In response to The Daily Maverick
By Tshikululu Social Investments on 11 January 2012
Categories: General Interest
On 11 January, online news publication The Daily Maverick featured a report on South Africa’s ranking in the World Giving Index conducted by the Charities Aid Foundation entitled “Charities Aid Foundation: South Africans need to give more“, which included an interview with CAF Southern Africa’s CEO Colleen du Toit.
Tshikululu’s Senior Communications Specialist, Gina de Villiers, responds.
In response to your article reporting on the results on the 2011 World Giving Index conducted by the Charities Aid Foundation, I would say that South Africans do in fact have a strong culture of giving, and in the case of some companies, have done for many decades. Further, while corporate social investment (CSI) in South Africa can indeed become smarter, as I suspect it can in every country in the world including the USA, Ireland and Canada, I don’t believe that your article properly recognised the very good work being done in this regard in South Africa.
Every research report can be questioned, the methodology attacked, the number of interviewees disputed and the results dismissed. Instead of picking at the CAF research, I’d like to offer some alternatives for your consideration.
The 2010 Barclays Wealth report entitled “Global Giving: The culture of philanthropy” indicated that the wealthy in South Africa were second only to the USA in philanthropic giving. I believe that this report surveyed individuals, not companies, but as the CAF research included individuals I thought it made an interesting comparison.
Regarding corporate giving, let’s consider the 2011 edition of Trialogue’s CSI Handbook, a guide to CSI in South Africa that is well-regarded in our “industry”. For this, the 14th edition, 148 respondents from 97 “large” South African companies were interviewed face-to-face, and their responses combined with “publicly available secondary information” and Trialogue’s own databases.
They state that companies invested R6.2 billion into CSI in 2010/2011. This is quite a bit more than the R4 billion mentioned in your article. Whether this improves the impression of the private sector’s culture of giving is, of course, up for debate, but here are two more numbers that I find interesting. Again according to Trialogue, “82% of the companies surveyed allocated additional contributions over and above their CSI expenditure” and “over the past ten years CSI has outstripped inflation by 77%”.
I believe that what these figures indicate is that some local companies are contributing more to the development of South Africa than what is encouraged by legislation. And that is why I’m confused by the article’s suggestion that we need additional “enabling legislation”, presumably to reawaken that “spirit of enabling civil society”. Laws do not in themselves encourage a spirit of giving. By increasing obligation, they encourage a compliance mind-set, a spirit of resignation, and even bitterness. Let’s rather incentivise giving beyond tax exemptions and deductions, not legislate it.
You say that “These days, companies aren’t content to just throw money at anyone who asks. Corporate social investment isn’t just about giving anymore. Companies want to see tangible benefits.” This was the part of the article that really prompted me to respond. In my opinion, there is something about the tone of those few sentences that I feel is unfair to the reality of CSI in South Africa.
Very little time is required in research to get a sense of the decline of corporate giving globally, due partly to the (yes, I must say it) current economic environment and partly due to corporate philanthropy fashions and flavours, and locally because the need of disadvantaged South Africans far outstrip the resources of the private sector. I’ve had conversations with CSI colleagues from companies that are not among my clients where they describe being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applications for limited funding – this is something experienced daily. Trust me, we’d love to “throw money” at anyone who asks. But we can’t. We don’t have enough.
Why shouldn’t CSI departments want to see tangible benefits? Doesn’t every department in any company need to show results? There is absolutely nothing wrong with shareholders questioning their company’s social investment because that is exactly what drives the monitoring and evaluation of CSI expenditure. “Tangible benefits” in CSI is determining whether the money spent, or invested, or given, made a difference to a disadvantaged community, whether Rands had impact. I believe that shareholders demanding “tangible benefits” results in better CSI programmes, better monitoring and evaluation, more impact and ultimately, recipients that really benefit from that money.
South Africa’s CSI “industry” is very far from perfect. We could improve it with better collaboration between CSI practitioners and grantmakers, NGO administrators, and community representatives. We could certainly talk more about what we get wrong. We could do more research into international programmes that are working. We can try harder to partner with government (believe me, this issue has complexity far beyond this comment).
But, there is also a lot that we are getting right, and I believe that your article would have been more balanced if you had reflected some of that.