More wealthy women leaning into philanthropy in SA, Giving Report shows

More than half of the high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in South Africa surveyed for their giving practices in 2021 were women, according to Nedbank Private Wealth’s 2022 Giving Report.

The findings, revealed at an event in Johannesburg on Tuesday, show that 56% of women – of a total of 341 givers sampled in the study – gave cash, goods and services, or their time to a cause in the hope of making a difference in 2021.

This is significantly higher than South African men, who made up 42% of givers, and higher than the proportion of women (45%) who indicated they participated in philanthropy in the 2018 study.

Watch: LIVE ARCHIVE: The Giving Report V: Why do HNWIs give?

‘Postiive reflection’

Hein Klee, head of international and acting head of philanthropy at Nedbank Private Wealth, says the rise of women in philanthropy is a positive reflection of how the population of HNWIs in the country has continued to transform over the years.

He says this is a point worth investigating further in future reports, to better understand the role played by high-net-worth women in giving to various causes.

He adds that various statistics indicate that women live longer than men, and that a huge number of studies, specifically in US, are looking at what the philanthropy drivers are with regards to females, as they go into that next phase of their lives and start inheriting money.

“That is something that we actually discussed at the panel when we started putting questions together, [whether] that’s something that we potentially want to bring into the sixth report.

“So that is quite an interesting finding that we think merits some more research,” he adds.

Who qualifies as an HNWI?

The Giving Report looks at the giving habits of South Africa’s rich.

To participate in the research, individuals must earn at least R1.5 million annually or have a net worth of at least R5 million.

In the fifth edition of the report, 59% of respondents earned between R1.5 million and R5 million annually – 6% more than that recorded in the fourth edition in 2018 – while 70% of respondents had a net worth of between R5 million and R10 million.

For the latest instalment, the report surveyed a total of 409 of South Africa’s HNWIs – 68 of them identifying as non-givers – to make inferences about a population of approximately 147 836 individuals, which is believed to have grown from the 135 700 reported in 2018.

Half of the respondents said earnings from their profession or career were the main source of their wealth, while 31% cited a family-owned business or startup company and 7% said their net worth was as a result of an inheritance.

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Pandemic-related blow

Although data from the research showed that cash donations from givers in 2021 remained high, most of the donations given during this period occurred in smaller quantities.

Most cash donations (56%) were under R10 000, up from 39% in 2018, while donations above R50 000 dropped to 15% from 22% in 2018, a trend that Marilize Lansdell – managing executive of Nedbank Wealth Management South Africa – says can be attributed to the financial blows dealt to many during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Of course, this decline in giving value is understandable, given the severe economic impacts of Covid-19 and the numerous other social and natural disasters that have beset the country in the past year,” says Lansdell.

“Covid-19 has also had an impact on the support provided to the various philanthropic sectors, with most of these experiencing a decline in giving value, as average giving to the social and community development sector increased, and 6% of funding was redirected towards pandemic-related causes,” she adds.

“The hope is that, as the financial health of households and businesses recovers to pre-pandemic levels and the immediate social impacts of Covid-19 ease, this will prompt a return to higher-value giving across all philanthropic sectors.”


In line with the spirit of transformation, the study reported an increase in the proportion of black South Africans qualifying to be part of the research.

In 2021, 24% of black people were part of the study compared while 19% in 2018, while black people made up 26% of givers this time around compared with 17% in the previous report.

“We’ve seen a phenomenal increase in black Africans starting to give towards causes either in the format of cash, goods or services or their time. Which I think is a very strong and positive development from what we can see from the study,” Klee said.