Change is in your pocket

The Big Issue is a socially responsible non-profit organisation that enables willing unemployed and marginalised adults to take responsibility for their own lives through a developmental employment programme.

About Us

What is The Big Issue

The Big Issue is a vibrant and energetic organisation, started in 1997 to support homeless, marginalised and unemployed people in Cape Town to earn a living.

Unemployment is a huge challenge in South Africa, and it is becoming increasingly evident that the formal economy is not going to provide jobs in the way that it once might have.  For this reason, it is critical that as a country we promote, encourage and support entrepreneurship and the growth of micro-entrepreneurs to generate their own income – using their skills, personalities, commitment and personal drive to sell products and services to build a life for themselves and their families.

This is exactly what The Big Issue does!  Primarily, we produce a monthly magazine which individuals purchase from our offices to sell at traffic lights.  This way of earning an income is not easy. Traffic light sales are gruelling – on your feet all day; in all kinds of hot, cold, wet and windy weather; relying on the interest or kindness of strangers, and the possibility of befriending regular customers.  It is hard work!

The heart of The Big Issue operation is Vendor Training Programme and our Social Support Programme. Here vendors and their families have access to guidance counselling, and to social support services. We also offer skills development and training to equip vendors to improve their sales techniques, their personal and product presentation to improve sales, their cash-flow management skills, and other life skills in support of being micro-entrepreneurs.  We also support vendors to move on into the formal job market, should they choose, through life- and job-skills training, and putting them in contact with opportunities as they arise.

Our Distribution Department ensures that vendors are able to access as much stock as they can via four distribution points across the peninsula at Woodstock, Wynberg, Bellville and Somerset West. Our mobile distribution manager also resupplies vendors on the street. Vendors buy each copy for R12.50 and then sell the magazine for a R25 – which means that they make a 100% profit on their investment of R12.50.

At The Big Issue, our philosophy is firmly about giving vendors “a hand up, rather than a hand out”. By generating their own income homeless, unemployed and socially marginalised people are taking their lives and their futures into their own hands. The Big Issue has provided employment and social support for thousands of people, who have earned over R23-million over 21 years.

Income generated from magazine sales and advertising goes directly into producing and publishing the magazine. The Big Issue therefore relies on funding from national and international foundations, and from corporates and individuals, to support our work so that we are able to cover not only the cost of publication and printing, but also to cover our operating costs so that we can continue to providing skills training, social support, and counselling for the marginalised, unemployed and destitute.

The Big Facts

The Big Issue is a non-profit organisation, registered as an NPO with the Department for Social Development, and also registered as a tax-exempt Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) that can issue Section 18(A) tax deduction certificates to its donors.

The Big Issue has a Board of Directors who oversee its governance in line with principles of good governance and the Independent Code of Governance for NonProfits in South Africa.

The Big Issue’s annual operating budget is just under R3.5million, but with constantly rising costs we are looking to ensure an income (through magazine sales, financial support from corporates, philanthropic funders and individuals) of R4.5million per annum to support the production of 11 monthly editions, as well as training, skills development and psycho-social support for up to 150 vendors each month.

The Big Numbers

  • 150 vendors selling The Big Issue monthly
  • 44-page full-colour English language magazine on sale monthly
  • 11 editions a year
  • a 64-page Collector’s Edition (end-of-year special)
  • we sell around 140,000 copies each year
  • vendors pay 50 per copy
  • customers buy The Big Issue at R25 a copy
  • vendors make a profit of 100% per magazine (R12.50)
  • each vendor supports at least 6other people, which means The Big Issue helps support around 900 people every month
  • The Big Issue is 21 years old in 2017
  • 90 fantastic individuals belong to the #Big200, supporting our work with monthly donations

Funding  Supporters and Partners

Thank you to our readers who are our primary supporters, and to our long list of hugely supportive donors, philanthropic funders, and individuals – for whom we are hugely appreciative!

During the 2016 – 2017 year, donors have included, amongst many who prefer to remain anonymous, the following:

The Big Issue Board of Directors

  • Derek Carelse
  • Gadija Gamieldien
  • Luvuyo Mkangelwa
  • Gabrielle Ritchie

The Big Issue NPO Certificate

The Big Issue Audited Financial Statements

Please Click here to view The Big Issue Audited Statements for 2015.