Phangisile Mtshali, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation

TITLE: Director, Corporate Philanthropy

FUNDING AREAS: HIV/AIDS

CONTACT: phangisile.mtshali@bms.com, 800-736-0003

IP TAKE: The hardworking and multitalented Mtshali oversees dozens of grants every year to nonprofits in Africa seeking to treat HIV and help children with HIV (and their families, including grandparents).

PROFILE: Phangisile Mtshali is, among other things, a South African farmer. She and her husband, Sihle Manciya, have for nine years run a farming venture called Kwahlangabenza, where they grow crops, raise livestock, and cater to visiting tourists. At any given point, Mtshali and her farming staff are responsible for 6,000 to 11,000 chickens, 50 cattle, and 80 goats.

But Mtshali, ever ambitious, is not content to simply run a major agricultural operation. That would be too easy. She also has taken on the momentous task of fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa. Mtshali was a founding member of the South African Business Council on HIV/AIDS and now directs the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation's flagship corporate Secure the Future program, the foundation's initiative to help African communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

In a little more than a decade, Secure the Future has made more than $150 million in grants in at least 21 African countries. The program's priorities include HIV treatment, care for children, and infrastructure building. Currently, Secure the Future has 49 operational grants, ranging in amount from the low tens of thousands to about a hundred thousand dollars (and, in a few cases, several hundred thousand). A sampling of Secure the Future's recent projects:

  • $167,660 to Tanzania's Kifary Community Development in support of programs that empower grandparents and children affected by HIV in semirural settings
  • $65,069 to the Disability, HIV and AIDS Trust in Zimbabwe to strengthen HIV initiatives for people with disabilities
  • $69,970 to Comfort the Children International and Kijabe HIV Program in Kenya to advocate for displaced people living with HIV/AIDS

Bristol-Myers Squibb's grant application process is relatively straightforward. Essentially, be a nonprofit and fill out an online application (date/time of year doesn't matter), and the foundation will process your submission in "at least six to eight weeks" (which could theoretically mean any time between two months from now and forever, but hopefully closer to the former than the latter). More information on how to apply for a Bristol-Myers Squibb grant is available here. The foundation accepts proposals for projects related to HIV/AIDS in Africa, hepatitis in Asia, serious mental illness in the United States, and cancer in Central and Eastern Europe. It gives out about $28 million in grants annually.

In a general sense, Mtshali encourages would-be grantees to engage their potential funders personally, and not just on paper. In a talk on corporate social responsibility in 2012, Mtshali said, "No PPT presentation can compare to saying to a senior leader, 'take off your shoes, we’re going to cross the river to see our health center.'" Mtshali is based in South Africa, putting her in closer physical proximity to Secure the Future's grant recipients than she would be if she worked in the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation's New York headquarters.

In addition to her role as funder of things, Mtshali continues to engage in a fair amount of HIV policy and advocacy work. In 2012, she chaired a symposium at the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. Her topic: how projects she and her team at Bristol-Myers Squibb have done in Africa could be replicated to fight HIV/AIDS in the United States. A fitting topic of discussion, perhaps, in our nation's capital. D.C.'s HIV infection rate is the highest in the country, and at 3.2 percent is higher than the rates of more than 20 countries in Africa.

Mtshali has an active presence on Facebook, where she shares thoughts on her work, travel, and sometimes personal life. In one post, she warned men to be kind to their wives, lest they incur the wrath of God. "This is a warning to all my male friends," the post reads, "honour and love your wives so that your prayers may not be hindered. God sees and hears the cries of women so be careful of how you treat her. God takes it very personal."

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