CAF America Insider Blog

CAF Southern Africa

June 11, 2020

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The Pivotal Role of Civil Society in South Africa

South Africa, as well as the entire world, is facing unprecedented socio-economic consequences, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The South African non-profit sector, is likewise especially exposed, as it navigates a host of unintended consequences. CAF Southern Africa has undertaken a number of research projects in the last year and The Voice of Charities Facing COVID-19 Worldwide, conducted by CAF America, adds to that body of evidence.

What this report has found backs up our other research, including a recent small scale survey amongst a sample of the registered non-profit organisations on our data-base and most indicated, that should no additional support be secured, either from government of other donors, they very much doubt their ability to keep their doors open, for longer than a period of six months. While it is still early days and the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lock down on South African non-profit organisations will unfold in the coming months, initial indications are, that the South African non-profit sector, is becoming increasingly distressed, at a time when it is needed most.

The civil society sector has played a pivotal role in South African society historically, particularly during the unjust apartheid years where it, for those impacted, was a voice for those most marginalised and disadvantaged South Africans, who were systemically denied access to human rights, social justice, as well as access to quality housing, health, education and ultimately, employment, inter alia.

While the advent of democracy delivered political liberation, the evils of apartheid have left a profound legacy of inequality, poverty and unemployment, for those already disadvantaged by apartheid practices and legislation.

Now more than ever before, it is critical that civil society, most especially the non-profit sector, as a vital pillar in our young democracy and a voice to hold government accountable, must continue to prevail and ensure that essential services are rendered to those families who remain the most vulnerable and marginalised, in our society. Through our in depth analysis of giving in 2019, we already know how generous South Africans are, and embrace the concept of Ubuntu. It is pleasing to note the out-pouring of generosity from communities, in response to this crisis. But we also saw from that research, the challenges that NPOs face in terms of access to unrestricted funding and being able to access giving by individuals. COVID-19 will only have amplified these issues. At CAF Southern Africa, and along with our partners in the CAF Global Alliance, we continue to work with local governments, companies, everyday givers to unlock much needed resourcing to ensure the survival of thousands of NPOs helping millions of people. It is critical that we as intermediaries in the philanthropy and civil society space, seek innovative ways to guide and support our corporate and non-profit clients, during such unprecedented times, and as we contemplate a post COVID-19 landscape.

– Gill Bates | CEO, CAF Southern Africa


CAF Southern Africa (CAFSA), is an independent civil society organisation that promotes  and facilitates effective giving, volunteering and investment for social change.

Based in Johannesburg, CAFSA initially became operational in 1997, and was subsequently formally registered in 2000,  as a Non-Profit Company, with Public Benefit Organisation, status.

CAFSA aims to challenge existing social, economic and political inequalities by increasing resource flows to civil society organisations working in poor and marginalised communities.

Some of the work which CAFSA does to achieve its mission, vision and objectives, is as follows:

CAFSA works from the premise that the civil society sector is a key element of effective democracies, providing critical support to poor, vulnerable and marginalised communities, and defending constitutional rights of social, economic, and political justice.

While being a wholly owned South African organisation, CAF Southern Africa is also a proud member of the CAF Global Alliance of the Charities Aid Foundation, with headquarters in the United Kingdom. This international reach enables CAFSA to marry its unrivalled knowledge with the experience of ten global offices.

The CAF Global Alliance spans six continents, with offices in Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, India, Russia, the United States of America, Turkey, the UK and South Africa

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