Philanthropy has always been treated as a ‘nice to have’ and not so much a ‘must have’.
Many corporates have done their social responsibility interventions mostly as a ‘tick-box’ within their family or corporate foundations (and or disciplines) and not so much an essential, conscientious response to the societal challenges around them. This has been evident mostly where certain donations, be they monetary or in assets, have either been underutilised or completely deemed off the mark when it comes to the needs of the recipient because usually the donation itself is not informed by an actual need on the ground, but more of a spray-and-pray approach. In other instances, the donation would be akin to a ‘garage sale’ where companies that need to get rid of excess assets (and not necessarily responding to a specific need), simply find charities to whom they can push assets they no longer need and, frankly, care less if their generosity has any meaningful impact.
But who complains, after all, a gift is a gift, right?
Well, the unfolding humanitarian crisis, sponsored by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has all but taken the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands the world over and displaced many more, has brought to the fore the need for a scientific approach to philanthropy and not as a mere corporate discipline that can yield tax incentives to the donor. As a matter of fact, according to the IPASA Philanthropy Symposium, this year held in Cape Town, ‘We stand at a critical time for our world, where we are confronted with an urgent need to find, fund and support transformative solutions at a far greater pace than ever.’ The symposium, also raised issues about the need to grow philanthropy practices; future-proofing philanthropy against climate change; next-generation philanthropists and taking advantage of deep impact and inclusionary innovation, through regenerative economic practices.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many governments both in developed and the so-called third world countries had been languishing under the weight of global economic instability. This means that many countries were not prepared for a sudden humanitarian crisis that would require bespoke relief measures to the many affected citizens who had lost their livelihoods.
It is during this time that governments and their citizens had to seek other means to deal with the impact of the pandemic and the contribution of philanthropic organisations became invaluable. However, another unsung saviour was community-based philanthropy. Stories abound about how ordinary folk have helped each other in many seemingly small but ultimately significant ways to ease the burden of their fellow human beings. Beyond the formal philanthropic activities by corporates and wealthy individuals, it was the day to day sharing of food parcels between neighbours and other such deeds that helped ease the burden off governments.
This humanness is at the heart of what philanthropy is all about and has certainly been one of the few shining lights to emerge from the dark cloud of Covid-19. It bore proof once again that social responsibility has gone beyond a corporate tick-box. It is now an essential part of the global order. For this reason, the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) launched an initiative to collect and package stories of giving from across Africa as well as raise resources for specific causes especially those that can be supported by different forms of philanthropy. The Kisima Initiative is an attempt to celebrate African philanthropy through storytelling.
Mapaseka Mokwele is the Media and Communications Consultant at Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) – Kisima Initiative.