Inyathelo executive director Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said all the award winners demonstrated initiative and leadership, and had used their personal funds in a strategic way to make a difference.
Lawyer and founder of The X Foundation, Nonkululeko Xulu, is the recipient of the education award.
Established five years ago, the foundation specifically targets children in Grades 1 to 12 from Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal, where Xulu grew up. Each of her beneficiaries is awarded a bursary providing for school fees, uniforms and stationery for a year.
She also ensures the youngsters get the support they need to succeed by providing food parcels, as well as health, fitness and life-skills training.
The economic development award winner is Howick dairy woman Judy Stuart, founder of the Future Farmers Foundation.
Stuart initiated an informal farming apprentice-placement programme for disadvantaged learners from Zakhe Agricultural College in KwaZulu-Natal nine years ago. She organises apprenticeships for young people on commercial farms and finds placements for the best students on globally competitive farms around the world.
On their return to South Africa, Stuart assists them to find jobs with local farmers.
Many young people without the necessary resources for further study have benefited from the "earn-as-you-learn" opportunities created by Stuart's foundation, with many now in senior management positions on large commercial farms, both in South Africa and abroad, Inyathelo's citation said.
The other three recipients were Paul Modjadji (Philanthropy in the Arts), an internationally recognised jazz and hip hop dancer, and choreographer; 13-year-old Tyrone Aaron (Children in Philanthropy); and life coach and founder of Project Ignition, Shamillah Wilson (Women in Philanthropy).