The Work of Philanthropist in S.A., Who Affect Lives – How is the U.S.A doing?

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Published: 17th November 2010
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Why would a wealthy person want to give away money to people and needy organizations when they would actually let it accumulate more in the bank? Well, there might be different reasons for different persons. John D. Rockefeller gave it away because it almost killed him, because he was worried it would slip his coffers, what a paradox.

Some give it away for religious reasons, personal beliefs, and more spiritual and deeper purposes beyond our understanding. However, it makes sense that when you have more and can afford a better livelihood, you can then afford to give. Other than that, people give because they have compassion and love.

As the saying goes, "Love conquers all" but behind every effort to give there is a motive for anticipation. Natural as it may sound no one in his or her right mind today will give without any expectation for get something back. Which reminds me why; Corporate Social Responsibility exists in business to exploit their return on investment in corporate branding and pushing a newsworthy publicity stunt.

This kind of giving in the name of philanthropy is not what I want to write about; instead, my interest in this topic is to establish the readiness of individuals in giving without expecting anything in return, and not using a corporation behind its financial muscle to promote their brand. I want to bring forth individuals in particular who have shown initiative and leadership qualities that have made a huge impact in the lives of ordinary people and the society in their personal capacity to give.

I will excuse myself; for separating corporations from individual givers, as it is only moral to use individuals, rather than companies, because in certain countries the Tax Man can always refund your social responsibility contribution, from the costs incurred by your business. Whereas, when you give from your own personal pocket it is not compulsory for one to reclaim it from the taxman.

You might be thinking I am trying to be a devils advocate, maybe I am and maybe I am not, the fact of the matter is that I am overwhelmed by the nature and the spirit in which some people give unconditionally I want to understand the moral principle behind this phenomena.

My favourite 6 SA and US stars:

1. Let us start of with my favourite charitable South African stars that have affected our society enormously without any reservations. Pick 'n Pay is now one of South Africa's pre-eminent retailers, with operations in the food, clothing, pharmacy and general merchandise sectors as well as financial services. The company operates throughout South Africa and in Australia.

By the 1970s, the Ackermans -- Raymond, his wife Wendy Ackerman, and their four children -- established their first philanthropy, the Ackerman Family Educational Trust, by donating two per cent of their personal shares to the foundation. Dividends from those shares were then allocated to fund various educational causes. Recipients of the Ackerman Family Educational Trust include roughly 60 students each year, who receive scholarships for tertiary education, and educational organizations such as the READ Educational Trust and institutions for mentally and physically handicapped people.

Mrs. Ackerman and her assistant, Juliet Taljaard, run the Trust themselves. Mrs. Ackerman interviews the scholarship applicants, and those selected are required to provide semi-yearly reports; if they earn good grades, they are entitled to more support. "If not, I might say repeat the year and then get back to me. We're very flexible," Mrs. Ackerman says. At graduation, she requests that scholarship recipients send her a photo, and she now has a bulletin board covered with pictures of graduating scholarship recipients. Quite a number of Trust alumni have entered government service and academia, she notes.

The second philanthropic endeavor is the Raymond and Wendy Ackerman Pick 'n Pay Foundation. In 1997, in honor of the 30th anniversary of Pick 'n Pay, the company donated R30 million (about $4 million in 1997 US dollars) to create the foundation, whose board includes three members of top Pick 'n Pay management and three members of the Ackerman family. (The Ackermans' four children are all involved with the business.)

2. Hylton Appelbaum serves as Executive Trustee of the Liberty Foundation and the Donald Gordon Foundation, and is a trustee or director of many nonprofit organizations in South Africa and elsewhere. "I wear two different caps, which is fascinating," says Appelbaum of his leadership of the corporate and family foundations. But each foundation operates independently and has a different focus.

