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  • Writer's pictureRalph Thurman

Spotlight on 3 of the Most Promising Philanthropic Efforts in South Africa

If you’ve ever listened to popular television host and comedian Trevor Noah talk about his home country, you might have a sense of the tremendous economic struggles many South Africans face. This is a nation where no philanthropic effort is wasted.

From well-known international NGOs to small non-profits to wealthy benefactors, there are many individuals and organizations that are intent on making things better for the South African population. Here are some laudable efforts.


The United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF, has been working diligently around the globe to help youngsters for more than 70 years. Some 190 countries and territories benefit from this organization’s impactful philanthropy.

The majority of UNICEF’s staff work in the field, providing hands-on care and expertise to people who need it. What’s more, it's a highly influential organization—it works with numerous other trustworthy parties, from local businesses to government agencies. This means UNICEF has gained a stellar reputation around the globe for the work that it does.

In South Africa, it’s one of the top charities working to make a difference for the hundreds of young ones at risk of dying due to preventable diseases and malnutrition. Every day over 200 children perish from a range of illnesses that may have been prevented by vaccinations and proper nutrition.

Since 1994, UNICEF has made a substantial mark in the country by reducing mortality for those 5 years old or younger by 30 percent. Furthermore, it has administered treatment to 90 percent of eligible HIV-positive children, offered prevention of HIV mother-to-child transmission to 80 percent of affected pregnant women, and increased breastfeeding among 35 percent of mothers.

2. Global Giving

Global Giving is an interesting non-profit in that its mission is to support other non-profits. It does this by connecting givers to donors. This may be individual philanthropists or companies seeking a worthy cause to fund. Like its name suggests, Global Giving operates world-wide.

Founded in 2002, this non-profit has vetted some 30,000 different community-led organizations in need of financial assistance. In turn, these enterprises are able to profile, through Global Giving, a range of different programs they need donors to support. Chances are high that those seeking a cause to support financially will find a project that resonates with them or complements their business goals.

In South Africa, initiatives outlined on the Global Giving website run the gamut—including mentoring youth, providing necessities for orphanages, teaching life skills to children, empowering girls and women to be mothers, and more. Global Giving doesn’t just encourage interested parties to partner with non-profits on these important causes. They support them by helping companies build employee giving programs, set up grants and enhance cause marketing.


The Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa, IPASA for short, is unique because it’s an association that represents people engaged in philanthropy. In essence, it’s a voluntary collective of private foundations, independent philanthropists, and like-minded organizations.

Members have come together for the purpose of networking and encouraging one another in the charitable ventures they’ve undertaken. Certainly, there’s strength in numbers and synergy in collaboration—not to mention valuable assistance in identifying and mitigating any stumbling blocks that may slow the progress of initiatives.

The diversity and commitment of the IPASA make it a powerful organization, leading the way forward to extend the reach of philanthropy in South Africa. Here’s a short list of what it aims to achieve: advancing, promoting, and supporting philanthropy; disseminating philanthropy-related knowledge and resources; encouraging good philanthropic practice; putting forward a united voice for philanthropy; and transforming and growing philanthropy

4. Notable Philanthropists

The discussion of philanthropy in South Africa would be incomplete without a mention of some of the nation’s high profile altruistic citizens. Reportedly, South Africans are some of the most giving people in the world, second only to Americans. Following are a few notable philanthropists.

Francois van Niekerk

This South African entrepreneur signed over a 70 percent share of the equity in his firm, the Mertech Group, to a private charity he and his wife founded named the Mergon Foundation.

Donald Gordon

This businessman works in insurance and real estate. Like many others, he created his own foundation, The Donald Gordon Foundation, as a conduit for his altruistic efforts. He also paid the $17-million-dollar cost of a medical school that bears his name at the University of Witwatersrand.

Jay Naidoo

Another very affluent businessman, Jay Naidoo, sold a third of his ownership in the investment holding company he co-owns, J & J Group. The proceeds went to two particular charitable trusts.

Allan Gray

Having made his fortune in financial services, this philanthropist transferred $150 million of his funds to his personal cause, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. One form of assistance the organization provides is high school scholarships that cover tuition and living expenses.

South Africa has an extremely robust philanthropic community. This list merely scratches the surface.



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