becoming more common among donors, as trust between them builds through time and within the community. When co-financing partnerships arise, they allow donors to hedge, share risks and enter spaces that, alone, are probably outside of their purview. In these instances, partnerships have a tacit advantage in sharing risks and scaling something that already was found to work effectively. When Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, announced the donation of a third of his Square Inc. stock amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, he did so openly. Why? “It’s important to show my work so I and others can learn.” As of early July 2020, he has distributed USD 156 million, and 14% of that giving has involved collaboration with other donors who have added their own resources to joint initiatives.

Ultimately, information is valuable in donor communities because mutual awareness makes learning and partnering possible. This value stretches beyond each donor community, as opportunities to learn and partner also occur with members of other communities or individual donors looking to expand the scope of their work.

Donor communities who work closely together tend to be more open. If you want to work alone, share information if you can, and when you can. Others stand to learn from what you do. If, however, you want to join forces with other organisations that have similar interests and goals, and learn better from others who navigate the same complex space, be as generous with what you know as you are with what you give.

Capturing social investors’ responses to Covid-19 By Nikki Griffiths, Chief Operating Officer – Tshikululu Social Investments

The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented global health crisis. In South Africa, the pandemic has resulted in an unparalleled response from all sectors to mitigate its social and economic impact. Since the day President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the national lockdown, social investors have been part of the national response.

Social investors have provided funding for a wide range of emergency interventions from food relief to bridging finance for businesses to withstand the most devasting impacts of the lockdown. At Tshikululu, we believe that social investors are all entities or individuals that invest capital, whether through grants or other distribution methods, with the intent of having a positive social impact. The response of social investors has been encouraging and inspiring, especially given the uncertainty that many of them are facing.

To capture the work of social investors during this time, Tshikululu has launched a project to map their interventions and investments in South Africa. The aim of the project is to develop an integrated picture of interventions and to reflect on the multi-sector response to a humanitarian crisis.
We have reached out to over a hundred social investors in an effort to map the responses. The collection of verifiable data has been central to the project.

Data has only been mapped where the funder has given explicit permission for their investments to be included. Collecting this information will introduce a level of transparency and let all South Africans know the exact extent of what organisations are doing to help those most in need during this difficult time.

By mapping the social investment taking place in South Africa, this data will also prove invaluable going forward in terms of decision making and fund disbursement, as the response to the pandemic continues and disaster risk mitigation is planned in the future. South Africa has a responsive, vibrant and committed funding sector and the response to the pandemic has highlighted the work done by funders throughout society. Ultimately, we want to ensure that we capture the story of how South African social investors responded at a time when the country needed.

The pilot map is available to view at with initial input from social investors amounting to R1.7 billion. Tshikululu is aiming to get input from many more social investors in the coming weeks. Tshikululu invites all social investors and funders to participate. If you would like to
include your interventions or would like more details about the project, please email

Grant-making in a pandemic: ELMA’s Covid-19 response By Sanjana Janardhanan, Program Officer – ELMA Philanthropies Services

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted South African lives across every sphere imaginable. Recently published research1 shows that the population is bearing the compounded burdens of health risk and livelihood loss at a scale so far unprecedented. One in three people who earned an income in February were no longer earning income by April. Half of these earners have been permanently laid off, as opposed to being furloughed, and women are likely to account for between two to three million of the jobs lost. While the South African government has announced large-scale relief mechanisms, implementation has been inconsistent and inadequate. South Africans are already facing knock-on effects like hunger, with the first starvation death reported in July 20202.

