Lending a helping hand

2010-01-21 00:00

THE massive crisis in Haiti has mobilised many South Africans to donate money and highlighted the importance of the work of nonprofit organisations (NPOs).

In South Africa, the lives of many people who face hardship and even death are being transformed by these bodies.

But many people are hesitant about donating money or time, and don’t know where to start.

Most people choose between two considerations — they either decide to help a group in their local community, or want to help a specific cause, said Sophie Hobbs of GreaterGood SA.

GreaterGood SA provides a portal for more than 2 000 local organisations on its website, enabling donors to choose a cause according to their own criteria and donate money through credit-card transactions. It also assists with volunteering and provides corporate social investment services for companies.

Some of the most popular causes are children and education, said Hobbs. Environmental projects are also increasingly supported.

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers Foundation said there is also a lot of support for HIV/Aids-related charities and organisations that supply food parcels.

“But we need more emphasis on help for disabled children, particularly those with mental problems or physical deformities.”

More money is also needed for scholarships and bursaries. “Many children do very well at school, but don’t manage to get to university.”

Anything to do with older people and hospices, where there is a great need, is often disregarded by donors, said Hobbs.

Complicated issues, like land and food security, are also overlooked.


Picking an organisation

All NPOs have to be registered with the department of social development.

Any community or faith-based group, as well as any nongovernmental organisation or trust, can apply for accreditation with the department.

The department will then issue them with an NPO number.

It is crucial that any organisation you donate to has an NPO number and is registered with the government. Each year the NPOs have to renew their status.

The department has a website (www.npo.gov.za) where you can search for the organisation to check whether it has been accredited. You can also contact the department directly at 012 312 7500.

However, the NPO database has come under fire from the social sector for not being up to date and many people don’t regard it as a reliable source.

To get a better picture, contact the organisation itself and ask for proof of its NPO number. And don’t be shy to ask for financial statements of the organisation, said Hobbs. GreaterGood also indicates on its site which organisations have up- to-date documentation and accreditation.

Financial statements and annual reports will give you information about an organisation’s spending.

While there is often criticism of charity organisations that spend a large part of their income on administration and salaries, Hobbs said it is more important to focus on their effectiveness.

In the past, there have been some problems with sham organisations that pocket people’s money. Often this is the case with organisations that were set up for a specific crisis. Always make sure you know where the money is going and whether the people involved are credible.

Check that the organisation has a physical address, not just an e-mail address or phone number. And, again, make sure of its NPO number and ask to see audited financial statements.

Do an Internet search to see what has been reported about organisations, said Sooliman. Look at their website to see whether they have completed substantial projects.

— Fin24.com



• GreaterGood SA: 021 762 7944 or info@ggsa.co. za

• Gift of the Givers: 033 345 0163 or info@giftofthegivers.org



MAKE sure you get a receipt and confirmation of all donations.

Increasingly, people are choosing to become “social investors” instead of being donors, said Hobbs.

Instead of giving money on an ad hoc basis, you can now invest in a number of opportunities with a social return through the SA Social Investment Exchange (Sasix). Some of the listed projects on the exchange include education and employment projects. You can then track the impact of your investment through the exchange. The exchange also allows you to set up your own personalised charitable fund.



DONATIONS of up to 10% of your taxable income may be deducted from tax.

This is only valid for donations to approved Public Benefit Organisations (PBO) under Section 18A of the Income Tax Act. The organisation must issue you with an 18A tax receipt detailing your donation.

You can then submit it with your tax return to receive the deduction.

You may also claim a deduction for the value of donations in kind you make to a Section 18A-approved organisation. This includes shares in a listed company, stock from your own business, things you manufacture yourself, previously loved goods or assets, like vehicles or property, said Hobbs.

Any property you bequeath to a PBO in your will is excluded from the value of the estate and is therefore not subject to estate duty. Estate duty is levied at a rate of 20% on the net estate of a dead person.



YOUR skills can often be more valuable than donating money. Giving your time can transform lives.

Teachers as well as doctors, nurses, nursing assistants and other medical professionals are much needed in many communities, said Sophie Hobbs.

Assistance from those with bookkeeping skills, as well as people who are good with growing food, is also in demand.

Being good with people is another skill that is often needed — particularly to interact with lonely older folk, said Hobbs.


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