With her experience of working as a clinical social worker and a master’s degree in Public and Development Management, Gill Bates has not only an intellectual and theoretical understanding of the complex network of problems involved with making a difference in corporate social investment (CSI), but also hands-on, practical experience of the issues many communities and civil society organisations face.
Added to this unique, holistic understanding of the scale and context of corporate and civil society partnerships to address social change, is the fact that Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) is a global network of organisations situated in various countries around the world that link corporates and individual donors to pre-validated Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs). These many different countries with multi-contextual situations allow for a shared learning that informs their practice – as Gill says: ‘our interventions are knowledge driven and evidence-based.’
Most important is her emphasis on collaboration – ‘we are a bridge between philanthropy and civil society. We understand the needs of civil society organisations and our corporate clients.’ Their collaboration works in many ways.
One of their collaborations is what Gill calls ‘cross-border’ giving. Gill recounts how fellow CAF Global Alliance members, CAF America and CAF Canada, contacted her because they had received requests from expats wanting to give money to help people back home.
CAFSA was audited and approved to be a conduit for these international donations to South Africans in need. This verification process shows that CAF undergoes the same stringent measures of governance and compliance that they expect from civil society organisations.
It is in this area that their most recent collaboration is making a real difference.
CAFSA’s research showed that during the downturn in the South African economy, civil society organisations lacked funding, struggled to remain operational, and with the pandemic, the situation became critical. Gill explained that ‘many organisations are doing the work on the ground but don’t have the capacity for validation’ which affects these organisations’ income streams. She believes in the need to balance agility with governance.
In response, CAFSA launched their ‘Validate4Good’ platform which assists civil society organisations to get the necessary documentation in order to be compliant and grant ready. They are helping non-profit organisations to register on their Validate4Good website to enable these organisations to access the funding and support they did not have access to before.
Critical help considering many civil society organisations are running out of resources.
‘Through Validate4Good, we have streamlined the submission process and merged agility with compliance. In simple and innovative ways, we ensure that donors’ compliance needs are met, while providing NPOs with the critical funds necessary to assist the communities they serve.’ According to Gill, NPOs wanting to be validated on Validate4Good have to supply several important pieces of information which includes their founding documents, details on their board of directors, Section 18A certificates, audited financial statements, tax clearance certificates, NPO certificates, and evidence of anti-terrorism checks.
Gill’s other significant contribution to collaboration is her acknowledgement of, and the credit she gives, to her team. She constantly highlights the roles played by the other members in her organisation and recognises that without their diverse and vital contributions, CAFSA would be less effective and affective.
Her core beliefs are structured around giving her heart, compassion, empathy, respect and a deep commitment to making real change. Right now, it is difficult to not feel despondent about South Africa’s economic and social despair, but when spending time with Gill Bates, you realise there is hope because we have people like her and her team making a difference.
‘If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.’