By  Louise Driver, IPASA Executive Director

2020 has been a life-changing year for many with the disruption and disorder that Covid-19 brought. However, despite the many deep problems and troubles it caused, some exciting opportunities have arisen to do things differently, to think more innovatively and profoundly, and to engage more effectively.

The sudden onset of Covid-19, with its devastating, immediate impact on South Africa, thrust all key role players in the philanthropy sector into a quandary that required a rapid response. Funders were called on more than ever before to try and address the myriad issues caused by the impact of the pandemic. IPASA was ideally placed at this time to play an important convening role by getting not only our foundation members together, but also other funders and key role players in the philanthropy sector, to discuss how to address these huge issues.

Such was the range of issues to solve, it was decided to try tackle them per sector. IPASA thus held sector-specific Covid-19 funder response meetings including basic education, higher education, early childhood development, food security, gender based violence, health and environmental conservation. We invited experts in these various sectors to present the major problems they had encountered and possible short and long-term solutions to these problems. Funders had the opportunity not only to listen and learn, but also to meet other funders, discuss possible co-ordination and collaboration opportunities, as well as share experiences and learnings.

Through these meetings and workshops, IPASA also became a hub to connect funders, NPOs, philanthropy support and advisory organisations and relevant government representatives in planning their Covid-19 response efforts. This allowed for networking, information sharing and collaborative support. IPASA also developed a set of best practice guidelines for funders during Covid-19. These guidelines were initially developed for our members, but then were shared more widely in the philanthropy space to encourage funders to change their practice in this time of crisis.

These meetings and workshops, as well as the subsequent connection and information sharing opportunities offered by IPASA, were invaluable to many funders who were trying to define their focused response in a time of overwhelming need.

IPASA’s role this year thus changed substantially from being a predominantly member-focused and member-serving organisation, to one which served the philanthropy sector in South Africa as a whole. We have recognised that we need to fulfil this role through the Covid-19 crisis and beyond, in order to best support and strengthen our sector against future, unforeseen crises.

This understanding of IPASA’s most valued offering to philanthropy in South Africa will drive our 2021 strategy to focus on supporting both our members and other key role players in philanthropy by providing the information, connections and opportunities necessary to sustain and grow philanthropy in this turbulent new world.

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