Donald Gordon, founder of the financial services companies Liberty Group in South Africa and Liberty International in the United Kingdom, established the Donald Gordon Foundation in August 1971. It is South Africa's largest private foundation and one of the oldest. Hylton Appelbaum is the only Executive Trustee, and although the governance structure includes other trustees, the most active one besides Mr. Appelbaum is Wendy Appelbaum, Donald Gordon's daughter and Hylton's wife. Mrs. Appelbaum is active in a range of organizations herself, including groups that support women's empowerment. She is a founding director of WIP -- Women's Investment Portfolio -- which supports businesses owned by black women, and has been very profitable.

Although a number of families in South Africa have become known for their philanthropic initiatives, Mr. Appelbaum cites two reasons why he feels individual philanthropy in South Africa is "an endangered species." First, there are no tax incentives such as in the US to support a financial environment friendly to families wanting to create private foundations and endowments. Second, South African culture, with its legacy of apartheid, doesn't encourage broad-based giving. "Our society is racially, linguistically, culturally, and politically divided. The positive side of these divides is the 'rainbow nation' with our vigor, diversity, and energy," Mr. Appelbaum observes. But the "negatives include strife, insularity and suspicion. Many people focus only on their own communities."

Mr. Appelbaum admits that Donald Gordon is reluctant to promote himself and that many foundation-funded projects are not widely publicized. But attaching Mr. Gordon's name to major projects "is important for a whole range of reasons including setting an example of personal or family philanthropy and, hopefully, encouraging others to follow," says Mr. Appelbaum. Moreover, associating a name with good works has particular meaning in South Africa, observes Mr. Appelbaum, and "highlighting personal philanthropy in an environment where capitalists are still seen as exploiters also signals our commitment."

3. History of Oprah’s Angel Network .In 1994, a little girl named Nora appeared on The Oprah Show with her father, Ted, to talk about her Penny Harvest project. She and other children collected pennies, which added up to $1,000 to help different organizations. "I started thinking, 'If you could do that, I wonder what I could do?'" Oprah says. That question brought about an organization that would change lives around the world.

On the September 18, 1997, episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah invited viewers to join her in using their lives to improve the lives of others with her new organization...and so Oprah's Angel Network was launched!

The Most Elite Club in the World

A Rockefeller heir is creating a new model of giving that links some of the world's wealthiest families. But how much of the Global Philanthropists Circle is style, and how much is substance?

4. Bill Clinton. The Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting draws committed philanthropists and passionate activists. Everyone there makes a public commitment about what they are going to do to make the world better. The next year, if they haven’t made good, they can’t come back. Recent additions to the Clinton Foundation list of programs include CGI U, for bringing the next generation of social leaders together, and the Millenium Network, for young professionals. Politics aside, he’s bringing together people who don’t just talk, they ACT.

5. Bono. I seem to recall various studies that show some embarrassing percentage of Americans can’t find South Africa, or even the continent of Africa, on a map. Thanks to Bono and his (RED) campaign, and his collaborations with celebrity pals, the marketing power of some of the world’s largest companies is being used to tell the developed world about the problems of Africa. I believe in the promise of (RED): that teenagers made aware today become active tomorrow. Does buying stuff solve the world’s problems? No. People do. But before people will act, you have to let them know about the problem. Bono is a rock star.

6. Matt Harding, the videogame programmer turned world-famous awkward dancer, is using his travels and his fame to raise money to buy laptops for children and then plans to go to Rwanda to teach them (thanks to Howard Lake for this tip-off). You can follow Matt at

A 2003 survey of giving in South Africa asked respondents if they had contributed money to a cause, a charity or an organisation in the last month. In Everratt and Solanki’s summary of the survey findings they report that women did not differ much from men in terms of the causes to which they donated their money.

Perceptions regarding the most deserving causes varied little across gender. Women and men agreed on the rank of the top three worthy causes: these were youth, HIV/AIDS and the poor. Significantly, the same survey showed that women tend to donate time while men were more inclined to give money. This finding is echoed in a recent report by Wilkinson-Maposa et al on giving among the poor.

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