Former Director of the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT)

Joanne Harding was the Executive Director of the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT). She worked at SCAT for 13 years having started as a fieldworker/trainer becoming field manager and then communications director before being appointed as executive director. Joanne’s special area of interest is fundraising, sustainability and relationships between donors and grantees. This has developed over the years of working for SCAT which is both a grantmaker and a grantseeker.  Joanne has a BA (Hons) Social Work from the now NNMU and started her career in the human rights sector working in the Black Sash Advice Office in Port Elizabeth.

Five Questions

1. What motivates your work in this sector?

Although I was originally motivated by issues of social justice or injustice as a result of apartheid my motivation has shifted to being driven by the participation of people in building the society they want to see and that civil society in an organised form fills those spaces and creates opportunities for dialogue around issues of common concern. It is the place where we hold government accountable without being in organised politics and we ensure that democracy is alive and vibrant.

2. What are the most significant changes you’ve observed in that time that you have worked in the sector?

It fluctuates. Obviously the shift from apartheid to a democratically elected state was the greatest change but that has come with disappointments as well. I am not disappointed that we have a democracy but rather that we have given the government so much freedom and that there are so many indicators that poor governance is becoming the order of the day. Civil society is also feeling the strain of limited financial resources and this is causing stress to the people who lead and who work for these organisations. One of my passions has been the issue of the Lotteries and its role in resourcing civil society. It is the single biggest funder in the country and could play a vital role in strengthening this sector but because it is seen as a distributor of funds rather than a grant maker which has a purpose and relationships with its partners it is very difficult for this to be achieved.

3. What advice would you give to new Advancement practitioners?

It is tough to be an Advancement practitioner. It is so much more than money and that is what makes the role so complex. It is about building this sector and promoting the image of this sector in the world we live in. It is about building relationships and working with others that are like-minded. When I speak of civil society I mean the sector that is working for a better world. The public should support this but we have a lot of work to do to promote a culture of supporting and strengthening civil society.

4. What do you wish you had known when you started working in Advancement?

Advancement requires you to be creative and open to possibilities. For me this has meant new relationships, putting aside competitiveness, being open to new ideas and flexible.

5. What are the holy grails for you in non-profit work, i.e. which sources of information are you constantly referring to and or recommending?

I read everything. It’s important to keep up to date with the news, developments in our sector and the specific sector you work in. I also find that having a few resourceful websites that you check on regularly is very useful.