Arab Giving Survey: five lessons for intelligent giving

Whether you’re giving time, money or goods in kind, a donation is a personal decision

In the GCC charitable gifts of any kind are done quietly, with little fanfare and no obligation. The Arab Giving Survey has lifted the lid on the donation practices of Arabs in the GCC and, while some results reaffirmed what many already believed - the region is generous, people give regularly - it also pointed to gaps that donors could capitalise on to boost the impact of their giving.

[For a visual guide to the Arab Giving Survey, click here]

Shout about it, you’ll inspire others As a donor, you have a great chance to influence the philanthropy of others by being open about your giving and what you hope it will achieve. More than half of the 1,008 respondents to the Arab Giving Survey wanted to see philanthropy more widely publicised, to raise awareness of needy causes. Greater publicity about donations or grants could snowball into more openness about how causes are funded, driving charities to be more transparent about their spending.

Engage with a cause Giving is part of the social fabric of the GCC, and zakat a major driver of philanthropy. The Arab Giving Survey found respondents favoured spontaneous over planned giving – collection boxes were the most popular method of donating, followed by giving to an individual in need. These spur of the moment donations are more influenced by occasion and opportunity than by the results 85 per cent of donors say are important to them.

Taking a closer look at the impact an organisation has will offer you a greater insight as to how your money is spent and may help you direct your generosity more effectively. If you actively engage with a cause that means something to you, it will help your philanthropy to have a greater impact.

Donate electronically Few people in the GCC give to charity via electronic banking, the Arab Giving Survey found. It is most popular in Saudi Arabia, but even there is only the preferred method for 21 per cent of regular donors. If you give smaller amounts spread over several occasions throughout the year, using a direct debit could make your donated dollars go further. Charities need a regular flow of income and electronic means are the most cost-effective collection method. Greater uptake of electronic donations could boost the proportion of funds that actually impact a cause.

Loyalty should not be blind Donors in the GCC are loyal, with more than half suggesting they usually give to the same charity. But is loyalty the best policy? The list of causes most in need of funding will change over time. If you want to see your funds have the greatest impact possible, consider reassessing your giving decisions on a regular basis.

Time is money In charitable terms cash is not the only currency. Time is valuable too. If you have a useful skill set you could easily outpace the 55 per cent of the region’s donors who give less than $150 annually with a few hours of voluntary labour. This is the kind of donation that can have the greatest impact to community-based organisations, the likes of which 34 per cent of donors indicated they were keen to support. The onus is on charities and donors alike to work together to create a culture of giving that goes beyond reaching for the wallet and extends to lending a helping hand.  

About the Arab Giving Survey

The Arab Giving Survey was produced in partnership with global market research company YouGov. Research was conducted online among 1,008 Arab respondents in the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC), between 29 May and 8 June 2015. For more information, or to purchase a copy of the report, contact