It’s an interesting time for philanthropy in South Africa. Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe made news in 2013 when he pledged half the income of his family’s assets to his foundation.
Examples abound of similar financial contributions by prominent South Africans, but most of them go under the radar.
Nedbank Private Wealth’s Giving Report tracks the giving activity of high-net-worth (HNW) individuals in South Africa, and for the person at the helm of its dedicated philanthropy unit, there is nothing more satisfactory than helping these individuals help others.
Noxolo Hlongwane spent a number of years in the banking industry before deciding to take a year off to find something more meaningful to do. Finally, she did.
“We all have ubuntu [a South African word for compassion and humanity] inherent in us,” says this Head of Philanthropy at Nedbank Private Wealth.
“We are creating a culture of professionalized giving…The philanthropy business at Nedbank Private Wealth doesn’t just help our clients create their wealth; it also helps them create a legacy in a meaningful manner, I think that’s why it’s such an important offering,” says Hlongwane.
Hlongwane gives advice to just about anyone who wants to give back to society, but for those ultra-wealthy individuals who meet the requirements to start a portfolio, the company’s philanthropy business offers an end-to-end service.
“We advise anyone, we do not charge. Although to become a client, you must be earning an annual income of R1.5 million [$127,000] or have R5 million [$422,000] minimum investable assets which excludes your primary home,” says Hlongwane.
According to a study by them, there are only 300,000 HNW individuals in South Africa, a country of over 52 million people.
Philanthropy is not just a job for Hlongwane. You can tell it holds a lot of meaning in her life, as she brings a lot of passion to her role.
“For me personally, especially as a South African, I think it’s a part of who we are. The definition of philanthropy is taken from a Greek word, meaning love thy neighbor, and it is for everyone, not just for the elitist, it is not just for the select few. Everyone can make a contribution and can make a difference.”
Despite the good in philanthropy, many have misconstrued ‘western’ perceptions of the term, she says.
“The perception is that it is for the Bill Gates’, people who can pledge billions. If we continue to think that it is for the elitist, then it becomes difficult to get people to give more and professionalize their giving. Even if you are giving R100,000 [$8,450] per annum, you can do it in a structured way, you can be strategic about it, that’s what we are trying to encourage strategic giving because we want long-term impact and benefits,” says the articulate Hlongwane.
For Hlongwane, the most important aspect for philanthropy is values – and not the monetary kind alone. You have to be able to care enough for the cause.
“Philanthropy speaks to personal value, in a large way it dictates the sectors that you support. It can be a very personal journey driven by personal values,” says Hlongwane, who says her unit is doing more than motivating big players in the economy to invest; they are currently working on getting better tax incentives as well for donors in the country.
And the year looks positive for philanthropy in general.