Some of the greatest things in the world started with a donation - the yellow road marking, the now ubiquitous 'pill' form of contraception.
With an unrelenting bias, we'll offer that South Africa is a great country that has built, discovered and produced some of the world's greatest things - many on the back of a donation.
The South African Institute for Advancement (Inyathelo)'s Shelagh Gastrow runs us through a list of 5 people and their families that have been responsible for significant social impact, using their own money:
1. [Donald Gordon](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald<i>Gordon</i>(South<i>African</i>businessman):
He's made some very interesting personal philanthropic investments. The one is the Gordon Business Institute of Business Science at the University of Pretoria - which I'm sure anyone living in Johannesburg has driven past it at some point. He's also funded the Donald Gordon Medical Centre to the tune of R 100 million in a partnership with WITS University. Essentially, what he was looking at in terms of his vision, was establishing two world class institutions that would produce business and medical leaders in South Africa. And that has emerged from these two institutions. He is one of the top philanthropists in the country.
2. The Ackermans:
They set up the first family education trust, the Ackerman Family Trust, in the 1970's - they were very ahead of their time. One of the things that they funded was the Raymond Ackerman Academy of Entrepreneurial Development at UCT's Graduate School of Business. But one of the big things that I think people are not aware of is that Raymond Ackerman - or it could have been his father or grandfather - was one of the founding donors for the establishment of the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital. This tradition of supporting this hospital has remained within the Ackerman family and they have pumped millions into the upgrading, the refurbishment, the re-equipping of this hospital. It has become a world-class facility that attracts paediatricians and academics from all over the world.
3. The Ruperts:
The concept of the Peace Parks - it was Anton Rupert who drove this concept - was something utterly unique in the world, where you have Transfrontier Conservation Areas (TFCAs). It made people really think about the notion of sovereignty and what borders meant and what was possible across borders. Not only did it create these huge conservation areas, it really created opportunities for thousands of jobs in local communities. It stretches right across Southern Africa - people from Mozambique, Zambia, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi. So when Anton Rupert passed away, Johan Rupert took over. What we know about Johan Rupert is that he donates his full salary to charity every year and it's in region of probably close to R 40 million.
4. Cyril Ramaphosa:
The Adopt-A-School Foundation – which he formed in 2002 – started with a school which he attended which contacted him asking him for a fax machine. When he went to visit the school, he realised there were a whole lot of other things that were needed. So he started the foundation and would leverage money by phoning other past pupils, saying ‘Well I’m putting in this, what are you going to put in?’ They’ve worked in hundreds of schools and built hundreds of facilities, they’ve trained teachers in IT and librarianship – they’re making an incredible change within the schools they work in.
He’s a very religious Christian and he made a commitment that if his business was successful, he would invest a huge portion of the company into a charitable foundation – and that’s what he did. The value of that shareholding is over a billion rand. He funds mainly church-based initiatives – but that doesn’t mean its propagation of the faith, it’s for lots of social programs around children and youth, healthcare, HIV and AIDS and general community programs. It’s done in other African countries like Namibia and Swaziland – he’s put in over a billion worth of his shareholding into this foundation.
Gastrow also notes the importance of philanthropy in encouraging a culture of pursuing risky research, business opportunity and innovation:
There are many questions around how philanthropists make their money, but there are many wealthy people who do not give back. And I often ask myself ‘How much does one need to keep within a family?’ The wonderful thing about philanthropy is because it isn’t government money – government can’t take risks because they’ve got to worry about voters, corporates also worry about shareholders and what would good corporate citizenship be, they don’t want to deal with risk – and with philanthropy, accountability isn’t much of an issue.