With the pandemic coming in at the height of South Africa’s second economic recession in two years, the country is likely to see a constricted funding environment, and increased austerity measures. Therefore, it has never been more critical to see an increase in philanthropic investments, to ease the ‘shock’ to South Africa’s most vulnerable communities. The ELMA Group of Foundations has taken this role to heart, and has significantly escalated its investments in Africa, with a strong focus on South Africa. In May, ELMA announced a R2 billion Covid-19 commitment to Africa of which R500 million is targeted for South Africa. ELMA has adopted a flexible and responsive approach to the crisis – reassuring existing partners of our continued support, gauging and providing the required additional resources for organisations, allowing project funding to be redirected to pandemic response and staff retention, and recognizing that existing grant targets will be delayed, or not met at all. Without wavering from our commitment to the well-being of children and families, ELMA’s investments aim to strengthen national and pan-

African responses to the pandemic, as well as to provide critical emergency relief to communities facing secondary socio-economic impacts during this period.

Strengthening health response in South Africa
South Africa is rapidly advancing in the ranks of countries most affected by Covid-19, and ELMA has invested heavily in supporting the national health response, through both direct investments and a significant contribution of R250 million to the Solidarity Fund. Recognizing that the Covid-19 infection rate would rapidly increase with the reopening of the economy, ELMA’s direct investments have focused on:
1. Reducing the backlog in testing and diagnostics, and increasing national Covid-19 testing capacity. ELMA has invested in the National Health Laboratory Services to increase the testing capacity in four NHLS laboratories, by procuring, distributing and supporting training of the equipment and reagents required to test for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
2. Radio, mobile and WhatsApp platforms and content to increase access to health education in at-risk, and hard-to-reach communities. ELMA’s investments have supported Praekelt’s Health Alert, used by the National Department of Health, to communicate up-to-date information over WhatsApp, the Sikhaba iCovid19 Radio campaign, sharing critical information in all South African languages through 15 radio channels, and Digital MEdIC that is creating easily accessible infographics and mobile content, to ensure that communities at all literacy levels access contextualised and actionable health messages.
1 “The labour market and poverty impacts of Covid-19 in South Africa” Jain, July 2020
3. Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to community care workers through a network of civil society organizations
Mitigating secondary socio-economic impacts of the virus
In parallel with the humanitarian effort undertaken by the national government and the Solidarity Fund, and drawing from the experience and expertise of the ELMA Relief Foundation portfolio, ELMA has invested in mechanisms to enable access for the most vulnerable children and communities to income and food support:
1. Immigrant, refugee and asylum-seekers: Recognising that these communities are most likely to be in the margins, ELMA is supporting families with unconditional cash transfers, enabling access to essential goods and services, particularly food
2. Leveraging early childhood sites and programs for caregivers of children aged 5 and below, to access food security through digital food vouchers

ELMA is currently exploring a response to gender-based violence, and intimate-partner violence, recognising the increased risk for women and children both due to lockdown restrictions and income losses due to the pandemic. This response is expected to include both national and community-level support for organisations working to mitigate this.
Strengthening the community response
Community-based organisations and networks play a critical role in driving localized intervention to prevent the spread of Covid-19, reinforcing safe behaviour and providing a safety net to the most vulnerable communities.

The ELMA Foundation has provided emergency support grants to its portfolio of 121 community-based organisations (31 in South Africa), which have been used primarily for food security, water, sanitation and hygiene, Covid-19 awareness and educational initiatives at the community level.
Epidemiological models predict that South Africa will see ‘peak’ of the pandemic between July and September. However, the effects of the pandemic are likely to be seen well into 2021. The sustained economic recession will further strain philanthropic and corporate giving budgets, and this will disproportionately affect vulnerable populations and progress on critical issues. Of particular concern remains the well-being of South Africa’s young children living in low-income populations, who are likely to see sustained learning losses and continued food insecurity and stunting, leaving them even further behind.

Lessons from the 2008 financial crisis demonstrate that while endowments and earnings will be regained, services to the poor do not recover as readily. ELMA is stepping up and investing more, while accepting the increased risk, to contribute substantively to the response, recovery and rebuilding efforts both in the short and long-term. We encourage fellow donors, philanthropists and partners to join us in increasing support and investments to address the increasingly compound effects of this global crisis.

