How BotSoc and SANBI fit together: a successful strategic partnership

The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) and the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) have worked in a mutually beneficial and successful partnership for over 100 years. Many folk confuse the two or misinterpret that they are one and the same- this is not true. Here we lay out a few facts to clarify who we, BotSoc, are and how we fit together with SANBI.

BotSoc’s mission: “To win the hearts, minds and material support of individuals and organisations wherever they may be for the conservation, cultivation, wise use and study of the indigenous vegetation of southern Africa.”

The BotSoc is a non-profit, non-government voluntary membership based organisation operating within its own legalistic and governance policies and guidelines.  The BotSoc is a registered entity with the Department of Social Development with Public benefit and Tax exempt status under the Income Tax Act.  It is managed by a member elected Council in terms of the Society’s constitution and the Council is responsible for the oversight, guidance and strategic direction of the Society in terms of its objectives and focus areas.

A strategic advantage of the Society is that it enjoys a more than 100-year-old relationship with the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and membership to the BotSoc offers the member the rights of free entry into all the national botanical gardens.  SANBI with its head office based in Pretoria is a public entity under the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) – the government body vested with the mandates to ensure the protection of our biodiversity treasures.  BotSoc supports – through its Branches – all SANBI gardens nationally and they share a Memorandum of Agreement which outlines the areas of co-operation and the mutually beneficial activities and support areas.  This relationship is believed to be the oldest public-private partnership between a NGO and a public entity.  Joint centenary celebrations were held during 2013 with a special commemorative Veld &Flora issue being published documenting the 100 year story.

The BotSoc activities are aligned under the following pillars:

A) Conservation

B) Environmental Education and Outreach

C) Membership, Branch support and Operations

The BotSoc works in partnership and collaborates with various other conservation bodies, agencies, government bodies as well as other organisations in the pursuance of its mission.

Governance is important – The constitution of the BotSoc endows the Council with the power to take full responsibility for the management of the operations of the Society.  The Council employs and empowers the Executive Director to manage the day-to-day operations through a vicarious relationship with the mandates and delegated authorities in place.  All head office staff, branch committee members, as well as contract staff are ultimately responsible to the Council.

Branch committees are the “engines” of the BotSoc on the ground keeping the Society true to its objectives through the various local activities and programmes undertaken.  Branches receive financial support from membership income to sustain the member nurturing activities within the different regions.

Members are the mainstay of the BotSoc.  BotSoc members enjoy various benefits which includes free entry into all SANBI gardens, the quarterly Veld & Flora magazine, opportunity to partake in walks, talks and outings, as well as being afforded various opportunities to volunteer within the activities and programmes of the BotSoc.  BotSoc has a membership base of over 24 000 in 30 countries.

BotSoc vs. SANBI: 11 quick facts

  1. BotSoc is a registered non-profit, non-government entity                                                      SANBI is a registered public entity with Government
  2. BotSoc is not funded by government, SANBI is partially
  3. BotSoc’s main source of income for operations is from membership subscriptions and donations. SANBI’s main source of income is from government grants and donor /project funding.
  4. BotSoc mandates are informed by the Society’s mission statement. SANBI’s mandates are set by government and global trends in the biodiversity conservation sector.
  5. BotSoc is a support organisation to the SANBI national botanical gardens. SANBI manages and upkeeps the SANBI national botanical gardens.
  6.  BotSoc enjoys tax exempt status and donations may attract donation tax benefits in terms of the Income Tax Act. As a Public Entity tax considerations are not available for donations to SANBI.
  7.  BotSoc is managed by a member elected Council in terms of the Society’s Constitution. SANBI is managed by a ministerial appointed board under the Dept. of Environmental Affairs (DEA).
  8. BotSoc operates within the framework of the Dept. of Social Development and SARS Tax Exempt Unit under the Income Tax Act as guided by Council. SANBI operates with the framework of the Public Service frameworks and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and other government prescriptions (SCOPA/AG office, etc.)
  9.  BotSoc supports some activities within the SANBI mandates in terms of biodiversity conservation. SANBI carries the responsibilities for the mandates set out by Government in terms of biodiversity conservation.
  10.  Join the BotSoc and become a member of the BotSoc, a voluntary based membership organisation. BotSoc membership allows the free entry into all SANBI national botanical gardens and offers volunteer opportunities.
  11.  BotSoc enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with SANBI by them offering the BotSoc as an entity the free entry benefit to all SANBI gardens to all BotSoc members. SANBI enjoys the support of the BotSoc as a voluntary membership based Society and enjoys the volunteer support in the various areas within the SANBI as offered by the BotSoc member.

Calls to action 

  • Sign up to join here. Members are encouraged to recruit a non-member to join the BotSoc. Remember you can gift a membership too. Read 10 reasons to join BotSoc here.
  • Sign up for a volunteer activity in your local garden (education/garden/herbaria/admin/guiding)
  • Join the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) programme and monitor and survey SA’s most threatened plants
  • Join a Branch committee – where all the action is
  • Become a member of the Heritage circle by making a bequest/donation which will enjoy donation tax benefits
  • Become a member and enjoy psychological wellbeing, connecting with nature in the botanical treasures on offer within the SANBI gardens.
  • Sign up with the MySchoolMyVillageMyPlanet card and make the Botanical Society your beneficiary.
  • Follow and engage with us on Facebook and Twitter
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The Botanical Society of South Africa (BotSoc) are an NGO conserving and educating about biodiversity for over 100 years.

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