Three Lessons from Johan du Preez, South Africa

Each month, we introduce you to a Christian who is on the generosity path, and we ask them what God’s taught them about giving.

This month, meet Johan du Preez, an investor and entrepreneur from South Africa.

1. Multiply Charitable Capital. 

As a private equity professional, Johan thinks about money often. “My real interest is in capital,” he says. “Capital always has an agenda and I’d like the agenda to be Christ.” As he discovered the power of investment returns as CEO of various companies, he looked to integrate that with the area of charity and began to take a more sophisticated approach to giving. “Rather than giving a one-off donation,” Johan thought, “let’s do it strategically.” He and a friend put some of their private shareholding in a charity (Tree of Life Foundation, TOL) and started investing. That brought exponential growth, increasing the amount the charity could give. After nine years and a CAGR of 70%, he says, “we have become a bit of a player in the local market. We see that we’re on to something way bigger than we imagined.” As other charities and friends learn of our success, they approach us to invest their charitable capital via TOL.

Rather than giving a one-off donation,” Johan thought, “let’s do it strategically.

2. Wealthy Givers Need to Start with Simple Questions.

Johan’s work connects him to affluent families. He encourages them to ask big, basic questions. “The biggest questions are some of those initial ones – what does God want and who will help me with my giving?” Johan has seen the wealthy get burned by giving before adequately answering the key questions. “They give based on guilt or proposals to them or through an emotional response,” he says. “Perhaps a business acquaintance asks them, or they see a video for a charity.” Instead, Johan encourages wealthy families to be more strategic, to realize “this is how I need to plan and these are the stakes.” My personal opinion is that as Christians we are quite adept tactically but often lack a strategic component in the application of charitable capital.

3. Ask “What Do I Keep?” rather than “What Do I Give?

“We are all overwhelmed in South Africa with the need,” says Johan. “We have probably seven million taxpayers in a country of more than fifty million,” he says. “When you think about the charitable burden on Christian stewards, the need is overwhelming.” South Africa has no tax deductibility for faith-based work, making generosity harder—and more important. “In South Africa, we need a lot of education and teaching in that [generosity] space,” Johan says. He believes radical givers like Alan Barnhart and Tom Peters help newer givers redefine what’s possible. Currently, Johan says, “people feel good here if they give away ten percent. The JOG helps people understand that it’s not ‘what do I give?’; it’s ‘what do I keep?’”

Johan loves to give to:

While most of Johan’s focus is on building Tree of Life, allowing givers to support more ministries, he works closely with LIV Village. “We like their absolute Christ-centered focus and commitment to excellence, which provided disadvantaged children with a springboard to a better life,” says Johan. LIV exists to raise the next generation of leaders in South Africa. They do this by placing orphaned and vulnerable children into a family environment with a trained foster mother to love them, a school to educate them, and a community that meets all their physical needs.

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