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How Start-up Charities in South Africa Can Beat the Odds

South Africa’s funding landscape presents treacherous waters to travel for any non-profit organisation and if start-up charities and social entrepreneurship initiatives are to succeed they will have to adopt the right thinking tools and develop robust strategic frameworks.

Ashley Visagie

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The future of South Africa hinges on the successful partnership between government, the private sector as well as the social sectors.

Government alone does not have the human resources and grassroots level expertise to actualise the plans and policies desperately needed to launch South Africa forward.

The social sector is rich with human capacity and talent that is motivated by a desire to simply do good and make a better South Africa not just a possibility but a reality for all.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: Mark Pilgrim On Authenticity In Business

The challenge is that the present funding landscape and the inability of fledgling charities (start-ups) to effectively fundraise for their causes is crippling initiatives which could lead to solutions in overhauling education, fighting crime, reducing severe poverty and increasing the life expectancy and quality of life for South Africans.

Pro-active BB-BEE policies as well as Section 18A tax deductions have created an environment where on the one hand, funds are flowing to the social sector but on the other hand a great deal of irregularity and perhaps even irrationality has creeped into the funding environment.

Non-profits find themselves in a situation where funding is “here today and gone tomorrow” as the private sector directs funds to flavour of the month (perhaps the financial year) charities.

While there are many well run CSI campaigns, there are also many CSI teams that are concerned primarily with scorecard points or tax-deductions, this kind of psychology of giving does not help the social sector.

What are non-profits to do in today’s funding environment?

1. Scale down in order to scale up

Our biggest social issues can only be solved by taking creative and innovative solutions and scaling them up.

In order to scale-up it is necessary to have a model that can be replicated and one that is robust enough to be adapted to the diverse contexts unique to South Africa.

Non-profits should aim to trim down on services or projects which are not suited to their skill sets or that are not part of their core aims, doing this will assist in creating well-crafted models that are scaleable.

2. Create social impact value for donors

We all hope for an environment where giving is in abundance, the reality though, is that there are several charities competing for parts of the same funding pie (145 945 registered charities according to www.npo.gov.za).

In order to stand out non-profits should focus on delivering measurable social impact value. The only way to do this is to become data-driven, design key performance indicators and to monitor and evaluate these on a regular basis.

In the case of the non-profit sector KPIs may be: Attendance figures, literacy results, number of crimes reported etc. Donors want to know that there money is buying some kind of social impact.

3. Build relationships not bank accounts

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Too much of the way in which charities relate to donors are transactional and based on the next donation. Non-profits need to shift this kind of thinking and begin to see themselves engaged in a partner relationship.

They need to talk about what is working and what is not working with potential donors, be honest about lessons learned and be bold enough to admit when funds need to be redirected or reallocated in a way which will create greater social impact.

We-recommend-tickWe recommend: 6 Leadership Lessons From Bill Gates on His 60th Birthday

Developing this kind of relationship with supporters lays the foundation for long term investment rather than once-off donations.

Inherent in the idea of the start-up business is the element of risk. Investors are taking a chance on an idea that they hope will generate financial returns and eventually be able to be taken to scale.

We should not treat the social sector much differently from this, new non-profit start-ups are a very necessary part of a healthy country, and it represents the continuous application of new knowledge in designing and experimenting with innovative solutions to social problems.

The charity like the business holds some kind of inherent risk in that it might not produce just the social impact we hope for, on the other hand it also holds the potential to generate tangible social returns and to be scaled in a way that can radically change South Africa.

Ashley Visagie is the Executive Director of Bottomup, a non-profit providing education enrichment services to under-resourced schools on the Cape Flats. Ashley has a keen interest in future studies, education and gaming.

How to Guides

Is It Time To Consider Renewable Energy To Power Your Business?

Can your business afford the 33% electricity hike that Eskom is proposing? If not, you should look into some of the renewable energy options South Africa has to offer.

Nicole Crampton

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In the past there was load shedding, now there are proposed high price increases, and more potential load shedding due to the strike action. Many businesses previously resorted to generators as alternative energy sources, but with the growing customer demand for more environmentally conscious options, they won’t be satisfied with this alternative energy solution.

Keeping a business operating in South Africa is hard enough without losing funds every time the electricity goes out, and although generators are known as the back-up, with the increase in petrol/diesel prices is this still a feasible long-term solution?

You may want to consider a more permanent renewable energy alternative, to both reduce your electricity bill, regardless of future tariff hikes, and demonstrate that your business cares about the environment.

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How Brigid Prinsloo Made (A Lot Of) Money On Airbnb

With the explosive success of Airbnb, the property investment landscape is changing. An increasing number of property owners are finding that it’s far more lucrative to rent out a property by the night than to install a long-term tenant.

GG van Rooyen

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It is possible to build property riches starting from a small base. This couple shows you how they did it. They’ve also launched a business that makes it easier to rent your property on Airbnb.

Although Brigid Prinsloo is a dyed-in-the-wool Capetonian who absolutely loves the city, she isn’t spending a whole lot of time there right now.

