Patrons and Trustees


Dr Russell Ally - Board Chair

Senior Director, Institutional Advancement, University of the Free State

Dr Ally has a BA and Higher Diploma in Education from the University of Cape Town, a BA (Hons) and master’s from Rhodes University, and a doctorate from the University of Cambridge in Great Britain.
Substantial experience in donor and alumni relations, fundraising, and philanthropy
Before joining the UFS, he was the executive director of the Development and Alumni Department at the University of Cape Town (UCT) since August 2013, where he was responsible for institutional advancement, fundraising, and alumni relations. Previously, he was the Ford Foundation’s programme officer for Southern Africa and was responsible for the Governance and Civil Society Programme in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Prior to Ford, he was the country representative and executive director of the South African Office of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation – an endowed, non-profit private grant-making foundation based in Flint, Michigan, in the United States. 
Dr Ally also worked for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as its human rights project manager, overseeing a human rights institutional strengthening project. During this time, Dr Ally served as the national coordinator of the South African Government’s National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NAP), working directly with all the government departments involved in 74023 promoting human rights. He was the main author of the National Action Plan that was submitted to the United Nations in 1998 as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In 1996, Dr Ally was appointed to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where he served on the Human Rights Violation Committee chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He has taught at secondary school level, at a teacher training college, and was a senior researcher in the African Studies Institute, and senior lecturer in the Department of History at the University of the Witwatersrand. 

Israel Noko - Board Treasurer

CEO & Founder of NPI Governance Consulting

Israel is passionate about Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), including the economic transformation of South Africa. He has lectured on “BEE for NGOs” and worked with civil society, universities and non-profits to develop BEE fundraising strategies to enable sustainable income streams into their organisations. His experience has focused on developing and executing strategies which would enable companies to better position themselves in the market, and develop partnerships with companies and organizations that want to implement “business-sense” enterprise development, socio-economic development and BEE strategies. Israel also has extensive working experience in France, Switzerland, UK and South Africa in both private and public sectors. Israel studied Law and Social Sciences at the University of Warwick, UK, and pursued and completed a LL.B in Business Law at Coventry University, UK. In his previous capacity, Israel was on the Boards of the South Africa-Canada Chamber of Business (2007 to 2012) and the Bilateral Chamber Forum of South Africa. His current Directorships include; Net1 UEPS Mosomo Broad-Based Trust (Chairman), National Association of BEE Consultants (Chairman) and Micro Finance South Africa (Board member).

Merlinda Abrahams - Board Secretary

Director, Chameleon Skills

Merlinda Abrahams’ experience in the leadership and organisational development space, the NGO sector, corporate sector and government has honed her ability to identify her space in the world: to help others, in whatever their roles whether as leaders, parents or colleagues and successfully navigate the complexities of their lives. Her work is informed by Integral Theory and Transactional Analysis and she places great emphasis on developing the ability to recognise the value of integrating all of the pieces into a well-rounded, balanced whole.
Merlinda is affiliated with the International Coaching Federation, Coaching and Mentoring South Africa (COMENSA) and the South African Transactional Analysis Association (SATAA).

Viola Manuel

Business Consultant and non-executive director at National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) and Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU)

Viola Manuel has sat on numerous boards and been nominated for multiple awards. IT Personality of the Year, Boss of the Year, Influential Women Award, SA’s Most Influential Women in Business & Government (twice nominated) and was short-listed for the Woman of the Year Award. She has also been instrumental in several initiatives, including The ICT Census of the Western Cape, Women in IT, Youth in IT, VIP Graduates Club and several SMME Enterprise Development Projects. Viola was CEO of the Cape Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Executive Director of The Cape IT Initiative. She serves as a non-executive at National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI), and Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) and heads specialist committees on these boards. She has three entrepreneurial ventures and currently works as the Chief Stakeholder Relations Officer for Leapfrog Global. Viola holds an MBA (Herriot Watt University, Scotland), HDipEd (UCT) and BA (UCT) and is looking forward to completing her DBA.