Shelagh Gastrow has been involved in the world of philanthropy through her leadership of Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement which she founded in Cape Town in 2002. She served as its Executive Director from 2002-2015. During this time, she recognised the importance of promoting a philanthropic movement in South Africa to ensure that South Africans themselves supported their own civil society and institutions such as universities. Following a major conference on philanthropy in South Africa, she helped to establish the Private Philanthropy Circle that brought together people involved with local philanthropic foundations and private philanthropy. This subsequently became the Independent Philanthropy Association South Africa. In 2015 she became a Director in GastrowBloch Philanthropies which served as the secretariat to the Association until 2019. Her work in the philanthropy sector has gained local and international recognition through her writings in various media, her speaking at conferences, on radio and television as well as her authorship of booklets and reports relating to philanthropy in South Africa. She has led key interactions with the South African government (through its Treasury and the SA Revenue Services) to encourage the establishment of an enabling environment for philanthropy, particularly in the area of tax incentives and the need to encourage the establishment of local private foundations to ensure the sustainability of the local philanthropic sector.
She has also been involved in convening conferences and symposia relating to philanthropy in South Africa and has assisted individuals, foundations and financial services companies in their quest to further their philanthropic interests.
Shelagh is also well-known in the civil society sector for her mentorship and support of many non-profit leaders and, as Executive Director of Inyathelo, designed services to support the sector as well as playing a leading role in the development of The Independent Code of Governance for Non-Profit Organisations in South Africa in order to promote good governance, high standards and best practice amongst NPOs.
University Advancement and Fundraising
In addition, as Executive Director of Inyathelo, she established a long-term partnership with The Kresge Foundation to build the field of Advancement within the University sector. This successful programme has led to the mainstreaming of Advancement in higher education. She has coached several university Vice-Chancellors and provided advisory services to Directors of Development.