Stephné Botha, CEO of Innovation for the Blind, secured R25 000 for the non-profit organisation (NPO) thanks to a successful pitch at the MTN Donors Den session, held at the 15th Trialogue Business in Society Conference on 11 May.

Runner-up, Isizanda Sempilo Organisation, received R15 000 for its project, which focuses on HIV and GBV prevention. Limpopo Mental Health Society, which provides services to people with mental disabilities, received R10 000.

Donors Den – which takes the format of reality TV programme Dragons’ Den, where entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists to secure funding – is a crowd-pleasing pitch session in which three non-profit organisations present to a panel of corporate donors. Their pitch for funding is assessed by the judges, and the audience votes for a winner.

In addition to the prize money from MTN, Nedbank also generously offered each of the participating organisations R100 000 and training from Indalo for key staff members.

A focus on resilience

“It was wonderful that non-profits could pitch to a live audience again, after two years of virtual engagement,” said Trialogue MD Nick Rockey. “Donors Den remains an audience favourite at the conference, and it provides NPOs with a chance to showcase – and be rewarded for – the resilience and ingenuity with which they have carried out their work under difficult conditions.”

This year, the Donors Den focused on NPOs that have specifically incorporated lessons about futureproofing into their work in innovative ways – something that has become crucial during the pandemic.

Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, general manager of the MTN SA Foundation, introduced the session and paid tribute to the NPOs that served as a “beacon of hope” during the Covid-19 pandemic. She stressed that donors and NPOs should partner to increase their effectiveness and said it is only by shifting our minds to focus on something greater than ourselves that we can create impact.

Judges Judith Shiwundlana (events and stakeholder manager at MTN SA Foundation), Nonkqubela Maliza (director of corporate and government affairs at Volkswagen South Africa), and Nozizwe Vundla (head of the Sanlam Foundation) assessed the pitches and asked leading questions.

Renewable energy reduces costs

“We are so grateful for this prestigious award,” Botha said. “To win was a surprise and an honour – and it provided us with an opportunity to raise awareness regarding the abilities of persons with visual impairments.”

Botha says the prize money will be used to install an industrial extractor fan system on the NPO’s premises, as well as insulate the ceiling in the room that houses the compressor for the central kitchen and the inverter for the existing solar plant.

“By lowering the temperature in this room, we’ll ensure the longevity of both the inverter and the compressor. We dream of raising enough funds to install a second solar plant to further reduce our costs, thereby futureproofing our organisation even more. Reaching our renewable energy goals and reducing our carbon footprint is extremely important to us. We are excited about our renewable energy project and how this can benefit future generations of persons with visual impairments, but also the greater community.”

Stephné Botha, Innovation for the Blind

Innovation for the Blind (previously Institute for the Blind) empowers adults with visual impairments through training, development and care to experience quality of life and reach maximum levels of independence. They have 360 residents in permanent care and have provided sheltered employment to more than 170 people.

Bongani Makhaya, Isizinda Sempilo Organisation
Isizinda Sempilo Organisation is an HIV and gender-based violence prevention-focused NPO that uses capacity, dialogue, reflection and action (CDRA) to create meaningful impact in marginalised communities. It empowers adolescent girls and young women as well as adolescent boys and young men by ensuring they have access to quality health services and information about sexual and reproductive health.

Motloatso Priscillah Molaudzi, Limpopo Mental Health Society
Limpopo Mental Health Society provides therapy to individuals experiencing emotional problems and substance abuse and facilitates relevant referrals. Programmes include rehabilitation, school mental health, capacity building, workshops and public awareness campaigns, as well as WhatsApp support groups for GBV survivors.

We’re excited to announce that our sponsor Nedbank generously offered each of the three MTN Donors Den participating organisations R100 000 and training from Indalo for key staff members.

Watch the session