South Africa

We work to empower underserved communities by developing local philanthropy and increasing access to justice.

Building democracy starts with participating in and giving back to your local community.

How It Works

Our work in South Africa has evolved beyond supporting the anti-apartheid struggle to focus on helping ordinary people fully participate in their democratic society.

In the mid-1980s, we made our first grants to help the people of South Africa, where — under apartheid laws — millions of non-white citizens were subjected to forced separation, economic deprivation and brutal repression. We focused on strengthening grassroots community organizations and training black community leaders to respond to ground-level needs of people throughout the country. In 1993, we opened an office in Johannesburg, our first outside of the United States.

Today, our grantmaking continues to focus on grassroots work to ensure underserved communities have access to legal assistance, growing community assets and fostering a culture of giving to help build participatory democracy at all levels of society.

We make grants under two objectives:

Community Advice Office Sector

We seek to foster strong and sustainable community advice offices and related community-based organizations that assist poor and marginalized communities.

We make grants to:

  • intermediary organizations that fund community advice offices and community-based organizations to provide free and accessible legal advice and related services to poor and marginalized people, foster local community development and help communities hold local government accountable; and
  • networks and support organizations that assist with advocacy efforts, provide infrastructure support, and develop the capacity of community advice offices and related community-based organizations.

Philanthropy Development

We seek increased philanthropy with improved responsiveness to the needs of poor and marginalized communities.

We make grants to:

  • community foundations and indigenous grantmakers that encourage and expand local giving and act as vehicles for sustained community development; and
  • infrastructure organizations that focus on growing the philanthropy sector by developing capacity, encouraging a culture of local giving and tracking trends in giving.

The advice offices are such a critical force … it’s the first point where people can receive assistance to obtain their rights under the constitution. It’s the place where South Africans can become citizens.

Shannon Lawder, Civil Society program director