The United Nations chose 5 September as International Day of Charity in commemoration of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace.” The day is meant to sensitize and mobilize “people, NGOs, and stakeholders all around the world to help others through volunteer and philanthropic activities.”
We spoke to Charmaine Gola, Director of Fundraising at The Love Trust, for her informed perspective on what International Day of Charity means for her, the importance of NGOs and NPOs and the people and companies that partner with them.
Why is it so important that we celebrate charitable works in this way? A large part of it has to do with making progress towards the 2030 agenda on Sustainable Development: “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.” So the day in itself is about bringing awareness to and recognizing the barriers that poverty places on general overall international development. It’s about encouraging and placing that awareness so people better understand the needs of the most vulnerable, and how one can step up and make a difference where they are.
Why are long-term commitments so important? I will always lean towards encouraging people to give long-term. However, that doesn’t discount the importance of short-term giving as well. As a society, we keep thinking that the need will decrease over time but, unfortunately, it’s sometimes actually the opposite. The Covid-19 pandemic for example is a disaster that exacerbated the need within the communities where we work – people needed help more than ever before.
We, therefore, definitely encourage more long-term commitment because real change, impactful change, takes time. Especially in our field where we look to provide quality, holistic education to the most vulnerable in our society. It takes 12 years or more, if we think about foundation phase learning, to see a child through their educational journey. So ultimately, that’s what we’d like to see: we’d like to be able to contribute towards changing a child’s life throughout their school journey.
But we also understand that one’s ability to give changes over time: you might not be able to give now but later you can afford it, or you’ve always given but due to circumstances you’ve had to stop giving as much or at all. So even if you are able to give on a short-term basis, do that. Every little bit helps.
As the late Desmond Tutu used to say,” Do a little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world”.
It’s not necessarily about the size of the check that you give. You can give by recognizing that sometimes the little that you have, can make a difference in someone’s life. And ultimately, there are always going to be those who are less fortunate than you and you can always look for opportunities to contribute to other people’s lives, by giving and contributing from the little that you actually have.
Why should more people, in their private capacity, support NGOs and NPOs? It’s easy to live our lives and forget about the injustices in the world sometimes, and I think giving refocuses that back to the kind of challenges faced by others. There are also many personal benefits to getting involved in giving such as social benefits (connecting with like-minded people, building a network and making friends), physical benefits (through sporting activities that help raise funds such as running, cycling, swimming, etc.), tax benefits (your donations to registered public benefit organisations are tax-deductible), but the biggest benefit is actually the beneficiaries receiving the charitable gift (knowing you’ve impacted someone’s life for the better).
How to choose the right NGOs to partner with in order to give with purpose – Firstly, look at the alignment of values within an organization that you want to contribute to or support: does it align with your passion, or what you value or believe is important? Sometimes the kinds of programmes or initiatives that an organization runs or supports are what will be the initial draw but then you must really look at the values and how an organization does the things that they say they’re going to do. So good governance is also important. Governance in itself also gets unpacked in so many areas, for example, in South Africa a registered charity is accountable to a regulatory body in terms of the work that they do. When working with children there are a number of policies that an organization has to put in place, because they have a duty of care for their beneficiaries. It’s important to be able to check and verify these good governance practices and policies if you want to ensure that your gift is actually going where you want it to go, and to make sure you have control and access to that kind of information. This leads to how transparent the organization is. For example, are they transparent about their financial position? This will also help you see where exactly your money or your time or your effort is being spent.
It’s the responsibility of the NGO, like The Love Trust, to communicate all this and communicate consistently with the sponsors, supporters, and other stakeholders. And to communicate the impact this has on the beneficiaries is extremely important. If you’re giving as an individual, it’s sometimes not even about the numbers, sometimes it’s in the stories that we share about the change we are making together.
What makes The Love Trust such a good example of a trusted NGO? We at The Love Trust have clear long-term, sustainable goals along with our shorter-term focus areas. Our reports include stats and data as well information about our management, initiatives, and our funds. But it’s not all about graphs and figures and cold hard statistics. For The Love Trust it’s about a happy child, a child who is resilient and has hope for a better life. Psychosocial support for our beneficiaries is critical for academic outcomes .
How can the average person give to a charity or organization of their choice? There are a number of initiatives to support various charities. At The Love Trust individuals and corporates can sponsor a child: you can give once, you can give monthly, or you can give annually. You can also donate resources that are continuously a need within the school: we’ve got lists per grade, classroom, and even subject. There’s a list of means to give as long as my arm and it’s not always cash: your time, expertise and other resource are just as valuable.
It’s even become a popular trend that instead of receiving gifts for your birthday or such, you can ask people to donate to your favourite charities and that way you help raise funds. There are also numerous charity runs, cycling tours and other great ways to help raise funds. A lot of corporates have their own corporate social investment (CSI) programmes, such as payroll giving opportunities, that you can certainly champion where you are and get behind within the environment where you work. We definitely are spoiled for choice in terms of how we can get involved and give to a charity.
Tell us a bit more about some of the programmes and initiatives at The Love Trust that people can support – We also support, empower and train Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers through our training programme – thereby contributing to a better quality of education at the foundational stage of a child’s development. We have a nutrition programme because a hungry child cannot learn and for many children, this will be the only meal they receive that day. Now that the lockdowns are behind us we have refined our sport and culture programmes. Our initiatives offer great solutions for organizations aiming to achieve or improve their B-BBEE scorecard.
What closing message do you have? – It’s in all of us to contribute towards making the world a better place. Government can’t do it alone. And I definitely think that we all have an obligation to contribute to the world that we live in and to leave the world a better place than what we found it.