In 2008, following a strategic reappraisal of the Atlantic Philanthropies’ programmes and a decision to spend down Atlantic’s assets, a decision was made to cease funding to Atlantic’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and intersex (LGBTI) programme (part of its Reconciliation and Human Rights programme). This was premised on the extent of Atlantic’s investment to date (ZAR84 million) and the need for a tighter strategic focus for the remaining years of its Reconciliation and Human Rights programme.

Final grants were made to LGBTI organisations in July 2011, and the South African office of Atlantic was set to close in December 2013.

However, successive evaluations of the LGBTI programme had found that most grantees were dependent on Atlantic for 40-60% of their funding, and the establishment of a foundation for the LGBTI community was developed as a necessary and responsible exit strategy, on which Atlantic grantees and others in the region might draw after Atlantic’s spend-down. The Dutch development donor, Hivos, which has also long funded LGBTI issues in the region, agreed to partner with Atlantic in setting up such a foundation as a way of raising additional resources for the region. This would later become The Other Foundation.

The gestation of The Other Foundation has been a long one, comprehensively researched and tested against international and regional experience and best practice.

  • It included a study tour in mid-2007 of LGBTI community foundations in the United States, which recommended that the fundraising strategies of the Horizons Foundation, Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues and the Global Fund for Women – among others – might be successfully replicated in South Africa. Their strategies included raising support from international foundations, local corporate support and individual giving.
  • Potential strategies were explored in much greater depth at a workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa in December 2008, attended by Atlantic staff, activists who had been involved in setting up community foundations in the United States and players in the field of local philanthropy. The workshop concluded that while the 2007 study tour made a strong case for setting up a South African foundation, certain assumptions about international donor support for such a foundation and the willingness of local corporates and individuals to give should be tested by further, deeper research.
  • Consequently, Atlantic commissioned three feasibility studies on:
    • the perspectives of international donors and human rights activists on the establishment of a foundation, and possible interest in the foundation by these donors (by EduActive Solutions)
    • the potential for raising funds from the South African business community (by Inyathelo – The South African Institute for Advancement)
    • the potential for raising funds through individual giving in the LGBTI community (by Strategy & Tactics)
  • These research findings were presented to a workshop on 21 and 22 February 2011 and broadly conclude that a foundation was a feasible and credible prospect, provided that adequate resources and qualified staff are available at the outset.

Out of this The Other Foundation was born, committed to a three-pronged fundraising strategy. These strategies are being developed further and will be operationalised in 2014. The Other Foundation has very recently appointed its first Chief Executive Officer (in place by July 2014) and is in the process of identifying and appointing support staff.

The gains in terms of rights and full citizenship for LGBTI people in South Africa provide a platform for promoting reform and providing solidarity in the region. For this reason, The Other Foundation will provide support to activists and organisations in Southern African, in addition to investment in South Africa.

The Other Foundation represents an exciting opportunity to sustain our communities in different ways.

Human rights organisations in general, and the LGBTI sector in particular, have traditionally relied heavily on support from Northern donors and foundations. In the context of recessions and reprioritisation of international development aid policies in Europe and the United States, that funding is being steadily reduced. Until recently, the LGBTI community in South Africa historically depended almost solely on two donors for support, the Atlantic Philanthropies and Hivos.

Other foundations have come into the field over the past few years – the Ford and Arcus Foundations, the Open Society Institute, Swedish SIDA and the Sigrid Rausing Trust, but this is not enough to meet needs.

The challenge in Southern Africa, therefore, is to increase the pool of domestic resources for human rights.

The Other Foundation is innovative in the sense that it seeks to break the cycle of dependency of the organised LGBTI community on international donors and foundations and to promote local giving and philanthropy for human rights. This ‘cultural shift’ is as important an outcome of The Other Foundation as meeting fundraising targets.
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