Maximum flexibility during the time of Covid-19 By Nicky Le Roux, Programme Coordinator: Gender, Race and Ethnic Justice – The Ford Foundation

As the world grapples with the devastation in the wake of the Covid-19, some of the hardest hit are the poor and marginalized. It has been well documented that this pandemic has laid bare the vast inequalities and inequity throughout the country and on many levels. Those who serve these communities have not been immune, and civil society organizations (CSOs) have been dramatically affected. From unexpected expenditure such as data costs, to high rates of staff stress and trauma and managing the expectations of donor partners, leaders of CSOs are overwhelmed. In an already challenging environment amidst shrinking space for CSOs and lessening donor funding, the Ford Foundation has taken a new approach.

Leadership responsiveness
Within a few weeks of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Ford Foundation issued a statement to all grantees through its Executive Leadership Team, acknowledging the effects of Covid-19 and highlighting the Foundation’s commitment to seeking ways to lighten the burden that CSOs would face. The statement, “A Message of Support for Our Grantees”, was issued on 16 March 2020 by the Vice President of Programs, Hilary Pennington. In this message, she acknowledged the unanticipated shock that the Covid-19 period would have on the nonprofit sector. In an effort to mitigate this shock, she laid out the Foundation’s plan for its current grantees.

Maximum flexibility
Acknowledging that each CSO would have different needs and challenges in this period, the program officers reached out to each grantee to establish what support would be most meaningful. This was under the umbrella of a maximum flexibility approach. To this end, grantees chose a number of options which included:
1. Where the grant contract was based on “project support”, they could choose to convert the grant to either core support or general support. This allowed for the flexibility to reallocate funds within budget line item and address costs such as data for staff working from home, laptops, personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline staff etc.
2. Furthermore, grantees were encouraged to look at travel and convening costs which would not be utilized due to the travel restrictions and could therefore be reallocated to more pressing matters.
3. Included in point 2. above, was the acknowledgement that CSO leadership and staff would face additional stresses at this time, particularly grantees on the Gender, Race and Ethnicity Justice Program with its focus on violence against women and girls. Increased numbers of such gender-based violence (GBV) were anticipated during the lockdown period, as seen in countries like China and the United Kingdom. Grantees were encouraged to redirect funding to wellness and psychosocial support for staff.
4. Grantees were also supported in decisions to postpone or cancel activities that could not be completed. The Foundation worked with grantees to reassess deadlines and activities including the flexibility to delay reporting dates.

Increases to current grants
The Foundation reallocated much of the budget for the first and second quarter of 2020 to increasing current grants. With these increases, the Foundation also extended project end dates. This gave CSOs the opportunity to utilize funding in innovative ways to address the pandemic, with some breathing room within which to do this.
Humanitarian funding

While the Ford Foundation was particularly interested in the social justice sector organizations, it could not ignore the humanitarian crises that was unfolding in every one of the regions. To this end, a few key humanitarian grants were awarded to fund activities such as PPE for health workers; food parcels for poor and marginalized people; and in the case of Southern Africa, funding to organizations working with GBV survivors and providing key support to the anticipated increase in women seeking shelter from GBV during the lockdown period.
Social bonds and Project Wanda

Most innovatively and radically, the Ford Foundation has sold $1 billion of taxable bonds in order to support civil society in what is anticipated to be an extremely difficult period post Covid-19. This is unprecedented and outside of “normative thinking for Foundations1”. Project Wanda is a one-time injection of fresh resources to respond to the Covid-19 crisis that engulfs the regions where the Foundation works. Its main purpose is to ensure that civil society emerges as resilient and well-prepared as possible to face the new challenges brought about by the pandemic.
As the Covid-19 crisis subsides and leaves in its wake an even more inequitable society, the Ford Foundation has made a commitment to the social justice sector at large, to support the critical work undertaken by those who will be helping us all to adapt to the new normal, in a financial environment that will be difficult at best.

