Inyathelo in the Headlines

Helping universities to open the door to donor support - 07 September 2018 - University World News, Africa Edition

Funding higher education has engendered considerable public discussion and debate since the ‘Fees Must Fall’ movement gathered momentum in South Africa in 2015. So it is heartening to share the results of an imaginative, long-term project providing support to university fundraising offices. It has helped universities to massively boost their donor income and to assist many students who would otherwise have been denied tertiary education.

Inyathelo, the South African Institute for Advancement, has worked in partnership with the Kresge Foundation for more than a decade to help develop and bolster the private fundraising efforts of South African universities.

South Africa is the only country where the Kresge Foundation operates beyond the United States; it began funding local universities in 1989, and has invested nearly US$30 million to date in projects.


Fundamental to its success has been the teaching of a multi-layered approach known as Advancement, through the non-profit trust known as Inyathelo. Better-known in America, Advancement spans 10 related elements such as governance, leadership, relationship-building and financial management. It encourages organisations to work in an integrated way to attract resources for long-term sustainability.

The first Kresge Special Initiative was implemented between 2006 and 2010. It enabled the University of the Witwatersrand, University of the Western Cape, University of Pretoria, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the Children’s Hospital Trust to increase their private fundraising revenue a massive threefold.

The four universities have since mentored another, new group of universities. These institutions signed agreements in December 2012 for a five-year intervention known as the second Kresge-Inyathelo Advancement Initiative. The cohort comprises the Durban University of Technology, Tshwane University of Technology, the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Free State.

Kresge allocated each university an initial grant of US$150,000. For the next five years, it awarded an annual performance-based bonus grant when particular milestones were achieved. The programme was underpinned by Advancement staff training and development, undertaken by Inyathelo, which included mentoring, leadership retreats and conferences.

Inyathelo also worked alongside universities helping them to develop strategic plans and to set and meet targets. Partnering with the Rhodes University Business School, it developed a week-long, accredited Advancement course.

There have already been over 100 course graduates, not only from universities, but also from a wide variety of non-profit organisations. And last year, selected Inyathelo staff and university representatives attended a sponsored course at the renowned Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University in the USA.

Success stories

What have some of the university success stories been?

University of Johannesburg

When the Kresge support began, the university had four staff fundraisers. There are now six permanent fundraising staff, plus one temporary employee.

The biggest fundraising success has been the Missing Middle campaign. (This helps students too ’wealthy’ to qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme support, but too disadvantaged to afford fees and qualify for commercial bank loans.) The Missing Middle campaign was launched in 2016, with the University of Johannesburg raising ZAR101 million (US$6.5 million). This grew to ZAR195.7 million in 2017.

Durban University of Technology

Donor income has grown steadily and the university has doubled the number of bursaries based on funds raised by the development office, from 10 in 2017 to 20 in 2018. It has also been able to appoint three more fundraising staff this year, increasing capacity to five staff members.

Tshwane University of Technology

Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has quadrupled its donor income in five years to ZAR64.9 million in 2017, grown the number of fundraising and development staff from six to 11, and compiled a huge alumni database of more than 150,000 people. Key achievements included repositioning the Advancement and Partnerships Office under the leadership of the vice-chancellor and principal’s office, and involving council and other university leadership directly in fundraising initiatives.

The Advancement and Partnerships Office has launched its first TUT Bursary and Scholarship Fund, a platform for alumni to support flagship projects. This encourages high net worth individuals, council members, executive management, staff, students and companies, trusts and foundations to donate. There is currently more than ZAR6 million in the fund, with individual giving growing systematically.

University of the Free State

Receipted donations income increased from ZAR38 million in 2013 to ZAR96 million in 2017. (This increase is also partly due to better tracking systems.) The university met annual targets for increasing income, enhancing leadership’s understanding of Advancement, improving Advancement staff skills, enhancing alumni-university engagement and increasing the alumni and donor database. Capacity for tracking, recording and analysing donor income is now vastly improved.


Inyathelo’s partnership with Kresge has also resulted in an Annual Survey of Philanthropy in Higher Education (ASPIHE). Information about philanthropic support of local higher education institutions was previously sparse and scattered. Few universities collected comprehensive data on this kind of funding and its costs; least of all made it available to others; and no reliable national perspectives existed.

The latest ASPIHE research has shown that South African trusts, foundations, corporations and individuals are donating more to local universities than ever before. Twelve of South Africa’s 26 universities took part in this fourth survey, two more institutions than in the first year and the same number as in the second and third years.

Local university philanthropic income increased to ZAR1.63 billion in 2016; a massive boost of almost ZAR1 billion (ZAR970 million) over a four-year period. And for the first time, giving by South African donors has exceeded income from international sources. South Africans accounted for 90% of all donors and contributed 56% of total funding. International donors contributed 44% of philanthropic income but comprised only 10% of donors.

The 12 universities taking part in the research employed 205 full-time and part-time staff in fundraising, development and alumni relations in December 2016, up from 136 staff in the sample of 10 universities in 2013.

Professionalisation of fundraising

The Kresge-Inyathelo Advancement Initiative has had considerable influence in professionalising traditional university fundraising and building up a strong core of qualified Advancement professionals. Due to increased focus on fundraising in difficult times and better-capacitated Advancement offices, the opportunities for under-resourced students to access tertiary education continue to increase.

Many more local companies and philanthropists are aware of the need to support education and there is less reliance on international donors and grant-makers.

Challenges remain of course. The latest ASPIHE research revealed major disparities in philanthropic funding streams. Six traditional universities received 90% of the ZAR1.63 billion (ZAR1.47 billion) and the other six (such as universities of technology) received only 10% (ZAR156 million).

There is accordingly a need to keep the young graduates of these universities in touch with their alma maters, and to encourage them in turn to support these institutions; and to motivate companies and philanthropists to endow them with funds. For as long as the cadre of experienced Advancement continues to grow and implement their knowledge and learning, there is reason to be positive that their institutions will continue to attract resources and support.

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