Finance, alumni and donors

30 October 2023 Read time >10 min.
<b>Photo</b> Supplied.
Photo Supplied.

There were two key developments in the Development and Alumni Department (DAD) during the past year were the entry of Sarah Archer as the executive in May 2022, as well as an audit of the functionality of DAD commissioned by two donors and alumni and conducted by a United States (US)-based philanthropic management consulting firm.


During 2022, DAD managed incoming donations from 1 553 donors to the value of R484 236 264. This compared favourably with income of R429 350 683 for 2021.

With the easing of COVID-19 restrictions and under the leadership of the vice-chancellor and direction of Archer, the fundraising team embarked on an active renewal of face-to-face engagements with funders and prospects. This was particularly evident in international locations in which UCT has existing bases, with the vice-chancellor and DAD team members visiting 14 cities in eight countries during 2022; holding meetings with 88 donors, prospects and influencers; and hosting 13 events. The positive outcome of this work was evident in the strong philanthropic support from international sources, being 68% of all 2022 donation income.

Ensuring closer synchronicity between fundraising and alumni relations work, DAD’s work at an international level focused on growing relationships with alumni of influence, expanding its programme offering to reach more diverse groups of alumni; and expand networks on the ground. DAD embarked on a focused, tailored and segmented approach for Europe and the US funding prospects, using targeted approaches that have the widest impact. These efforts have served to carry over the message that UCT was open for business and is engaged in targeted fundraising efforts across our international regions of focus.

Despite challenging economic conditions nationally, DAD’s national fundraising team continued to actively engage with donors, reaching 1 030 funders and prospects and holding 225 donor meetings in 2022. With the opportunity provided by the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and the eagerness of individuals and companies to meet in person, DAD also hosted three business breakfasts addressing disability inclusion; two golf days; and a student support focused business breakfast showcasing UCT’s Financial Aid, Postgraduate Funding and Finance offices.

In 2022, DAD’s consultation with the vice-chancellor, deans, senior leaders, and the Leadership Lekgotla resulted in 32 priority projects for fundraising – drawn from across UCT – thereby providing a clear focus for DAD’s fundraising efforts. Supported by an external scoping project undertaken by US-based higher-education consultants, Grenzebach Glier and Associates, DAD’s internal strategy development process highlighted various areas for urgent attention and upgrade, including the need for an audit of fundraising portfolios. The quality and comprehensiveness of DAD’s databases of alumni, donors and prospective donors is in key need of overhaul. The future focus will be on robust data collection and analysis that will enable the tracking and measurement of work against enriched, embedded fundraising and alumni relations performance indicators.

Recognising the need for a leave-behind publication that would speak to donor and alumni interest in a short and easy-to-digest update on UCT today and its achievements, DAD produced a booklet titled UCT: Our story for use internationally and locally. DAD also embarked on a project to develop video content on key fundraising priority projects, including student support.

The cover of the “UCT: Our story” booklet.

A key stewardship activity held by DAD was the ongoing management of incoming donations to the UCT Fire Fund, amounting to approximately R38 million from almost 1 400 donors by the end of 2022. DAD also ensured the disbursement of these funds to agreed UCT projects addressing recovery and revisioning following the fire.

Alumni engagement

DAD’s alumni relations strategy in 2022 was themed around growing opportunities for alumni to stay in touch and engage. This included intentional, expanded reach throughout the US, Europe and some African countries, with investment in relationships with influential alumni globally who have the capacity to expand UCT’s network of friends and to support DAD’s fundraising efforts.

In addition to the full 2022 alumni relations events calendar that ran across both UCT and its four regional offices, DAD actively sought to twin alumni relationship development and fundraising strategies. This was achieved through greater synchronicity between appeals to alumni for funding and DAD’s fundraising priorities, including a successful dinner hosted by the UCT Australia Trust in December 2022, featuring four key fundraising projects.

An event held for alumni in New York. Photo Supplied.

DAD developed a new digital booklet: the UCT Student Graduation publication, which was piloted in December 2022. The aim was to deepen alumni affinity groupings and engage with young alumni. This supports DAD’s goal of growing individual giving by encouraging broader alumni participation in key fundraising initiatives aimed at new alumni.

Our alumni relations team also tailored its affinity-building activities to reach key pockets of alumni. Some of the ways in which this took place were through supporting the establishment of an alumni affinity group addressing students with disabilities, celebrating alumni in Gqeberha and Johannesburg through home visits on their 80th birthdays, and hosting and attending alumni networking and speaker events in the US, Canada, United Kingdom (UK) and South Africa.

DAD continued with an intensified focus on growing content and engagement across its social media channels, with Instagram (2 174 followers) and Facebook (4 991 followers) achieving particular traction among alumni. In doing so, DAD has leveraged the popularity of social media influencers and celebrities to build an even stronger UCT brand presence and to drive broader alumni engagement on digital platforms.

Centre for Extra-Mural Studies (including Summer School)

The Centre for Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) continues to broaden the reach of UCT’s adult education opportunities through development and offering programmes, lectures, and courses throughout the year for alumni, friends of UCT and adult learners from across the world. The development of the EMS site on the UCT website as the one-stop shop for all UCT short courses was approved in 2022. The site will enable easy access to learning opportunities at UCT for adult learners.

The annual Summer School, developed and offered by EMS, is the largest public education programme of its kind in Africa. It serves as a showcase for UCT’s excellent research and scholarly work across a vast range of interests, topics and disciplines.

The Summer School 2022 programme took place during the COVID-19 pandemic and was thus accessible online and in-person, the first time this hybrid model was offered. Being back in-person made it possible for participants to be to be part of, as well as students of, the university over a three-week period filled with intellectual stimulation, learning, discussion, and debate, which had positive reputational value for the university in a bleak time. For the first time, value was added to the Summer School learning experience for medical practitioners through making it possible to earn continuing professional development points for courses with a medical focus. Around 50% of Summer School participants are now alumni, a significant increase from earlier years.

Trevor Manuel spoke at the UCT Legacy Society guest lecture held in partnership with UCT’s Summer School on Saturday, 22 January. His talk was titled: “South Africa: Challenges and what lies ahead”. Photo Lerato Maduna.

In 2022 Summer School reached a more diverse community through livestreaming into resource-poor communities, fulfilling the university’s social impact and transformation imperative. For the first time, the Summer School programme was livestreamed to the Philippi Hub and to the Ikamva Labantu site. Feedback from the programme coordinator at the Philippi Hub, Phiwe Njapa, was that participants were happy with the content, it gave people a sense of belonging and purpose and that it meant a lot to be associated with UCT.

EMS also offered webinars, Summer School extension lectures, online short courses as well as a UCT certificated short course in 2022, the cutting edge Applied Complexity Science course. The Standard Bank sponsored lecture, Complexity and cooperation: its biological basis and application, focused on complexity studies and its application.

EMS is working on extending its learning opportunities through bespoke study tours and excursions, more UCT certified short courses, more social impact programmes that includes Saturday Summer School for learners such as UCT’s 100UP programme and cross-faculty online and hybrid courses; and a weekend Summer School for alumni based in the UK.


Going forward, we will build on our increased international fundraising engagement as well as our more customised alumni engagement offering. The audit report has now led to a review of our current operations and functionality; and the development of a growth plan to strengthen the department so that it can fulfil its purpose and fundraising and alumni engagement vision.

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