Community philanthropy upends traditional philanthropic approaches by facilitating trust-based, care-focused, community-led projects. Beulah Fredericks, consultant and former director of the Community Development Foundation in the Western Cape (CDF WCape), explains how this model allows philanthropists to become more thoughtful, focused and strategic about their giving.
Please explain the concept of community/horizontal philanthropy and how it allows communities to meet needs they themselves identify.
It’s a process of giving with intent, deep caring and being in solidarity with the community. In the spirit of Ubuntu,
resources are mobilised and shared by and for the poor.
During the pandemic, for example, women-led community-based organisations (CBOs) mobilised, and CDF WCape allowed them to lead the process and decide on the most appropriate way of dealing with the issue of food and food security.
Recognising that communities are best at identifying felt needs, the Foundation made small community grants to these CBOs rather than distributing food parcels.
How does horizontal philanthropy differ from vertical philanthropy?
Horizontal philanthropy is the poor mobilising and sharing resources, which include intangibles such as time, solidarity and prayers of, by and for community. Rules are unwritten and based on an understanding of mutual trust. Vertical philanthropy is for community, and is organised and guided by legal frameworks.
Please provide an example of horizontal philanthropy and what some of its outcomes have been.
The intensity of horizontal philanthropy during the pandemic comes to mind. The process of self-organisation and
mobilisation ensured links were created with other stakeholders to assist with feeding the vulnerable. For the CDF
WCape, its horizontal philanthropy tool of giving circles has demystified and redefined philanthropy.
By participating in giving circles, donors become more thoughtful, focused and strategic in their giving, which is specific and in the context of the felt needs of the community in which they want to see and experience impact.
Can horizontal philanthropy build on vertical giving? If so, how?
Yes, it can. Vertical giving is the seed and horizontal philanthropy offers the reputational capital of trust, solidarity
and community know-how for vertical philanthropy to expand. Time, solidarity and care are often a better starting point than a cheque book, and the Foundation has seen how horizontal giving at a local level can unlock the impact of vertical giving.
The giving circle strategy allowed CDF WCape to realise the potential and promise of a community fund as a localised resource mobilisation strategy to not only buttress the culture of local giving, but also deepen power horizontally of, by and for community.
Tell us more about the Community Development Foundation Western Cape.
CDF WCape is dedicated to strengthening and building the capacity of grassroots groups. Over and above community grantmaking, its work focuses on agency, elevating and giving voice, and shifting the balance of power. Our longstanding work in communities has taught us that communities have the necessary know-how and are used to addressing vulnerabilities and risks concerning poverty and adversity.
While the primary emphasis is on economic regeneration and subsistence support, a large part of the Foundation’s work concerns the protection of women against gender-based violence, aftercare programmes for children and youth, food and security, and, most importantly, entrepreneurial initiatives.
What has your work taught you about what types of giving help to empower communities?
Grassroots communities not only have authentic knowledge of their respective situations, but also have the edge
on doable and meaningful solutions. By building on and centring the healing elements of resilience, agency and
authentic knowledge of communities, a stronger CDF WCape would be able to continue creating pathways for meaningful civic engagement.
Small community grants made to various CBO partners have had a ripple effect, enabled wider community outreach, and thus elevated voice and shifted the power from the ground up.
How can companies and nonprofits support community philanthropy?
The pandemic highlighted the inflexibility of the donor community. With many donors not changing their agendas to adequately locate funding for pandemic relief, civil society organisations were left trapped in rigid agendas focused on project funding streams.
Operational funding remains an urgent need, and while we are witnessing an outpouring of giving/mutual aid, getting funding to cover organisational running costs remains a challenge.
Consultant and former director of the Community Development Foundation in the Western Cape (CDF WCape)