SA a nation of givers: survey

19 December 2005

South Africa is a nation of givers. A recent survey has revealed that a massive 93% of the country’s people support charities and other social causes, with 54% donating money, 31% giving food or goods, and 17% volunteering time to help the needy.

Download the State of Social Giving report in PDF format For the first report of the State of Social Giving series, commissioned by the Centre for Civil Society, National Development Agency and SA Grantmakers’ Association, researchers questioned more than
3 000 South Africans over the age of 18 in all parts of the country, including informal settlements and rural areas. The project cost of R9-million and took three years to complete.

Extrapolating their results to the entire population, the researchers found that South Africans contribute an average of R920-million a month to poverty alleviation and development – a full 2.2% of the monthly income of the working age population.

In addition to giving to formal charities, 45% of people donate money and/or goods directly to the poor – street children, people begging on the street and so on.

“We found that a massive 93% of respondents gave (time, money or goods, to a cause or individual) in the month before being interviewed,” the researchers say.

“We deliberately cast the net as wide as possible: these figures include respondents who made monthly financial contributions to a charity as well as those (for example) who gave a sandwich or cold-drink to a street child begging at a traffic light.”

An inclusive culture of giving
The survey found that the culture of giving cuts across race and income levels in South Africa.

“Giving seems to be ingrained in respondents,” the researchers say. “Giving is not the domain of the wealthy: it is part of everyday life for all South Africans, rich and poor alike.”

A total 77% of those surveyed gave money directly to charities, causes or organisations or to poor people directly, adding up to a total of R100 571 at an average of R44 per respondent who gave money.

“We can extrapolate these findings to the population as a whole. South African citizens mobilise almost R930-million in an average month for development and anti-poverty work. From one perspective, this is a massive amount of money. Seen in context, it amounts to 2.2% of the total monthly income for the working age population (as measured by Census 2001).”

The causes supported are dominated by those serving children or youth (22%), followed by HIV/Aids (21%) and the poor (20%). These are followed by people with disabilities (8%) and the elderly (5%).

South African giving behaviour by race
South African giving behaviour by race (Source: State of Social Giving report)

Giving behaviour is roughly the same across the racial groups. Some 96% of Indians donate money, goods or time, followed by 94% of blacks, 90% of coloureds and 89% of whites.

An interesting finding was that Gauteng, South Africa’s wealthiest province, gives less than the Eastern Cape, one of the poorest provinces.

Other findings are that men give more money than women, but women give more time. While white South Africans give to organisations more than black South Africans do, blacks give more time.

A feature of giving in South Africa is the amount passed to extended families, which is not accounted for in philanthropic studies. Fifty-nine percent of blacks give to their extended families, compared to 58% of Indians, 42% of coloureds and 39% of whites.

Seventeen percent of South Africans give their time to serve worthy causes, with women volunteering slightly more than men. African volunteers give the most time, followed by coloured people, Indians and lastly whites.

The average amount of time volunteered is constant among young people and adults – between 10 and 11 hours – and only rises among those aged over 60 years of age, to an average of 12 hours.

Poor people (23%) are more likely to volunteer than the more wealthy (17%). “Volunteering, in South Africa, is not the preserve of the middle class with time and resources at their disposal, which we also saw was true of other types of giving,” the researchers say.

Reasons for giving
Two-thirds (68%) of South Africans give to the needy for feelings of human solidarity: “We should give because the poor have nothing, or are suffering, or are in need, or deserve something from us.”

For 10% of the population, it is more of a rational decision to help tackle poverty. Almost one in 10 of those surveyed answered the question in religious terms, with 3% saying they give because their God requires it of them and 6% because by giving they will be blessed.

A third (34%) give to people in immediate need, with a fifth saying both short-term need and long-term solutions deserve their support – in other words, that both charity and development have a support base to draw on.

South Africans are highly motivated to give to local causes, but less so to global issues – only 8% have ever given money specifically to international causes.

  • Download the full text of the State of Social Giving report in PDF format here.
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