Cape edutech FunDza secures R25 000 in MTN Donors Den

Muizenberg-based non-profit edutech FunDza Literacy Trust (FunDza) secured R25 000 after a successful pitch at the MTN Donors Den session.  

Zilungile Zimela, head of marketing and PR for FunDza won the Dragon’s Den-based pitching competition, held at the 14th Trialogue Business in Society Conference on 24 June 2021.

The Donor’s Den

This year’s theme focused on NPOs using edutech in education and youth empowerment projects. Three non-profit organisations (NPOs) pitched their projects to a panel of corporate donors who gave feedback on their pitching and fundraising skills. Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager of the MTN SA Foundation, said that MTN views ICT as an enabler that helps young people upskill and participate in the economy.

FunDza secured R25 000 after a successful pitch at the MTN Donors Den session

“Youth development has become a key pillar of the MTN Foundation because we are cognisant that so many young people are unemployed, and ICT can become an area of expertise for a lot of youth – they can use it for personal skills development and economic gain,” said Mtunzi-Hairwadzi.

Judges Neptal Khoza (Head of Corporate Social Investment at Capitec Bank), Nonkqubela Maliza (Director of Corporate and Government Affairs at Volkswagen South Africa), and Judith Shiwundlana (Events and Stakeholder Manager at MTN) presided but delegates ultimately voted for the winner.    

The winners

FunDza was founded in 2011 to contribute to the educational growth of teens and young adults between 13 and 25 from low-income communities across SA. The NPO’s functional mobi‐library is currently accessed by over 350 000 registered readers. 

FunDza publishes one specially commissioned short story a week, set in a familiar SA environment, with recognisable characters and themes. The mobile platform sees around 40 000 page views per day – translating into a collective 45 000 hours of reading a month, at no cost to the reader.

Zimela said that delivering the winning pitch meant a lot to her. “As an activist at heart, I believe in upskilling young people and giving them a hand up, not a handout – this happened to me in my own life, with people believing in me and giving me opportunities,” she said. “When we prepared our pitch, we kept the needs of our readers – young people in book-scarce communities who have not had opportunities to further their studies but who want to develop themselves and be part of a supportive community – in front of us. Winning the award hasn’t quite sunk in yet – but it means so much because of all the young people who are going to benefit. We want to make sure young people start owning their destiny.”

Runner-up Mihandzu Learning received R15 000 for a project that develops key skills among high-school learners in vulnerable communities. The Global Teachers Institute, which aims to develop and retain high-quality teachers, secured R10 000.

“This interactive pitching session is always a highlight at our conference – even when it is virtual – and we were especially gratified to see how tenacious and adaptable NPOs have been during the pandemic, continuing the work they do under sometimes very difficult conditions,” said Trialogue MD Nick Rockey. “MTN Donors Den gives NPOs a chance to refine their fundraising pitches, advance the important work they are doing in society, and raise awareness of the issues they address.”

Judge Maliza advised that NPOs could have strengthened their pitches by identifying the problem and succinctly indicating how they were going to solve it. “Try not to get mission creep – stay focused on your mission,” she said. “You can’t solve all problems equally well, so focus on what you know best and do it as holistically and robustly as possible. Also, be clear on how the money you receive will support your theory of change.”

Zimela added that FunDza has doubled the number of online courses it offered during the pandemic due to a spike in demand. “More than 60% of our course participants are unemployed, and many of them have requested courses related to professional success,” she clarified. “We hope that the entrepreneurship course we are going to develop will be one of a series to help our readers.”

Read more: Cape startup Brown and Ayo awarded R4-million investment
Read more: Imperial donates R1-million for healthtech to Unjani Clinics

Featured image: FunDza learners Zim, Sipho and Zikhona using the mobi-library (Supplied)

Lauren Daniels, Editor


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