More than 20 years after apartheid, South Africa remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, according to the Oxfam Report on Global Inequality. The wealthiest 10% earn 50% of the country’s income, while 50% of the population collectively earn only 12%. Against this backdrop of disparity, the Community Chest has been working for 90 years to divert precious resources from the haves to the have-nots in a manner that will effect lasting change.
With 2018 marking 90 years, Community Chest is taking a look at how far it has come for inspiration for the worthy work that will comprise its future.
The 1920s were a time of rampant and growing inequality in South Africa and, heeding a call to address the plight of less fortunate communities in the area, in 1928 the Rotary Club of Cape Town established the Community Chest.
In its formative years, the organisation thrived under the careful guidance of two men known for their exemplary moral character. The first elected Chairman, Sir Walter Stanford – a staunch proponent of equality – was followed by Sydney Lavis, the Coadjutor Bishop of Cape Town. Under Lavis’ leadership the organisation was instrumental in the delivery of vital funds to 24 welfare organisations, despite the financial strain that accompanied the Second World War.
Lorenzo Davids, Community Chest CEO says, “The financial woes of the Second World War forced many charities to close their doors. However, prompted by Prime Minister General Smuts, the public redirected donations to the Community Chest, so we could ensure funding went to those who needed it most.”
Later on, dedicated leaders such as Robert Blake, Roger Hulley and Amelia Jones, continued to carve out an important role for the organisation in the philanthropic world.
During its 90 years the Community Chest has been behind some of Cape Town’s most iconic events. In 1951, a theatrical Garden Party was held in De Waal Park. This was later moved to Maynardville and grew into the popular Community Chest Carnival, a celebration of culture and cuisine for 65 years.
In 1983, the Twilight Run was launched by former Springbok, Dave Stewart. Now, 35 years later, the run still attracts thousands of participants to Cape Town’s Grand Parade each year.
In 1990 the organisation introduced the country’s first scratch-card, the Community Chest Challenge, a move which boosted their annual fundraising target to R10 million.
“Strategic partnerships have played a huge role in our success, allowing us to play a more active role in improving the lives of many,” adds Davids.
This includes helping to provide refuge to children from troubled backgrounds, regardless of their colour or creed, since 1958 – through a lifelong partnership with Leliebloem House. Then in 1985, key partnerships played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Helderberg Hospice for the terminally ill. Now, 33 years later, the thriving hospice provides support to some of the most vulnerable members of our society,
“Recently, we have begun redefining what impactful philanthropy is so, through targeted donor funding, we can maximize our ability to achieve this,” says Davids.
“The Community Chest was established out of a desire to nurture a country that is prosperous at all levels. To this day, we are instrumental in fostering hope, prosperity, freedom and democracy by ensuring that money is invested to the most worthy of causes,” concludes Davids.
Since its humble beginnings, the organisation has grown exponentially. Now it employs 32 dedicated staff who are instrumental in securing R60 million in donor funding to support over 200 organisations.