The University of KwaZulu-Natal Foundation is the fund-raising arm of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). The Foundation has its roots seventy years ago, in 1949, when the Natal University Development Fund was established to manage donations and bequests to the University of Natal.

UKZN was formed on 1 January 2004 as a result of the merger between the University of Durban-Westville and the University of Natal. Following the merger, the Natal University Development Fund name was changed to the University of KwaZulu-Natal Foundation Trust to reflect the name of the merged institution.

“The UKZN brand is the biggest education brand in the province, one of the leading brands in South Africa and one of the biggest contact universities in Africa. The university is positioning itself as a leader in African scholarship and the Foundation’s mandate is to support UKZN in its academic endeavours,” explains Brendan Boyce, Operations Manager.


Prof Anesh Maniraj Singh, the executive director, is the face of the Foundation and externally represents the brand. His goal is to cultivate new partnerships and to build synergies with stakeholders who have an alignment with the university mandate to advance research and serve communities.

Consequently, much of Prof Singh’s work is leading by example by being ‘out there’, and interacting with donors with the goal to bring in funding. “All our work is for development. We want to make a difference in the lives of South Africans. This is the reason I get up in the morning, this is the purpose that brings me to work, and I think brings the team to work,” says Singh.


The Foundation has a small team of staff who feed each other’s passion to leave a legacy. Choosing right people for the job is essential, as key to being good fundraiser is that you have to have passion, which extremely important. Bukiwe Nqopiso, Prospect Researcher, says, “A small that we have been brainstorming may bring a solution students who are struggling.” The team is also responsible for obtaining information about donors so that Prof Singh has the right information before a donor is approached for relationship building even asked for a donation.


The primary role of the Foundation is to mobilise resources through partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders. The Foundation forges relationships with individuals alumni as well as establishes alliances and partnerships with corporates, trusts, foundations and other grantmaking bodies across the world.

“The main role of the UKZN Foundation is to generate funds, however integral to our role in the Foundation is to keep our donors happy,” explains Nqopiso.

This is achieved by making sure that the funds that the Foundation receives go to where they are supposed to go. “We keep nothing, every last cent that the donor has donated goes to the beneficiary it was intended to go to. There are no overheads and no top slicing. If you donate a million rand, that million rand will be used as the donor intended,” says Prof Singh.


“The UKZN Foundation has a strong brand and prides itself on good governance and is a good custodian of the resources that it receives. Being a trusted steward is very high on our agenda,” says Boyce. The Foundation has a track record of having received clean audits ever since it existed.

UKZN is a world leader in the field of research and the Foundation is a conduit for any funding that has an impact. The university is known for its ground-breaking research in the field of medical research including TB and HIV/Aids. In addition, the university follows an African agenda and has a lot of programmes that showcase African culture. To some extent that is attractive to donors because it helps them making a difference where it is needed.

UKZN is in one of the poorest provinces of the country, which impacts on the type of student attending the university. More than 60% of students require some type of funding for their higher education. This is where donors have been extremely generous in ensuring that funds are available to support students who are deserving and come from impoverished backgrounds. Consequently, the university has received a lot of funding for student bursaries.

‘Fees must Fall’ initially provided a challenge as many people did not want to support universities. However, several big businesses saw the need to provide funding for the ‘missing middle’ to allow access to higher education for more students and opened their pockets in a big way.

Another initiative to raise funds for students is the Nelson Mandela Day bursary campaign. In 2018, the Foundation received positive empathy toward the campaign, which was especially evident in the messages of support received.


In the future the Foundation intends to continue to grow its brand and grow awareness of its goals. Technology and social media have made it much easier to causes out into the public eye, and the foundation had to evolve and adapt. “The other thing that we are looking for are youth to come in with new ideas and new perspectives to develop Foundation and take us into a different era. We need to keep people motivated and excited by ensuring we have things that are new and innovative. Our recent campaigns have moved away from the old drudgery simply asking for money. It is about growing the brand and growing awareness.”

Prof Singh concluded, “Fundraising starts with the word fun – I want to make fundraising fun – I want the team have fun working with each other and to get the donors to have fun in the process.”