Philanthropists give over R1.7 billion to 11 local universities


Many South Africans and South African organisations are giving significantly more philanthropic funding to local universities. However, the vast majority of funding goes to more traditional, research-intensive, historically advantaged universities (HAIs). The challenge is to better understand this discrepancy, and to address how historically disadvantaged universities (HDIs) can attract more funding.

These are key findings from the latest (2018) Annual Survey of Philanthropy in Higher Education (ASPIHE) report, based on 2017 figures. Eleven universities took part in the survey, which is conducted under the auspices of Inyathelo: the South African Institute for Advancement. Research was sponsored by the US-based Kresge Foundation and conducted by Dr Sean Jones of EduActive Solutions.

Boost in philanthropic income, more South African support

The eleven universities in the survey received a collective total of R1.71 billion in philanthropic income in 2017 – R978 million higher than recorded for the 10 universities taking part in the first survey in 2013. Median annual philanthropic income was R108 million in 2017, which is significantly higher than the median of R23 million in 2013. The proportion of income from South African sources was 72%, which is 35% higher than in 2013. International donors contributed 28% of philanthropic income but comprised only 10% of donors.

Growth in private sector and individual giving

The largest proportion of philanthropic funding came from trusts and foundations, which contributed 42%. This decreased from 61% in 2013 indicating a declining dependence on trusts and foundations. This was matched by increased levels of giving by the private sector and individuals. Private sector entities contributed 25% of philanthropic income in 2017 compared with 14% in 2013, while individual donors’ contributions increased from 4% in 2013 to 20% in 2017. The number of donations also increased dramatically over the five years, from 5659 in 2013 to 28 668 in 2017. The number of donations between R1 million and R4,9 million more than doubled and those exceeding R5 million more than tripled.

Differences and disadvantages

While noting the encouraging progress in philanthropic funding overall, the report adds that it “obscures some extremely significant and severe differences and inequalities” and “a considerably less rosy picture emerges when the universities are disaggregated along the lines of historical advantage and disadvantage.” In 2013, 94% of all donor income to the participating institutions went to HAIs and 6% to HDIs. This equalled R622 million for HAIs versus R37 million for HDIs. The difference was even greater in 2017 when 96% of funding went to HAIs and 4% to HDIs – R1.6 billion for HAIs versus R73 million for HDIs.