Driven by his love for children and a desire to end their suffering, former President Mandela established the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund (NMCF) in 1995. The Nelson Mandela Children's Fund strives to change the way society treats its children and youth. In the pursuit of its vision, and in order to ensure that the legacy of its founder, Nelson Mandela, is secured in perpetuity, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund aims to to build a rights-based movement that gives voice and dignity to the African child.
From 1996 to 1998, NMCF successfully mobilized over R36 million to fund over 780 projects, at an average of R40, 000 per project. Grounded in the legacy of its founder, NMCF initially operated as a grant-making organization promoting a humanitarian response to the plight of South Africa 's children and youth. The 1995-1999 period was characterised by ad hoc funding strategies that enabled children and families to meet immediate needs, and one-time support for overhead and salary costs for organisations targeting children's issues, with no particular programmatic basis for NMCF's engagement with these organisations.
During 1999, NMCF realised that this welfare or handout approach was not sustainable as it did not encourage community involvement nor did it address the array of growing organizational capacity issues. To inform a new approach, NMCF conducted an extensive review of national and regional policies on children and youth; identified several significant policy gaps; evaluated its portfolio of projects and internal procedures; and carefully defined programme intervention areas it would pursue. This review culminated in the launching, in the year 2000, of the Sakha Ikusasa strategy, reflecting a new programme and organizational approach for the period 2000-2005, and establishing NMCF as a funding cum development agency that seeks to change the ways in which society treats its children and youth in order to improve their conditions and lives.