Vuyiswa Sidzumo, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

TITLE: Director-South Africa, Civil Society Program

FUNDING AREAS: Philanthropy, law, human rights, poverty

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: A native South African with a long career in social development, Sidzumo leads South African investments for the foundation, overseeing about $3.5 million in grants a year. In South Africa, Mott's focus is primarily on strengthening civil society.

PROFILE: Named for Charles Stewart Mott, the auto pioneer who founded it in 1926, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation makes approximately $100 million in grants annually to a range of projects in countries around the world. Still based in Flint, the city where Charles Stewart Mott originally made his fortune, the foundation awards most of its grants to projects in its native Michigan and its home country of the United States. But the Mott Foundation invests substantial amounts of money to develop economies and civil society in other parts of the world, including the country of South Africa. Leading Mott's South African initiatives since 2009 is Vuyiswa Sidzumo, who oversees roughly $3.5 million in Mott grantmaking a year.

Sidzumo is a native South African herself. Educated in biochemistry at the Witwatersrand, Sidzumo went on to a career in policy work, focusing on development in her country of origin. In Johannesburg, Sidzumo worked as a program officer for the Sedibeng Centre for Organisational Effectiveness, a leadership NGO. In Pretoria, Sidzumo worked for the United Nations Development Program. And before she joined Mott as an associate program officer in 2005, Sidzumo directed donor relations at the former Department of Provincial and Local Government in Pretoria.

At Mott, Sidzumo's work focuses on improving South African well-being and opportunity through grants for civil society development. Mott makes several dozen grants for South African civil society work every year, ranging in amount from about $20,000 to $160,000. Mott is willing to support projects as well as general operations, and makes grants to universities, non-profits, foundations, and advice offices (centers around South Africa that provide legal counsel and human rights assistance to citizens).

Discussing her giving her motivations at Mott with IP, Sidzumo shares with us her vision for civil society in South Africa: "Through active citizenship, those at the margins of society can make informed choices about their lives and determine their destinies."

To give you a clearer idea of what Mott's idea of a good South African civil society project looks like, here's a short list of recent grants from the South Africa Office's portfolio:

  • $120,000 in operational support for the UThungulu Community Foundation, which makes grants to improve conditions for poor and marginalized people in the uThungulu region of South Africa.
  • $100,000 to Community Law and Rural Development Centre for staff training and support to advice offices in rural provinces in South Africa.
  • $160,000 to the South African Institute for Advancement in support of trainings and advisory services for workers at non-profit organizations in South Africa.

Mott accepts unsolicited proposals and letters of inquiry for civil society projects in South Africa. Any organization whose work and mission aligns with Mott's funding priorities can apply for support online at any time. But know that, while Mott likes to foster long-term relationships with its beneficiaries, the foundation is less likely to take on groups it hasn't worked with before. About 80 percent of Mott's giving comes in the form of renewal grants. But when Sidzumo does consider new partnerships, here's what she looks for in prospective grantees: mid-size to big nonprofits with infrastructure and paid staff; independent boards; recognition in their fields; the provision of services to community-based organizations and/or underserved communities; and annual auditing.