Responding to a pandemic: funders, intermediaries and community based organisations By Joanne Harding, Director – Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT)

Two weeks before President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa was about to go into full lockdown, the SCAT staff discussed protocols for working in the face of a pandemic. While we were discussing social distancing and sanitisers for the office, epidemiologists and mathematicians were trying to work out the trajectory of this virus for South Africa. Since then our world has changed completely and we only see each other on screens, while working from home we try and coordinate our response to Covid-19, and continue to provide our usual support to our grantees.
SCAT’s approach

SCAT is an intermediary grant maker which means that we straddle the world between being a fundraiser and a funder. We have a small endowment allowing us to cover some core costs, be creative and innovative, but mostly we raise funds to support and strengthen the capacity of 30 rural community organisations across the Eastern, Western and Northern Cape provinces. Our primary aim is to ensure access to justice, gender equality and food security. The people served by our grantees are the most vulnerable, mostly women and often pensioners and the disabled. People in rural areas are 40% more likely to be unemployed and households are more likely to be headed by women. Employment is mostly in sectors hard hit during Covid-19 including agriculture, tourism and work in households.
On the night that President Ramaphosa told us that we would be going into full lockdown I sent a message to our trustee group and asked them to approve funds from our reserves to distribute to grantees. We realised we had to act quickly to get food and sanitation products out to the most vulnerable. Within 20 hours, 30 grantees had received communication about the additional grant, had acknowledged this and the funds were in their bank accounts. Our grantees had three days to respond before we stepped into the unknown. We set up a WhatsApp group to distribute accurate information, and quickly the pictures started coming in of how our grantees were responding to ensure people had some protection during this time. The relationship of trust that we have built up with our grantees over years of working together allowed us to give additional funds without hesitation.
Funder support

Immediately after the announcement of the lockdown we received communication from funders asking how they could be of support and where we needed flexibility. We had “gone into lockdown without a safety net” said David Harrison of the DG Murray Trust in an email where he made an offer of a grant for food to SCAT grantees. This statement has resonated often in my mind as I consider
what our grantees face daily. Most of our funders recognised that this would also be a difficult time for SCAT and that fundraising for the future would be a challenge. Ford Foundation increased our grant and extended our contract by a year giving us greater security. The CS Mott Foundation increased our grant so that we could pass on more funds to our grantees to cushion them, and the Social Justice Initiative allowed us flexibility with reporting and spending time frames.
The Irish Embassy and Dutch Embassy allowed SCAT to repurpose workshop and travel funds towards food. With additional donations from the Donald Gordon Foundation, DG Murray Trust and the Global Fund for Community Foundations, we will distribute a total of R 2,4 million funds toward food security grants to our grantees over the lockdown period. SCAT similarly increased core grants to our partners. Early on RAITH Foundation asked if we would assist with the distribution of food parcels on behalf of the Solidarity Fund. The RAITH Foundation allowed us to repurpose some of their funds to cover distribution costs of our grantees. Working with ten rural CBOs in the most remote areas of the Eastern Cape, we reached close to 200 villages and distributed 10 500 food parcels over three weeks. Our grantees faced issues of security for the people distributing food, accessing permits, storage, flooding, treacherous roads, distances and ensuring records were kept and every food parcel was accounted for. They were impressive in their willingness to step up to the challenge, negotiating with police, traditional leaders and local councillors to ensure the fairest processes were followed and the food reached the most vulnerable.

SCAT also decided that the digital divide with our rural partners had to be addressed with urgency and we bought and distributed computers, cell phones and data to all our partners who are now able to meet with us online, attend webinars and be connected with up to date information. Many had some technology, but mostly it was outdated and did not ensure accessibility. This was partly funded from SCAT’s reserve fund’s dividends and with repurposed funds from the Irish Embassy. Responding to a request from some of our grantees, we included thermometers so they can check their clients before consulting them and provided masks as a result of a donation from a founder trustee. A number of our grantees are partnering with DG Murray Trust to distribute PPE to care workers in their communities.

