In September 2020, African social entrepreneur Kennedy Odede helped highlight the long-term problem of racial bias in philanthropy.
Racial Bias in Philanthropy
Kennedy reached out to Vodafone Foundation for support in educating funders on what it means to support black-led organisations - in authentic ways that share more power and responsibility, long-term. For the co-founder and CEO of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) the upheaval surrounding race in the US and Europe following the death of George Floyd had global repercussions.
Kennedy was familiar with the legacies of racial injustice, having taken on additional work to earn funders’ trust and sustained support. His experience reflected a wider bias, with research showing the unrestricted net assets of black-led organisations to be 76% smaller than white-led counterparts.
As Black Lives Matter provided a renewed impetus and urgency to address inequality in philanthropy, so too did the pandemic. The challenges already facing African-led Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were exacerbated as funds were reallocated to support the COVID response. Many had to downsize, while others closed entirely.
Finding a Fairer Way Forward
For Vodafone and the Foundation, the decision to support such important work was straightforward. As a collective, we have committed to Inclusion for All and working to help create a just, sustainable society in which no one is left behind. We speak up when we encounter prejudice and take action to address it.
Our first step, following conversations with Kennedy, was to build on existing research with a comprehensive study into the philanthropic evolution needed to better help African-led solutions to scale. Through this supporting investigation, our ambition was to find a fairer way forward for global philanthropy - by better understanding why local African CSOs find it harder to access global donor aid compared to intermediary International based NGOs.
Collaborating for Change
We appointed Lord Michael Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE to chair a dedicated Research Advisory Board, co-ordinated by Vodafone Group’s commercial arms in Africa, Vodacom and Safaricom. Clearview Research were selected to deliver the research, as a truly diverse, experienced agency, skilled at connecting with people from diverse communities. The report was led by Bhekinkosi Moyo of The Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) and produced by African academics and writers from Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Additional counsel was provided by Dr Shonali Banerjee, from the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School’s Centre for Strategic Philanthropy. We are pleased to launch the research in partnership with African Philanthropy Forum, which promotes homegrown philanthropy and inclusive development on the African Continent.
Turning Dialogue into Action
Understanding the problems facing local African led CSOs and finding actionable recommendations to tackle them is just the beginning of this conversation. Longer term, Vodafone Foundation will continue working to address the issue of bias in global philanthropy by:
Supporting the digital transformation of local CSOs across Africa
Through education, training, equipment supplies and financial donations.
Working with our partners to create a new international standard
For the percentage of charitable funds that reach locally run organisations, on the ground.
Reviewing Vodafone Foundation’s own funding process
To ensure our philanthropy reflects the recommendations in this report, as well as those which emerge from the research we will commission in future.