To establish a self- sustaining perpetual fund for the development of arts, culture and heritage in South Africa.


To attract and provide funding for the sustainable development and growth of the arts, culture and heritage in South Africa, actualised through mutually beneficial partnerships between the corporate, public and cultural sectors focused on making a positive difference to the lives of all South Africans.


Trusts are usually established by one or more parties for the benefit of another party/beneficiary (or beneficiaries) and involve: the Founding Trustees (parties or donors who create the trust), Nominated Trustees (who hold and manages property for the benefit of the grantor and others), and one or more Beneficiaries (who are entitled to the benefits).


The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) is the oldest funding agency in democratic South Africa. It was established to secure financial and other resources for arts, culture and heritage; and to project the needs and role of the sector into the public domain.

In 1994, the newly established Ministry of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (now the Department of Arts & Culture) responded to an invitation from Nedcor Bank and Sun International to set up a body for arts and culture, similar to the Sports and Green Trusts, which were established earlier. In this way, the first three Founding Trustees came together to secure financial and other resources for arts and culture, and to project the needs and role of the sector into the public domain. Each of the Founding Trustees contributed one million rand, which was invested in a Trust Fund, to ensure sustainability and to minimise dependence on annual grants.

At the same time, a Board of Trustees, made up of leading art practitioners and administrators, was established. Its task was to implement the funding policies, to evaluate projects and to decide on funding allocations. Former President Nelson Mandela endorsed the initiative and agreed to serve as the Patron-in-Chief of ACT. In this way, it came to be called the Arts & Culture Trust of the President during his term of office.

During the first five years, two further Founding Trustees - the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Vodacom - joined ACT and contributed to the Trust endowment. Thus, the partnership between the private sector, government and local cultural community was extended to include international cooperation.


Over the past 24 years the Trust disbursed more than R20 million rand to arts and culture projects across South Africa. This excludes ACT Awards prize money and other developmental efforts such as the ACT Building Blocks master classes.

Findings of an external evaluation and subsequent surveys:
  • ACT's reputation is built on the quality of the Trustees, the range and scope of recipients and the rigorous branding and publicity that ACT achieves through its recipients and its media partners.
  • ACT was praised for excellent communication and dependable delivery.
  • From interviews conducted it was found that ACT is seen by many to be one of the best funding agencies in South Africa in terms of the values that organisations identify as important: helpfulness and approachability, fairness and responsiveness.
  • It was found that ACT's funding has made a difference because support from ACT is seen as an endorsement of the recipient's work and can be used to attract other funding.
  • Funding from ACT boosts other forms of support, and in the case of some small initiatives, allows them to develop to a point where they can network with other partners and create synergies that make them stronger and reduce their vulnerability.
  • ACT's funding of organisational costs (including audits) has enabled organisations to later approach other funders with a good financial system in place, making the process of accessing funding more efficient.
  • ACT's multi-year funding has enabled some fledging organisations to grow and develop - in some cases, from a one-person initiative to an organisation; in other cases, to expand the organisation's reach and impact.
  • ACT's funds have supported training programmes and the transfer of skills to trainees who might later be offered employment; they have enabled development of materials that benefit schools, curriculum developers, libraries and other organisations.
  • New skills have been developed in both adults and children.
  • The transfer of skills in administration and management has also been funded. In addition funds have enabled the creation of employment opportunities or the continuation of employment of practitioners.
  • Many of the activities and/or organisations funded have had an outreach component, ensuring that arts and culture reaches as many communities as possible, as well as bringing disparate ideas and cultures together.
  • Activities chosen for support added to the vibrancy and dynamism of the sector, both through the support of existing organisations and the support of new, interesting initiatives that might not have developed without support from ACT.