Inyathelo in the Media

Donors open their wallets for student funding

Philanthropists are increasing their donations to SA universities, with nearly five out of 10 specifying the money be spent on student funding.

This is according to the latest "Annual Survey of Philanthropy in Higher Education", which reveals that philanthropists gave more than R1.7bn to 11 local universities in 2017.

After student funding (49%), the distribution of funds received by purpose was 23% for research, 8% each for "teaching and learning" and "community engagement", and small proportions for infrastructure and other purposes.

The survey was conducted under the auspices of Inyathelo: The SA Institute for Advancement. Research was sponsored by the US-based Kresge Foundation and conducted by Dr Sean Jones of EduActive Solutions.

There were 9,357 donors in the year under review. This was an increase of nearly 5,000 donors between 2013 and 2017.

The report noted: "The increase was partly attributable to the inclusion of a further university in the sample (from 10 to 11), but also reflects a significant incline in the number of donors across the sample over the five-year period."

The university with the lowest number of philanthropic contributors in 2017 had 107 donors and the university with the highest number reported 2,157 donors.

Wealthy South Africans have been increasingly generous in their support of tertiary education, the survey found.

"For the first four years of the survey the distribution of income from local versus international sources hovered around half. In 2016, however, the balance shifted and a healthy 56% of donor income emanated from local donors. This encouraging momentum continued in 2017, when 72% emanated from local sources and only 28% from international ones."

Donation sizes have increased over the five years.

In 2017, the largest proportion of donations (62%) were between R1,000 and R10,000, which is a shift from 2013, when the bulk of donations were less than R1,000.

At the other end of the scale, gifts of more than R1m made up less than 2% and those more than R5m less than 1%. The number of gifts, however, more than doubled in these two top bands between 2013 and 2017, and, in fact, more than tripled in regards to gifts of more than R5m, the report said.

The largest single donation received by an institution in the 2017 sample was nearly R38m, compared with just under R100m in 2013 and R75m in 2016.


  • R1.71bn was receipted in philanthropic income by the 11 participating universities in 2017. This was R978m higher than recorded for the 10 universities in the 2013 sample. If eligible Seta income amounting to R161m were to be included, the aggregate total would increase to nearly R1.95bn.
  • 9,357 donors made philanthropic contributions to the 11 institutions compared with 4,355 donors in 2013, when the sample was 10 institutions.
  • Individuals comprised the largest category of donors, making up 82% of the 9,317 donors. This was an increase from 75% in 2013. The private sector provided 8% of donors, down from 11% in 2013, and trusts and foundations comprised 5%, compared with 9% in 2013.
  • The proportion of income from SA sources was 72%, 35 percentage points higher than in 2013. The report noted: "This is a very significant shift, particularly against the background of such a large increase in donor funding to universities. Collectively, these figures suggest that more South Africans and SA organisations are giving significantly more funding to higher education institutions than five years ago."

 First published by TimesLive:


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