Jeremy Maarman, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Initiative for Community Advancement

The Initiative for Community Advancement (ICA), which is still a relatively new Community Foundation (CF), has been actively encouraging community philanthropy/giving since 2018. As a CF we are not in competition with service nonprofits because we are aimed at supporting and resourcing them.

Our foundation has a strong focus on encouraging people in rural communities, particularly from the Bergrivier Municipal area, to be more actively involved in their own development processes. Much of this has to do with creating a mechanism and platform for community members and companies to invest various assets through what are known as Community Affiliate Funds (CAFs).

Small but powerful beginnings

Following a strategic review in 2018, it was decided that the organisation should transition from a national youth network, known as the South African Youth Leaders Network, into a CF. The transition from a youth network with national ambitions into a home-grown CF turned out to be most fortuitous, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic that rocked the world two years later. The transition was a timely one because, as a CF, we were more flexible and able to respond to the humanitarian crisis we faced.

The foundation now has four active CAFs, the Bergrivier Youth Fund, Dr Somers Education Fund, Greenlight (GBV) Fund and the Community Rebuilding Fund. With the help of a Fund Committee each CAF sets an annual fundraising target and implements various fundraising events to reach that target. An example of local fundraising is that in February 2022 the Dr Somers Education Fund hosted its golf day, now an annual event, at the De Hoek Golf Club outside Piketberg. Just under R30 000 was raised.

The aim is to arrange one fundraising event every quarter, with the target of raising R120 000 per year through the CAFs. By encouraging the community to get involved and support these fundraising events, they are investing in their own development. During 2021 the foundation made its first grants with R72 500 awarded to projects throughout the municipal area. These projects went through a rigorous selection process, headed by the Fund Committees, before grants were transferred to nine successful local projects.

Responding to the Covid-19 pandemic

Reflecting on the Covid-19 pandemic, the foundation provided humanitarian support in Ward 5, in the Bergrivier Municipality. The foundation initiated
a feeding programme In partnership with a local church, through which around 200 cooked meals were served per day. The West Coast District Municipality approached the foundation to coordinate and distribute food parcels to the value of R200 000 to people living on farms within the ward.

Other efforts included distribution of sanitary packs to young girls and boys, donated by the Bergrivier Youth Fund. All of this was our way of being not just relevant, but responsive, to the needs of the time.

What is next for the Community Foundation

We are convinced that the CF approach is a viable mechanism to encourage collective community giving. Our experiences have taught us that small grants, awarded to causes that people really care about, can be catalytic and lead to much larger-scale investment. We are learning a lot as we go along and we are now in the process of drafting a resource mobilisation plan that will prioritise fundraising from individuals and local companies.

Many efforts are underway to support the development of CFs, not only in South Africa, but on the continent at large. The ICA remains close to these
developments and we play a proactive role in sharing our experiences with interested communities. We believe that it is now critical that academia be brought closer to community philanthropy efforts in order to undertake research into the ways in which community philanthropy is driving local development efforts. Through research we are now embarking on a project aimed at showing how the work of CFs
contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The foundation is also actively involved in encouraging greater public participation in local development planning through the municipal Integrated
Development Plan (IDP). To this end, a series of ward conferences were being implemented before November 2022 and will culminate in the development of a digital public participation tool. This tool will be a user-friendly interface with all the IDP priorities, giving ordinary citizens a way to hold public officials accountable for service delivery during community meetings.