New directions

First-of-its kind data spotlights emerging trends in next-gen philanthropy in the MENA region.

Next-generation philanthropists in the Middle East are choosing to donate as individuals outside of their family structures, according to new research on regional giving. “Grounded in tradition, looking to the future”, is a first-of-its-kind data report produced by the Zovighian Partnership (ZP), a Lebanon-based regional research and social investment platform, in partnership with the UAE’s Pearl Initiative.

The study, which was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, used quantitative methods to survey 83 next-generation philanthropists from across the MENA region about their giving motivations, challenges, and priorities.  

“We were trying to address the gaps that exist in the Middle East - and frankly also around the world - when it comes to next generation philanthropy data,” explained ZP’s co-founder Lynn Zovighian, at an event held in Dubai to launch the research.

“We needed to understand what are the giving priorities, what are the challenges, and what are the obstacles getting in the way,” she said.

Of those questioned, 80 percent said they were engaging in their philanthropy personally and individually – challenging the long-held assumption that Arab region philanthropy in the region is driven mainly by family foundations and family offices.

“Many of our community members want to give the way they've always given and the way their families have given. But almost 50 percent are seeking out less traditional methods,” Zovighian noted. “This is something that we would love to deep dive into a lot more with a qualitative analysis.”

"We needed to understand what are the giving priorities, what are the challenges, and what are the obstacles getting in the way"

Lynn Zovighian, co-founder ZP 

Education, healthcare, and women’s empowerment were the priority investment areas cited by respondents, of whom 65 percent of whom were women and more than half between the ages of 35 and 44.

Most of the surveyed philanthropists were from the Gulf, the Levant, and Egypt, with a handful based in North America and Europe. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon made up the bulk of the responses (27 percent, 24 percent, and 22 percent, respectively).

More than half interviewees came from entrepreneurship and business backgrounds and 50 had been involved in giving activities for eight or more years.

Integrity was the most cited “giving value”, followed by empowerment, compassion, sustainability, transparency, and accountability. Community impact and community need also scored very highly when it came to giving motivations and influences.

The data revealed that the least supported causes among MENA next gen donors were arts and culture, environment, human rights, religious causes, international aid, humanitarian development, animal welfare, and science and technology. 

The report also showed that more than two thirds of next-generation givers were dissatisfied with the available ecosystem of support for philanthropic giving.

Almost 40 percent of the sample said they directed their philanthropy nationally, while one fifth focused on local giving, and just under a third supported global causes.

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Lynn Zovighian presenting data highlights from the report at an event in Dubai. Photo: Pearl Initiative.

Although giving was very personal and individually-driven, 43 percent of respondents said they still included their family members in their philanthropic decision making.

Zovighian, herself a next gen philanthropist, said the data was much needed because for too long, people in the Middle East had been “looking west” to study “international best practices” in philanthropy.

“There's so much beautiful philanthropy happening here - a beautiful, complex combination of tradition and innovation happening in this region,” she said. “Should this region not be sharing our own stories with the world?” she asked. “Shouldn't we actually be learning more about ourselves and then extending that communication out there to the rest of the world?”

The data was collected over six months via an exploratory quantitative online survey was deemed the appropriate method of inquiry. The survey employed a mix of question types: closed-ended questions on a Likert scale of 1 to 7 to measure attitudes and opinions, as well as open-ended questions. You can download the full report here.