The broader public has been slower to catch on. While the kingdom has a deep and well-established history of giving – the origins of the nonprofit sector can be traced back to the establishment of the National Emergency Medical Association in Makkah in 1935 – it traditionally operated largely on a model of charity. Much of the work consisted of providing handouts to those caught on the margins of Saudi society.
“As a sector, we need to pitch to the public as to the value we have. Why should they work with us?"
Over the past decade, KKF has led efforts to disrupt the nonprofit space: building capacity, focusing on results, and modelling evidence-based giving. But while nonprofits are now thinking beyond traditional charity, much of the population still isn’t. Many Saudis prefer to give directly to beneficiaries, believing that nonprofits fritter away funding on overheads. The report showed that respondents who donate give an average of SR14,489 a year; however, only around a fifth is funnelled through nonprofit organisations. Sharing data is one way to tackle this image problem, says Princess Banderi, and to telegraph how nonprofits fuel social change.
“If we can quantify the impact nonprofit organisations have – if we can prove what the sector is doing on the ground in numbers - then we can make the argument that in order to deliver this, it requires infrastructure and qualified staff,” she explains. “As a sector, we need to pitch to the public as to the value we have. Why should they work with us? That’s a responsibility of every foundation and every nonprofit.”
The report found Saudi charities spend on average almost three-quarters of their income on aid and activities. Overheads account for 22 per cent of expenditures. Charities are funded mainly by benefactors – at 30 per cent, donations represent the lion’s share of income – and government support, which comes in at 27 per cent.
Among foundations, 64 per cent of their income goes to fund programmes and grants, with operational costs at 36 per cent. The average annual budget stands at SR44.5m, but some 40 per cent of foundations polled warned they expected this to fall sharply in the future.