by Kim Belmer

Charity begins at home

Are South Africans actively involved in philanthropy, but operating below the radar?

Are South Africans actively involved in philanthropy, but operating below the radar?
Charity begins at home

With all the coverage regarding the Motsepe family and David Beckham pledging their earnings to philanthropy, one has to wonder whether these are rare displays of generosity and magnanimity – or are South Africans in fact actively involved in philanthropy, but operating below the radar?

Indeed, the vast majority of wealthy South Africans is involved in giving. A report that surveyed high net worth (HNW) giving in South Africa for 2010 (The Giving Report), showed that 93.5% of HNW donors in South Africa gave money, time or goods to social causes during the year under review. Giving is a way of life for these donors, with most having given to social causes for at least 10 years.

The second version of The Giving Report will be available this year and the findings, to be published in October 2013, will enable us to establish the impact the financial crisis might have had on philanthropic initiatives. Before 2008, when the economy was booming both locally and internationally, South Africa’s donors were setting up their own foundations and committing to philanthropy in heartwarming numbers.

However, with the majority of South Africans already hit hard by the financial crisis over the last few years, most are finding themselves in circumstances where perhaps some of their charity actually needs to start at home, by providing for adult children whose businesses have taken a severe knock or to protect retirement provisions that have not performed quite as expected.

This year, with the markets having improved, we hope to see a change with more HNW individuals having more certainty on their own financial situations. Further, the added tax advantages mentioned in the recent Budget may go some way to encouraging South Africans to give more. 

The true test of giving comes in difficult times. The financial crisis has, in fact, shown how those who had set up long-term structures – funded with a view to being able to give well into the future – have indeed been able to continue their giving. The importance of this is all the more apparent as many non-profit organisations have struggled to continue their work due to the knock-on effect of the crisis on their funding.

Some question the need to publicise the recent actions of Patrice Motsepe and David Beckham, but these actions have certainly prompted conversation, placing giving and philanthropy firmly in the spotlight, – leading us to look at our own endeavours and what we are doing, or could be doing, regardless of magnitude.

It comes down to commitment, to taking that next step – not only to enjoy the arts, but to perhaps fund a foundation to unearth and foster South African musical talent. Rather than bemoan the unemployment problem in our country, we need to find and support solutions that fund bursaries and scholarships.

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