Donors seek transparency and impact, reveals Arab Giving Survey

Arab donors in the GCC are increasingly seeking more transparency from charities, a better understanding of how funds are used, and clearer demonstration of impact, a survey in the six Gulf states has found

The inaugural Arab Giving Survey, released today by Philanthropy Age and global market research agency YouGov, found the GCC’s long tradition of philanthropy continues to thrive, with some 87 per cent of respondents donating to charity in the last 12 months, and more than half giving cash on up to six occasions.

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

But the survey of 1,008 Arab respondents in the six GCC countries found rising demand among donors for insight into how charities disburse funds, with 27 per cent citing it as the biggest influence on their choice of charity. Some 66 per cent of respondents described results as being extremely important to them, when selecting a charity to support. Among higher earners, that rose to 93 per cent.

More than two-thirds of those polled said they would cease support of a charity, if it was found to be performing badly.

“The results from the first Arab Giving survey clearly showcase the charitable spirit of GCC Arabs,” said Joao Neves, senior research director at YouGov. “While generous in their giving, donors across the region are increasingly demanding accountability from charity organisations. In this climate, those charities most transparent in their communication and most able to demonstrate their results are best positioned to benefit from the region’s generosity.”

[Five lessons in fundraising, revealed by the Arab Giving Survey. Click here]

The results make clear that strategic giving in the Gulf is in its infancy. For half of respondents, inspiration to donate comes from friends, family and colleagues. Just over half of those polled give less than $150 annually, while a similar proportion (58 per cent) make their donations spontaneously. Collection boxes are by some measure the most popular form of giving, cited by 55 per cent of respondents.

This builds a picture of casual donations made in passing and with pocket change. Like giving directly to an individual, it is generous in spirit, but likely to lack long-term impact. It also speaks to the difficulty charities face in raising funds through regular direct debit donations in a region still dominated by a cash culture and low levels of banking services. Just 17 per cent of donations are made via regular bank transfers.

Almost all donations made by respondents in the last 12 months were under $500 (94 per cent), with $207 the average donation. Those in the highest income group gave the most, with amounts declining in line with lower incomes. Most people (57 per cent) typically give to the same charities – an average of two per person – and plan to continue doing so.

Religion plays a pivotal role in the giving of respondents, with many (45 per cent) suggesting their decision to give is entirely linked to their religious belief. This is reflected in the timing of donations, two-thirds of which are made on religious occasions such as Ramadan and Eid.

The largest proportion of donors prefer giving money to community-based organisations or those in their own city; the work of international NGOs was of little interest to respondents. However, these results conflict with people’s choice of preferred causes, where the top two were poverty or third-world issues, and overseas aid and disaster relief. This is difficult to align with a preference for working with local organisations, and perhaps reflective of a wider uncertainty as to how to donate effectively.

Habits highlighted by the survey include the fact that donors are loyal, with 57 per cent of them across the region tending to give to the same charity organisations. This trait was especially accentuated among the most affluent respondents, with a household income of $9,000+.

“The results of the Arab Giving Survey break the silence that often surrounds giving, shining a light on the generosity of the region and sparking debate about how best to encourage effective philanthropy,” said Leonard Stall, group CEO and editor-in-chief of Philanthropy Age. “This data sets the benchmark and we will now be conducting The Arab Giving Survey on an annual basis.”

YouGov conducted the research 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