Clean up the fund-raising act

A concern that has been expressed by members of the public and people engaged in the battle against poaching, is that the justified outcry about our rhinos has made this a “sexy” cause.

The fear is that people have jumped on the bandwagon and used the name and image of the rhino to raise funds, without any adequate oversight or guarantees that the money collected will be used directly in the service of our rhino.

A couple of months back, the department of environmental affairs stepped in with a call to non-profit organisations (NPOs), non-government organisations (NGOs), corporates and individuals engaged in any way in the campaign to end poaching to register with the department.

The deadline for registration was September 30 2013. The call for the establishment of a database emanated out of a process that began in 2012.

The Rhino Issue Management Process, helmed by former SANParks chief executive Mavuso Masimang, saw him and his team holding 16 workshops and 400 round-tables, along with a number of one-on-one discussions with key experts and roleplayers.

During this engagement many raised concerns about shady fund-raising — or fund-raising that does not make the best use of the public’s donations — and the impact it could have on legitimate efforts.

Some also questioned the effectiveness of uncontrolled donations in kind.

Anyone can buy some night-sight binoculars to donate to the nearest game reserve, after all, and cash in on the enormous public relations up-side of their gift.

But this might not be the most effective donation for the needs of that game reserve — it would be better if donations in kind as well as in money were co-ordinated.

The whole process culminated in the Rhino Issue Management (RIM) Report, released on July 24 this year, which was subsequently adopted by Cabinet.

So it was in line with the RIM Report that government set out to establish a national database, along with a national funding mechanism to support both government and private efforts to combat poaching. The intention, according to the department, is to:
• Rid the industry of illegitimate operations and ensure that funding for rhino interventions are channelled to the relevant, identified projects;
• Establish a register of rhino projects, including but not limited to fundraising, anti-poaching, safety and security, support  and conservation initiatives;
  • Identify gaps that exist between the work of government, NGOs, NPOs and individuals;
• Identify priority areas that require additional assistance;
• Identify opportunities to collaborate, co-operate or consolidate projects / initiatives or parts thereof;
• Confirm the registration of rhino-related NPOs with the department of social development and obtain information relating to the registration and reporting requirements; and
• Develop criteria to assist in determining whether NPOs, NGOs or individuals involved in rhino-related activities are contributing towards the fight against rhino poaching and the conservation of the species.

The department revealed in mid-October that more than a hundred applications for registration had been received.

On the funding front, the department has announced that, together with Treasury and interested role players, it will establish a National Rhino Fund to support anti-poaching interventions, as recommended by the RIM Report.

The hope is that monies from this fund will go to support all the needs — conservation, research and skills development as well as safety and security — that arise, both in the state and the private sector. The time-frame for implementation of this fund is not yet known.

This article forms part of a supplement paid for by Nedbank. Contents and photographs were supplied and signed off by Nedbank