‘Unlocking Community Philanthropy’ was the theme of the latest NPO Collaboration Dialogue, with representatives of diverse NPOs sharing their ideas and questions at the Isivivana Centre – the striking social justice and community centre owned and managed by the Khayelitsha Youth and Community Centre Trust.

Isivivana means a cairn or mound of stones, with travellers adding a stone and asking for good fortune on their journey. This was so relevant to Inyathelo and its partners as they tackled the topic of community philanthropy on Thursday 12 September.

“Feel free, feel at home,” said Mama Vivian Silo, founder and managing director of the Iliso Care Society. “We want to leave with greater knowledge and a deeper understanding,” said Sarah Scarth, global programme and strategy director, Resource Alliance. She encouraged the sector leaders, decision-makers and professionals to discuss alternative philanthropic models and to examine how they could unlock resources in their own communities.

The first speaker was Susan Wilkinson-Maposa, co-author of the ground-breaking research monograph The Poor Philanthropist: How and why the poor help each other.

“There are 1.2 billion people in Africa practising some form of help and giving,” said Susan, who first coined the terms “vertical” and “horizontal” philanthropy. The core characteristics of help, she said, included the following: help is a regular feature of how things are done; it is informed by the adage that if you have, you must give, no matter how little; helping brings its own rewards; it can be asked for or given without stigma; and it typically evokes positive emotions. Examples range from stokvels and burial societies to helping with labour-intensive activities such as ploughing.

The second speaker was Yasmina Francke, chief executive officer at the South African National Zakah Fund (SANZAF). Yasmina first set the scene with an insightful account of the psychology of giving: There is good in every person – we nurture naturally and instinctively help others.

Yasmina then explained traditional giving in Islam and the difference between the obligatory zakah (2.5% of excess wealth paid annually) and sadaqah, which is voluntary and generally given at life events such as the birth of a child or death of a loved one.

SANZAF itself raises and distributes R137 million a year; and 120-150 Muslim NGOs, excluding masajid (mosques), collect about R1.2 billion.

Yasmina quoted The Guardian newspaper (June 2017) which stated that some 22% of the world’s population is Muslim. Islamic finance, including zakah, is expected to surpass $3trillion by 2020. In addition, between $200billion and $1trillion is spent in the form of zakah every year.

To attract such funds in order to do good, SANZAF’s recommendations include having a plan, targeting all segments including retirees, engaging on all possible platforms, and being passionate ‒ yet mindful of donor fatigue.

Community ownership was the final topic, presented by Kevin Pippert who works with Medical Ambassadors International, a USA-based organization. Kevin and his wife have also established a local NPO, 360 Transformation, to facilitate training and consulting with organisations in the strategy of holistic community development.

Kevin focused on the importance of community ownership, when community projects, initiatives and causes are directed primarily by the community itself and not by outside individuals, organisations or donors.

“We can change the way we think about the community only as beneficiaries and possible donors, to partners who should be involved in the work from the very beginning,” said Kevin.

The guests then engaged in group discussions on the three topics, which will no doubt continue to stimulate debate and encourage new interventions.


Wilkinson-Maposa et al 2005. (Cited in presentation)
Moyo 2013 (cited in presentation).