New roles
It was important that we also adjust our programmes to be relevant to the current crisis. Along with our grantees, we became an accredited monitor for the Human Rights Commission and are providing information to the SAHRC on human rights abuses and police repression. We have also assisted with monitoring the reopening of schools. We have partnered with the Black Sash to monitor the implementation of the Social Relief of Distress grant, and with the International Budget Partnership
to facilitate the monitoring of water in rural informal settlements. The data generated by our grantees is used for advocacy to improve systems and ensure the most vulnerable are protected.

Gender based violence and food insecurity
GBV is the “other pandemic” which has been waged on women and children for centuries, but intensified in the last decade, and particularly during this lock down. GBV affecting women, girls and boys and the LGBTQIA community must be addressed with urgency. In response to GBV and as part of our GBV programming, we will be running online workshops with our grantees on the National Strategic Plan; advocacy for better GBV responses in communities; and a counselling skills programme for frontline responders which is accompanied by mentorship for those working with GBV cases. We have continued research on GBV with our partners which is being conducted by Adjunct Professor Melanie Judge. This study is looking at strategic issues for SCAT and our grantees in responding to this pandemic. The report should be launched later in 2020.

Coping with lockdown and planning for the future
Navigating this pandemic has not been easy and without our funders being flexible, our grantee partners responsive, our trustees adaptable, and our staff creative and steadfast, we would not have been able to respond appropriately. Compounding the situation, we have also had staff and trustees who have been affected by the virus, both personally and in their extended families. Some of our staff live in areas with little or no cell phone reception, making working from home, communication and cohesion difficult.
Compounding this is the fear of the future. It is hard to plan for the unknown. We don’t know if we should plan workshops or online training, visits to our grantees or virtual meetings, raise more funds for food security or continue with our normal programming. Many NGOs who have been providing essential services to the most vulnerable will face closure or contraction in the near future if government doesn’t address a shrinking resource base, as funds from private donors and the corporate sector are diverted to food security and PPE.

Now is the time for us as funders to reflect on our response to this unknown, unanticipated crisis and what we have learnt about ourselves, in order that we better navigate the future crises that climate change and other health disasters will force us to navigate. Covid-19 has shown us how important it is to be flexible and respond in a way that both addresses the injustices in our society while providing a safety net for the most vulnerable. We must support NGOs and particularly grassroots organisations, who are on the frontline and often working with the least resources. They have enabled us to work with dexterity, breadth and depth responding to this crisis which is more than about a pandemic it is about social justice.

The Learning Trust: an education funder’s response to the pandemic By Somila Mjekula, Communications & Advocacy Officer – The Learning Trust

The Learning Trust (TLT) is a modest funder that supports grassroots initiatives in the non-profit education sector. TLT believes that all learners have the right to access an enriching educational environment, and that without after school programmes (ASPs), millions of learners in under-resourced schools will continue to have a very underwhelming educational experience and encounter a lifetime of socio-economic injustice. ASPs occupy a pivotal niche in the education ecosystem, offering tutoring and homework support, psychosocial support, skills-building, sports & recreation, ICT learning and arts & culture. A plethora of research shows that participation in ASPs can measurably improve learner success and help to prevent drop-outs and repetition.
Celebrating 10 years this year, TLT has provided funding and organisational development support to over 120 educational non-profits across Gauteng, the Western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces. In turn, these non-profits have been able to offer greater access and learning opportunities to hundreds of thousands of learners from underserved communities through ASPs. Accordingly, the challenges brought on by the pandemic necessitated TLT to implement adaptive strategies to provide emergency funding, alternative organisational development support and expanded access to after school resources.
Emergency funding provisions
The funding climate in the non-profit sector remains unfavourable especially for the emerging grassroots organisations that TLT supports. These community-based non-profits often have weak areas of organisational development as they mainly focus on meeting programmatic outcomes. They are also usually young (under 7 years) and have thus not been established long enough to attract the attention of bigger donors and foundations that offer significant multi-year grants. Regardless, these organisations are beacons of hope – providing support for youth development, access to broad networks and diverse learning opportunities for children in their communities. The impact of the pandemic on their financial sustainability to continue this important work under lockdown restrictions was one of TLT’s main areas of intervention.

