CASE STUDY: IPASA – Independent Philanthropy Association South Africa

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IPASA is a locally established, voluntary association of independent philanthropists and private foundations in South Africa that share a common purpose. IPASA’s key purpose is to extend the reach and impact of philanthropy while representing and promoting the common interests, concerns and objectives of its members.

IPASA has at the heart of its mission to promote, support and advance independent philanthropy in South Africa through growing and transforming philanthropy in South Africa, being a voice for independent philanthropy is South Africa, promoting good practice in Philanthropy and supporting collaboration in philanthropy.

The establishment evolved from the reality that there was little or no communication and collaboration between philanthropists and foundations despite there being significant alignment both in terms of sector support and objectives. South African philanthropy operated in silos and maintained privacy as a priority.

In 2015, members decided to reconstitute and formalize the entity as a voluntary association with a written constitution which provided for the establishment of a legal identity, separate and distinct from its members. By associating as IPASA, philanthropists contribute to a learning agenda, enabling thought leadership amongst members, who come from diverse backgrounds and practice. This facilitates collaboration and builds a culture of giving. The power of IPASA lies in its ability to bring organisations and communities together who would not otherwise meet.

The focus of the network was initially aimed at developing trust between members, transparent communication, networking, knowledge sharing, peer learning and building relationships. However, as a natural consequence of the trust that grew within the network and the alignments that organically emerged between the members, structured partnerships have been a significant outcome.

These collaborations have not necessarily involved the pooling of funding or initiating a common project or programme, although this has emerged in some cases. Members have acted as conveners, bringing together a range of stakeholders for the benefit of positive outcomes both for IPASA, its members and for the donor community and civil society in general.

These have included:

  1. Quarterly fora which provide the opportunity for peer learning, developing a community of practice and engagement with invited stakeholders
  2. Annual symposia exploring the external environment and the context in which philanthropy operates drawing on inputs from thought leaders, policy makers, technical experts and civil society representatives
  3. Informal affinity groups of donors in the sectors of education, the environment, social justice and health which have in turn joined more formal affinity groups and networks
  4. Networking events between the members and corporate giving sector representatives with the aim of seeding collaborative efforts
  5. Fora with various government role players including the National Treasury and South African Revenue Service with the aim of gaining better insights into the workings of government to create a more enabling environment for philanthropy.

Additional benefits of associating as IPASA include

  1. A confidential space to share experiences, concerns and challenges with others working in the sector.
  2. Strengthening your networks.
  3. Exploring philanthropic challenges and potential solutions with others.
  4. Opportunities to collaborate and build partnerships with associated funders.
  5. Building a community of “best practice” and grantmaking ethics.
  6. Enhancing understanding of the South African developmental context and civil society space.
  7. Promotion of a more enabling fiscal and legal environment for philanthropy.
  8. Potential to engage with international philanthropic entities and networks.
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