Like many young people, she’s pulled up stakes and hit the road, determined to see the world. When Entrepreneur spoke to her via Skype, she was busy exploring Vietnam with her Fiancée.

But, unlike many people who finance their travels by selling their homes and possessions, Prinsloo hasn’t liquidated her assets.

Related: 10 Weird And Wonderful Airbnb Listings, Including A New York Taxi And An Igloo

Instead, she has done the opposite – she has invested in a couple of properties that she lists on Airbnb.

The income from these rentals is significant enough to not only cover their respective bonds, but to bankroll her travels as well.

How has she managed it? And, more importantly, is it something that others can accomplish as well? Entrepreneur asked her to reveal the secrets to making a killing on Airbnb.

1. Getting Started: Listing Your First Property on Airbnb

How did you start listing on Airbnb?

Brigid Prinsloo

Brigid Prinsloo – Superhost SA

I used Airbnb during a trip to London and Dublin, and the experience was a very positive one. When I got home, I decided to try being a host. My fiancé and I had a spare room in our flat, which had morphed into a dishevelled storage room.

Almost on a whim, we decided to try and rent it out on Airbnb. We had a very ‘Lean Start-up’ approach to the whole exercise. Our small room acted as a minimum viable product (MVP), we listed it simply as a way of gauging interest.

Well, within an hour of listing the room, we received our first inquiry. Within the first day, we had our first booking. We weren’t prepared.

We ended up moving our own comfy bed into the room, just to ensure our guest could enjoy a decent night’s sleep, and slept on a spare bed ourselves.

By the end of that first month, we had earned close to R10 000 by renting out the room. The rent for our entire two-bedroom flat was R10 500 per month. We realised that we could earn a tidy sum by renting out an entire flat.

My fiancée and I purchased a property that we now rent out, and I also purchased a second property with my dad and my sister, which we’ve also listed on Airbnb.

Resource: New Ways SMEs Can Find Funding

2. Return on Investment: Making Money on Airbnb

How much income can you expect to earn on your Airbnb property per month?

There are obviously loads of different kinds of listings on Airbnb – everything from cheap spare rooms to lavish mansions. Based on the investment we’ve made, though, I’m very happy with the return we’ve seen.

If you take the entire amount that my fiancée and I have earned from renting our flat out through Airbnb and divide that by the number of months that it’s been listed, the average monthly earning is about R23 000.

And this is a property that had been rented out to a long-term tenant for about R6 000 by a previous owner. What’s great about this sort of investment, of course, is that the income generated is fairly passive, which is why I can afford be in Vietnam while everything ticks over at home.

Airbnb-accomodation

High quality images are important when listing your property on Airbnb.

3. Birth of Superhost: An Airbnb Management Company

Is there an easy way to manage multiple Airbnb properties?

If you’re renting out one room – or even one flat – managing your rental is fairly easy. However, once you start listing a couple of properties, managing them can become quite a task.

For example, someone needs to welcome guests and hand over the keys, ensure that the flat is clean, and even take care of all the admin that goes with managing a listing on Airbnb.

superhostsouthafrica

Brigid Prinsloo has made far more by listing her property on Airbnb then she could ever earn through long-term rentals.

We started a service called Superhost SA, which assists Airbnb hosts in managing their listings. As the popularity of Airbnb has grown, companies focusing on offer management services have popped up in lots of major cities.

Resource: 10 Businesses You Can Start Part-Time

For around 17% of the revenue earned, a company like Superhost will assist with the nitty gritty of renting out a space on Airbnb.

4. Location, Location, Location? Which is Best for Airbnb Property Owners

How important is location when it comes to listing a property on Airbnb?

Location is important, there is no doubt about it. A lot of travellers will judge a listing by what is within walking distance of the space.

So it is worth trying to get hold of a property in a decent location, even if it means you might have to go for something a tad smaller.

That said, however, you’ll find that the listings on Airbnb in Cape Town are surprisingly spread out. Services such as Uber have made it easier for people to travel in foreign cities. So location is important, but you certainly don’t need to be situated in the very heart of town.

Airbnb-location

Airbnb guests look for listings that are affordable, centrally located and well-equipped.

5. How to Build An Airbnb Property Empire

Can you build real wealth through Airbnb listed properties?

Some people are using Airbnb to build empires, there’s no doubt about it. You find that some people in large cities like New York have massive Airbnb portfolios with 200 listings.

Airbnb is providing an interesting alternative to the traditional strategy of buying properties and renting them out to long-term tenants to pay them off. You can make far more money from Airbnb.

That said, Airbnb isn’t going to turn you into a multi-millionaire overnight. Building up a portfolio will take time.

We might be able to pay off the bond on our flat in four years instead of 20 thanks to Airbnb, for example, but it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. It will still take time.

Another interesting way to potentially make money through Airbnb is to rent a property and list it on Airbnb. But you don’t want to do it illegally.