• TLT eliminated restrictions on active, contracted grants; giving grantees the flexibility to respond to Covid-19 by redirecting funds towards any new projects, initiative and needs that arose. Grantees were encouraged to consider restructuring their programmes and budget allocations where necessary. If grantee staff worked from home, TLT offered general funding support of up to R5000 towards operational needs like laptop, data and phone expenses.
• For grantees that were due for a grant on or before 30 April 2020, TLT expediated grant payments to enable organisations to respond to any urgent issues related to the crisis.
• As most ASPs could no longer run physical programmes, TLT applied a degree of flexibility in relation to delayed implementation in normal programme scheduling.
• A number of after school organisations extended their services to supply food packages to thousands of unemployed families in their communities. TLT sourced significant funding to allow these organisations to continue providing nutritional needs for these families.
Alternative support in organisational development
A significant area of TLT’s support to emerging organisations is capacity building in the form of one-on-one coaching, skills training, mentorship and organisational development seminars. It was important for TLT to ensure these support offers carried on through alternative means.
• TLT continued regular one-on-one capacity support sessions with grantees on various digital platforms (including Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, calls and email).
• Provincial WhatsApp groups were set up to provide a platform for grantees to engage, interact and co-construct after school strategies during and post the crisis.
• TLT also conducted periodic check-in calls to act as thinking partners for grantees. These check-ins supported grantees through: developing measures to remain connected to their beneficiaries and keep them engaged while at home; making decisions about continued staff payments (including part-time staff) during the lockdown; offering advice and tips on remote working for teams, staying focused on fundraising, and other ongoing tasks.
• Skills-training sessions and seminars were moved online through cross-provincial webinars covering a broad range of topics such as methods for engaging learners online; fundraising alternatives during a pandemic; emotional wellness for practitioners; evaluating the efficacy of online programmes and a guide to re-opening physical programmes safely.
• TLT would also share relevant and useful information for grantees, as a member of the After School Programmes Management Committee (WC), the National Association for Social Change Entities in Education (NASCEE) and IPASA.

Expanded access to after school resources
As schools were closed for nearly 3 months, there were detailed, albeit delayed, plans in place to ensure that the 13 million learners at home received academic support from DBE in various ways. Many of the educational initiatives offered formal, curriculum-aligned resources largely suited to higher grades (FET phase of high school), particularly targeted at families who have access to internet and smart-phone devices. Recognising this gap, TLT launched the After School Treasure Box – a collaborative project between partners working in the after school space. The initiative began as an attempt to provide an online resource portal of engaging home-based activities for learners during school closures and lockdown. From an obvious need to reach children in communities with limited access to the internet, the Treasure Box partners curated and packaged content from the portal into downloadable and printable Treasure Box Activity Packs (in 6 languages) for primary school learners. With the help of over 100 non-profit organisations and schools in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng, over 100 000 volume 1 copies were printed and distributed, with volume 2 set to reach other provinces by the end of August.
Looking ahead

If anything, the pandemic has illuminated the perennial challenges faced by the education sector and simultaneously built a strong case of evidence that suggests that non-profit organisations are a powerful player in meeting the needs of millions of underserved learners. There is an incredible task ahead to shape a post-pandemic world where these children can equally access the resources they need to learn and succeed, as well as receive adequate support from dedicated practitioners. Continued support for these non-profits is essential if we are to mitigate the worst impacts of Covid-19 on South Africa’s children. In a time of perpetual uncertainty, TLT intends to continue being a funder that provides a safety net for its grantee partners through considerate, adaptive and tailored support.

The South African Future Trust emerges to support small businesses through Covid-19 and beyond By Bridget Fury, Head – Oppenheimer Generations Philanthropies

On 23 March 2020 Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer announced their commitment to tackle the unfolding health crisis in South Africa, and highlighted the exceptional challenges that small businesses were facing. They pledged to donate R1 billion to extend a financial lifeline to employees of small, medium and micro-sized enterprises (SMMEs).

