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A nation of givers? Social giving among South Africans

Findings from a national survey Researched and written for the CCS, SAGA and NDA

by David Everatt and Geetesh Solanki of Strategy & Tactics

August 2004

Posted with permission of the authors.
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Some key findings

  1. South Africa appears to be a nation of givers: over half of respondents (54%) gave money to charities or other causes, a third (31%) gave food or goods to charities or other causes, while slightly less than a fifth (17%) volunteered time for a charity or cause, in the month prior to being interviewed. In addition to giving to formalised institutions or causes, slightly less than half of respondents told us they gave money and/or goods (45% respectively) not to formal charities but directly to the poor – street children, people begging on the street and so on.

  2. If we combine these different forms and methods of giving, we find that a massive 93% of respondents gave (time, money or goods, to a cause or individual) in the month before being interviewed. 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.

  3. Giving seems to be ingrained in respondents. Even among those scoring high on ‘alienation’ variables, 92% gave in the month prior to being interviewed, rising to 94% among those with low levels of alienation. Similarly, we found that poor and non-poor respondents were equally likely to have given in the month prior to being interviewed. ‘Giving’ is not the domain of the wealthy: it is part of everyday life for all South Africans, rich and poor alike.

  4. In all, 77% of respondents told us they gave money (any amount) directly to charities, causes or organisations or to poor people directly. If we add up the amounts given to organisations and to the poor, we find that respondents who gave money, gave a total of R100 571 at an average of R44 per respondent who gave money.

  5. As a nationally representative sample, we can extrapolate these findings to the population as a whole. South African citizens mobilise almost R930m 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).

  6. In all, 17% of respondents volunteered time in the month before being interviewed; during that month, they gave an average of 11 hours each, totalling nearly 6 000 hours. Women volunteered slightly more time than men; African volunteers gave the most time, averaging 11 hours each in the month before being interviewed; they were followed by coloured respondents, Indians and lastly whites. It is important to note that the average amount of time volunteered is constant among youth 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 respondents (23%) were more likely to have volunteered than non-poor (17%). Volunteering, in South Africa, is not the preserve of the middleclass with time and resources at their disposal, which we also saw was true of other types of giving.

  7. The most deserving causes, according to respondents, are dominated by three categories: those associated with children or youth (22%), followed by HIV/AIDS (21%) and ‘the poor’ (20%). These three are followed by a set of smaller categories, including people with disabilities (8%) and the elderly (5%).

  8. South Africans are highly motivated to give to local causes, but significantly less so to international causes. Less than one in ten respondents (8%) told us they had ever given money specifically to international causes.

  9. For two-thirds (68%) of respondents, giving to the poor is motivated by 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 others it seems to be more of a rational decision to try and help tackle poverty (10%). Almost one in ten respondents answered the question in religious terms, with 3% telling us they gave because their God required it of them and 6% because by giving they will be blessed.

  10. A third (34%) of respondents told us they give to people in immediate need, and a fifth (21%) that both short-term need and long-term solutions deserve their support. The data suggest that both charity and development have a support base to draw on.

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