The COVID-19 crisis has resulted in an urgent and massive need for humanitarian and economic support for communities and enterprises, and the philanthropic sector in South Africa has been called into action at a scale seldom, if ever, seen before. Anthony Farr, chief executive officer of Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy in Africa, describes the principles adhered to and the response of the Allan Gray entities.
The reality of the COVID-19 crisis catalysed Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy into action, with a commitment of R100m to fight the pandemic. The speed of this response triggered the rest of the Allan Gray philanthropy entities in Southern Africa to follow suit, resulting in a combined effort that made R180m of funding available to assist with the economic and humanitarian crises.
This collaborative effort included Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy, Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment, E Squared and Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. This contribution was supplemented by funds raised through an internal campaign at Allan Gray Proprietary Limited to encourage executives and employees to contribute individually, which amounted to nearly R2m.
Charity begins at home
To us, it was very important to begin our efforts by considering the support existing programmes and grantees might need. Across the Southern African Allan Gray philanthropy ecosystem, entities responded quickly and appropriately, ensuring that participants such as Allan Gray Scholars and Fellows were properly supported. Necessary adjustments for investee companies were made by E Squared, and small emergency relief grants were offered to grantees of the Philanthropy Initiative and Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment.
The response … seeks to address both the welfare and economic dimensions of the challenge
Having covered this home base with existing resources, attention was then given to the broader COVID-19 response.
In deciding how to allocate funds, the following principles were incorporated:
- Orientated towards the immediate rather than the longer term
The focus was on taking immediate action, acknowledging that there was a critical need to reduce the hardship now. However, bearing in mind that the impact of this crisis would remain with us, we also wanted to devote attention to the longer-term process of recovering and rebuilding, with more strategic action beyond the first wave of immediate humanitarian responses. Around 20% of the funding has therefore been held back for a second phase of support.
- Holistic rather than one-dimensional
The challenge of this crisis is that it has had an impact on so many different levels of society. While Allan Gray-related endeavours have always been guided by the principle of focus, in this unique context, there has been a need to broaden the scope in recognition of the breadth of the crisis. The response therefore seeks to address both the welfare and economic dimensions of the challenge.
- Balance of grant-making and catalytic philanthropy
Given the urgency and scale of the crisis, it was decided that the bulk of the allocation should be in grants to a few organisations that have been set up to have an immediate impact. While this would be the central thrust, Allan Gray entities have built up significant philanthropic capacity in South Africa over the years and so in each of the broad areas (welfare and economic), a smaller, more catalytic and strategic response has also been initiated.
Based on the above principles, the first phase of support was structured as follows:
- R50m to the Solidarity Fund.
- R50m to the South African Future Trust (SAFT) to support small businesses dealing with the fallout of COVID-19. Through the SAFT mechanism, this contribution has kept nearly 5 000 individuals employed over this time, with the likely multiplier effect benefiting a total of 25 000 people.
- R20m to the COVID-19 Innovation & Response Fund, an initiative established through E Squared to fund businesses and start-ups providing products and services that are either highly innovative or essential in the fight against the pandemic. This fund has identified 10 potentially catalytic businesses covering the COVID-19 areas of prevention, detection, care and support.
- R10m to fund the Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM), a research project involving a nationally representative sample of 10 000 South African individuals over a period of six months to track changes in social and economic outcomes over the period. Already some of the preliminary data is showing the significant impact that the pandemic has had on hunger in South Africa.
- R10m towards additional support in Namibia (R5m), Botswana (R3.5m) as well as Eswatini (R1.5m) in accordance with the Allan Gray philanthropic footprint in the Southern African Development Community.
It is about making our own small contribution to … stand in unity with South Africans in the fight against the pandemic
Through this funding, the Allan Gray philanthropy ecosystem is striving to ensure we bring to life the core beliefs of our founders, Allan and Gill Gray, for whom philanthropy and business are inescapably entwined. It is about making our own small contribution to heed the call of our government and stand in unity with South Africans in the fight against the pandemic.