On 31 March 2020 the South African Future Trust (SAFT) was established with this initial donation through the Oppenheimer Generations Foundation, and it has subsequently attracted further donations from foundations, corporates and individuals to the value of just over R134 million. The Trust’s immediate aim was to extend direct financial support to SMME employees at risk of losing their jobs or suffering serious loss of income due to the pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.

SMMEs traditionally tend to fail due to unexpected cash-flow constraints, and the Covid-19 crisis created a perfect storm. As small businesses faced closure or trading with severe market disruption, employees were likely to be the first affected as employers struggled to find the cash to pay salaries. The speed with which SAFT could start to distribute a basic income to enable them to afford essential goods – including food – was critical.
The first priority was to establish SAFT as an independent trust with public benefit organisation (PBO) status. This process would normally take months but it was achieved in under two weeks, and the Trust was registered only days after the start of lockdown level five.

Next up was to establish an effective distribution model for disbursing money quickly to the employees. Partnering with six major banks – ABSA, FNB, Investec, Mercantile Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank – solved the complex issue of how to distribute the funds through interest-free loans to qualifying SMMEs which were existing clients of these banks.
Qualifying criteria were deliberately kept simple and required little supporting paperwork, which would have been difficult to obtain during lockdown level five. The banks, acting as agents of SAFT, required their clients to sign a loan agreement confirming the following: the business had been trading for 24 months or more; it had a turnover of less than R25m per annum; it had been financially sustainable at the end of February 2020; and it had been adversely affected by Covid-19.

Qualifying SMMEs supplied a list of all employees on behalf of whom they were applying for the relief, and their bank account details. The partner banks then initiated weekly payments of R750 directly to each employee for a 15-week period. The employees carried no liability to SAFT for these payments.
As a result of the dedication, commitment and drive of all the parties involved, including the government, the partner banks who waived any fees for administering the loans, and internal teams across Oppenheimer Generations, the first payments to employees were made on 06 April 2020, only a week after the establishment of SAFT. By the middle of July, about 9 000 SMMEs had signed SAFT loans valued at a total of R1.04 billion, which translates into payments to about 90 000 employees.

The loans advanced by SAFT have a five-year term and, as such, it is hard to predict the timing of their repayments, and indeed whether all or how many of them will be repaid. As the shutdown continues to devastate the economy and damage businesses, big and small, it is almost certain that not all SMMEs who have taken out the loans will survive. This makes the next phase of SAFT all the more important, as the trust starts to formulate a strategy for disbursing the funds it still holds to continue to support the SMME sector.
In the longer term SAFT will play an ongoing role in accelerating inclusive economic growth and employment creation in South Africa until all its funds have been disbursed and the Trust is wound up on 31 December 2040.

The Zenex Foundation: an education funder’s response to Covid-19 By Gail Campbell, CEO – The Zenex Foundation

The Zenex Foundation’s approach to grant-making has completely changed as a result of Covid-19 and our response has evolved over the course of the pandemic. While our social and professional conversations early in 2020 touched on Covid-19, and we tried to keep up with news of the virus, none of us understood the extent to which it would change every aspect of our lives and work. That could have been South African optimism at play, or just the fact that there is no precedent for what the world is currently going through. However, especially because of our international connections, we soon began to appreciate that Covid-19 would have an immense impact on the education sector and that our grant-making would need to be agile and flexible in response.

The President’s speech on 15 March and the closing of schools on 18 March were the first watershed moments for us, but at that point we thought this was just going to be a temporary stage. As it was, the Department of Basic Education initially said that the break coincided with normal school holidays and would not undermine the integrity of the school year. The reality of what the sector was facing only really sunk in for us when schools stayed closed and there was broad acknowledgment that there would inevitably be a loss of academic school days – a deeply concerning consequence, especially in a country where so many children are constrained by learning backlogs. Children across the country have now lost significant time in their academic programmes, and only a small percentage of South Africa’s households have the technology and connectivity that allow them to make use of the most common solution promoted in the education sector, namely online learning. This pulling apart of the sector between those with access to learning and those without, has been further confounded by the impact of poverty on learners at risk who also lost access to the school nutrition programme during the hard lockdown. This has been a devastating triple cocktail in a sector already under immense pressure.

