Entrepreneur's responsible giving

Corporates: ticking the CSR box or giving out of true charity?

In South Africa – where young people make up roughly 20 per cent of the population and where there is big disparity between the wealthy and the poor – one Gold Award holder felt strongly that profitable organisations were taking advantage of underprivileged communities in his area. So he decided to do something about it. 

Inspired to action 

Duncan Vanniekerk, 22, saw that an increasing number of companies in South Africa would come into disadvantaged communities as corporate sponsors, take part in an activity such as football for the day, and then leave. Duncan wanted to create a project that would encourage companies to make a long-term commitment to communities.

“The Award influenced the way I saw an issue I was not happy with. It gave me the confidence to put myself out there and try to do something about it. It made me understand that if you are committed to something, you cannot let anything else get you down – you have just got to focus and work harder than everyone else around you, until you achieve your goals.” 

He was inspired to act by a young man he befriended when taking photos for a newspaper. Cheslyn, a talented athlete who qualified for the world weightlifting championships, was unable to take up that opportunity because he couldn’t afford it. Duncan knew that someone out there – an individual, corporate organisation or brand – would be able to help Cheslyn and young people like him to achieve their potential. 

Raising awareness

Duncan created an online community of organisations and developmental projects, which could be shared and supported by all - a platform for social change initiatives, based on cyclist Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong charity which raised more $38 million US dollars for charity.

With a background in advertising and marketing, Duncan created a brand and platform for his vision, SPONSORME, which connects disadvantaged sports men and women with individuals and corporates which can make a positive difference. He challenged the corporate market over their charitable spends, and persuaded the editor of the local community newspaper to cover stories on social development issues, bringing greater awareness of disadvantaged communities’ concerns to a wider section of society.

Challenges 

Duncan has several potential projects in health, sports and education and is looking forward to developing some environmental projects. He is also developing a civic society campaign to increase awareness of his mission. But he admits that it won’t be easy:

“There are many challenges, and with the vision being so large it is difficult to manage and launch. But it is about staying true to the vision that only I can see at this stage, pressing on when people stand against you. All my focus, resource and passion have moved into this project.”

So far all the funding for Duncan’s SPONSORME venture has come from a loan taken out by Duncan himself but he hopes that with corporations on board, his organisation will go from strength to strength. The project’s success to date includes helping Cheslyn achieve his dream of competing at the World Championships by assisting him to raise the funds required.

“‘The Award has given me a better sense of community, and how to give the best of myself as a way of life. It instilled in me values such as motivation, and kept me motivated and committed.”

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