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Approaches to giving
High net worth (HNW) philanthropists do not necessarily distinguish between different kinds of giving approaches and impacts. As noted in Citadel’s report, Philanthropy Insights, however, some were very clear that “tapping into philanthropic influences requires an understanding of the language and terminology used by individuals acting in this space.” Findings in the report indicate that “while giving was seen as an ad hoc activity, philanthropy was regarded as strategic, systemic and sustainable; a long-term view akin to investing.”60

Regardless of the level of individual wealth, or the frame employed to guide donor decision-making, there are a number of questions to be asked by those who wish to support social causes and non-profit organisations (as opposed to ad hoc giving to an individual, for example).

These questions are geared toward:

  • Identifying one’s own passion and particular social interests
  • Knowing how to assess and determine an organisation’s efficacy toward determining if one’s contributions are being well spent
  • Developing an understanding of a fair donor-nonprofit relationship, and what is reasonable to expect from an organisation that one supports
  • Various ways in which a donor can be involved in an organisation beyond, or apart from, financial support
  • Understanding how to exit from a funding relationship
  • A reasonable expectation with regard to being kept informed of an organisation’s delivery, progress, impact and financial management
  • Developing an understanding of a donor giving ladder and the potential to get more involved and to commit higher levels of funding over time

For social justice philanthropy, a donor may consider the following questions:

  • What is the structural and systemic change I want to see?
  • Does the current context allow for this change to be achieved? Is it feasible to focus on achieving this change?
  • If not, how do I tackle these obstacles in partnership with grantees and, possibly, other donors?
  • How is my grantmaking practice and approach part of the process to effect the change I want to see?

The questions asked by grantmakers and social investors, and the degree of reflexive practice used in social investment decisions, will shape the grantmaking approach.

Approaches to giving include how grants or donations are made, and the type of philanthropy pursued. Three common approaches amongst many are welfare philanthropy, strategic philanthropy and social justice philanthropy.

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Encouraging Local Giving for Social Justice


Too often philanthropy is intimidated by what is happening in the country. If there is one important thing we can learn from international philanthropy it is a robust independence and the need to sometimes take on difficulty and necessary political challenges.*

Russell Ally, Executive Director, Development and Alumni Department, University of Cape Town

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Welfare philanthropy

This is the term used to describe what is often referred to as charity. It is generally thought that welfare philanthropy (also called charitable giving or traditional philanthropy) is the kind of giving effected for immediate needs and short-term solutions and is often crisis-linked.

It is the kind of philanthropy that might support a feeding scheme, an orphanage, the provision of blankets during winter flooding, and contributions to disaster relief. As Judge and Jones (2013) point out this kind of philanthropy “avoids making radical challenges to existing wealth and power structures.”61

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Strategic philanthropy

This approach to social investment is focused on achieving particular goals and outcomes and, in formal terms, is generally focused on data-driven decision-making, emphasis on accountability, and rigorous evaluation. Strategic philanthropy is about using approaches to grantmaking and investment that are specifically and carefully designed to increase the odds of success – at a theoretical level anyway.

As a formal approach to grantmaking, rather than simply being a term to indicate a preference for having a clear giving strategy, this approach has come under fire62 for being donor-driven and for failing to take full account of the agenda of grantee organisations and those implementing programmes aimed at systemic change.

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Social justice philanthropy

Social justice philanthropy is not simply about the causes to which grants are made. Rather, it is an approach to grantmaking that takes social justice principles into account in the practice, processes and approaches of funding decisions and grant allocations.

As Judge and Jones point out “social justice philanthropy … has the potential to support those most marginalised and socially and economically excluded; to promote policy implementation for greater equity; to assist civil society to give voice to those outside decision-making structures; and to provide resources for structural changes that directly address social and economic inequalities.”63 A brief literature review of social justice philanthropy is available here.

left-quoteWe need a blended approach. Our needs are so diverse and complex that if we all put our money into systemic, long-term investments, a lot of NGOs would be very vulnerable, if not collapse. Let’s take health care; we can talk about one of the greatest health burdens in our country, which is tuberculosis. We can start looking at the supply chain, at government and school interventions, at drug supply and compliance, at systems to monitor adherence and all of that. But you are still sitting with somebody in a community who needs to be screened, and who needs medication and support. So it’s about running all these different processes in which we are not just focusing on the here and now but also on the need to address the here and now.* right-quote
Tracey Henry, CEO, Tshikululu Social Investments

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