Like many other donor organisations, the Zenex Foundation has had difficulties responding with speed to this “new normal”. We have been struck by the fact that that the education non-profit sector has been much more agile and innovative than funders generally have been. For Zenex, which typically engages at length on strategic choices; consults with stakeholders; designs, develops and funds multi-year projects; relies on growing an evidence base to inform its work and works in partnership with a range of stakeholders, it was initially extremely difficult to shift into immediate, risk-taking and agile responsiveness.
How did we proceed? We were guided then, and continue to do so, by our grant-making approach of in the first instance being evidence-based and secondly working in partnership. But we also developed a Covid-19 response in early June, one that has stayed true to our Strategy 2025 while at the same time responding specifically to the pandemic.

An evidence-based approach: In order to develop our evidence base during Covid-19, we have funded several research initiatives to learn more about the impact of the virus. We were one of the funders of the JET Research Bootcamp, #openupyourthinking, which sought to understand the pressures being placed on education systems by the virus as well as to identify possible solutions and innovations. We also funded Social Surveys to do a representative household telephonic survey in the first period of school closure to understand better the pressures on parents as well as their capacity to assist their children whilst at home. We funded the tracking of education of trends on social media, where social media sentiment analysis showed, among other things, that the effect of lockdown on learning was the top issue expressed during lockdown and that the issue of #schoolsreopening trended second only
to #COVID19 across all social media. We are now carrying out a study in deep rural Eastern Cape where we are piloting a project focused on teacher communication with parents about learners’ work while they study at home. We are exploring the effectiveness of different channels, the take up by parents, the work completed by learners and other challenges being experienced. This is important research because we know parents play a huge role in supporting learning at home and we need to find workable solutions for parents in rural contexts. In addition to the research enumerated above, we have also kept ourselves informed through reading, attending webinars and engaging with other stakeholders.
Partnership: We undertook a survey with our existing partners on the impact of Covid-19 on not only their organisations but also the implementation of their projects. We have also focused on working in collaboration with a co-ordinated response, and to this end we have funded a series of engagements to promote learning and collaboration with IPASA.
A Covid-19 strategy: We developed a Covid-19 response for our board in early June and ensured it remained aligned within our existing Strategy 2025. Our goal was to stay true to our strategy while at the same time responding to the crisis. We divided our projects into three categories and considered the financial implications of each:
i. Projects where implementation could go ahead and which were not reliant on being in schools. These were research or materials development projects or ones which were in the stage of initial project planning.
ii. Projects in schools which could not continue, nor had to be postponed. This was the hardest part of the exercise we undertook as we had to cancel contracts. Our aim was to be responsible as donors and to ensure, as much as possible, the sustainability of the education non-profit sector. We provided operational funding to all projects until the end of July and we also funded work that was being done in place of school-based projects.
iii. Projects in development which could go ahead and needed tweaking, given the Covid-19 pandemic, before being taken to our board.
b. Following the above exercise, which we carried out in consultation with our partners, our board approved a strategy and budget envelope for new Covid-19 projects. This focused on three areas:
i. Working in schools to focus on recovery
ii. Connecting the home-school nexus
iii. Thought leadership

On reflection we could have done things differently. In the first instance, we should have communicated immediately and effectively with partners and beneficiaries. Some of the larger non-governmental organisations we support approached us at once and we gave them permission to use our funding flexibly. It would have been better to allow all partners this latitude. We could also have allocated small once-off grants to beneficiaries to allow them to undertake innovative actions immediately and on the ground, even if not in education – it is our view that both urgent initiatives as well as longer-term ones, require support in the pandemic. But most of all we should have worked at a faster pace – a speedy response is more important than a perfect one. Going forward, we commit to regular reflection on our actions. The future is unclear but our ability to adjust to its demands is improving.

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: 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.