Related: Watch List: 11 Teen Entrepreneurs Who Have Launched Successful Businesses

Airbnb has had to deal with some backlash overseas because of tenants who were illegally subletting their flats. You need to be honest with the landlord and make sure that he or she is okay with it.

Airbnb-lounge

Want to attract the right kind of guests? Create a listing that is cosy and inviting, and adds some local flavour.

6. How to Make Your Listing Stand Out

How do you achieve and maintain a high occupancy on Airbnb?

A lot of people are noticing the income potential of being an Airbnb host. In fact, Cape Town alone now boasts close to 10 000 listings on the website. So how do you make your listing stand out? Here’s Brigid Prinsloo’s suggestions:

Airbnb-listing

Airbnb boasts millions of listings so it’s crucial to make your listings stand out. High quality images are important.

1. Create a pretty listing

Hide the laundry, flush the toilet and make the bed before you upload an image of your flat on Airbnb.

Not only should the flat you’re listing look clean, modern and inviting, but you should also make sure that you post excellent pictures of it online. It’s even worth making use of a professional photographer.

2. Undercut the competition

You might not be better, but you can certainly be cheaper. Undercutting the competition is a worthwhile strategy.

The more people have visited you, rated your place and commented on your service, the higher your listing will be placed on the website. This means that new hosts can find themselves languishing at the bottom of search results, far from the eyes of potential guests.

Prinsloo suggests listing your space just below the market standard (5 – 10% below). “Most people filter search results by price, so being slightly cheaper than the competition will help you get noticed,” she says.

3. Connectivity is important

Around 70% of South African Airbnb guests are from overseas.

While these people won’t be travelling thousands of kilometres to sit in a room and watch TV, they’ll probably still want access to DStv.

Wi-Fi is another must-have for those looking to share their ‘African experience’ on social media. And it better be fast and uncapped.

4. Be friendly and helpful

As mentioned, reviews are important on Airbnb. And if you want to receive a good review you need to provide a great experience.

“A lot of people are looking for that personal peer-to-peer experience. They don’t want to feel as if they’re living in someone else’s room with their clothes in the cupboard and toiletries in the bathroom, but they do appreciate that personal.

Being friendly and helpful goes a long way. If someone is from out of town, it’s a good idea to provide them with hints on where to go and what to do in the city,” says Prinsloo.   

5. Add personal touches

You’re not a hotel, but you can still try to make your space as cosy and inviting as well. A good way of doing this: Provide those nice-to-haves like soap, shampoo and great coffee.

Related: 10 Tips for Finding Seed Funding

Prinsloo always provides a couple of bottles of local wine as well.

7. The Risks of Listing a Property on Airbnb

What are the risks associated with listing a property on Airbnb?

1. Damages

Whenever you hand over the keys to your house and possessions to complete strangers, there is an element of risk involved. However, Airbnb tries to mitigate this risk by allowing hosts to vet guests (and vice versa) to an impressive degree.

Guests and hosts verify their IDs by connecting to their social networks and scanning their official ID document. Although there are some horror stories out there, listing needn’t be terribly risky.

You just need to try and make sure who you’re dealing with.

Air-bnb-property

Handing your valuable possessions over to strangers can be intimidating. It’s important to do everything you can to mitigate the risks.

2. Liability

What happens when a guest breaks a leg while descending your stairs, chops off a finger with your kitchen knife or shocks himself with your electric fence (foreigners aren’t as familiar with electric fencing as we are).

Related: Luthuli Capital Co-Founder’s Advice On How To Start When You Can’t Get Finance

We live in an increasingly litigious society, and should something go wrong, you could find yourself being threatened with a lawsuit. Because of this, it’s a good idea to ask guests to sign a waiver that absolves your from any culpability.

3. Squatting

It’s great when guests arrive, but what happens when they won’t leave?

Airbnb rental falls into a murky category of property rental that could see you deal with the same legal hassles as someone trying to get rid of squatting long-term tenants. Squatter’s rights can make this very difficult.

It is a good idea to consult a lawyer to help draft a contract that will offer some form of recourse in the event of squatting guests.

4. Regulations

Some body corporates and home-owners’ associations will be less than impressed with the prospect of total strangers coming and going from your property at all hours.

Related: How Kevin Hart Went From Being A Comedian To The Guy Who Owns Comedy

You need to ensure that other home owners don’t have problem with the listing of your property on Airbnb. The last thing you want is for them to take their frustrations out on your guests.


Related: Watch List: 20 SA Tech Entrepreneurs Making It Big In The Industry

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(Podcast) Phone Calls Often Solve Email Problems

Irate customers can become your most ardent supporters, but it’s important to treat your clients like people. People like people, and phone calls are more personal than emails.

Nicholas Haralambous

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Emails solve problems – but they also create them. When a real problem arises in your business, is an email the best way to solve it, or should you pick up the phone and give your customer a more personal experience?

Irate customers can become your most ardent supporters, but it’s important to treat your clients like people. People like people, and phone calls are more personal than emails.

Listening time: 3 minutes

Related: (Podcast) Being An Entrepreneur Is Painful

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