GCC donors want transparency in return for money

Annual poll of Arabs in the Gulf finds donors would be more likely to give if charities were transparent about impact

GCC donors want more transparency from charities in return for more money, and a better understanding of how and where their funds will be spent. At a time of increased competition for government funding, modern charities keen to grow their donor base in the GCC should show evidence of the impact they are having on the communities they serve, according to the 2016 Arab Giving Survey (ASG).

The poll of 1,008 Arabs in six GCC states, which examined public attitudes to philanthropy, found almost half of respondents would give more to a cause if charities were more transparent, up from 35 per cent in the 2015 survey.

Some 24 per cent of respondents said more clarity on how and where money is spent by charities would prompt them to give more. A further 24 per cent said understanding the impact of their donation would encourage then to give more cash to a cause.

Together, these findings overshadow last year’s top finding, which named a higher disposable income as the strongest driver to increased donations. More tellingly, 32 per cent said not knowing how the money would be spent was the main obstacle to donating – a 13 per cent increase on the year before.

The second edition of the AGS, conducted by Philanthropy Age and global market research agency YouGov, surveyed both Gulf nationals and Arab expats resident in the region. The findings build on the inaugural 2015 survey, which shed light on giving across the Gulf for the first time.

The shift in emphasis towards checking the impact of donations is a sign of a maturing donor market. This is slowly prompting a change in the way people give, with donors seeking a more hands-on, strategic approach to philanthropy.

When it comes to selecting a cause to support, the second most influential factor for GCC donors was transparency in how the charity disburses funding. Some 78 per cent of those polled said they would stop contributions to a charity that was performing poorly.

Governance matters, too. More donors are taking an interest in the way charitable organisations are run. Friends and family still wield the most influence over philanthropic spending (37 per cent). However, 12 per cent of donors said they are inspired to give by a charity’s leadership; this category saw the largest jump, up 10 percentage points on last year. In addition, more than half of those polled supported the idea of charities employing paid staff.

Not all the findings are positive, however. In a new discovery, the survey revealed a small - but significant - number of donors lack confidence in charities. Fifteen per cent of those polled had little trust in charitable organisations, with a further 34 per cent sitting on the fence. This trust gap presents a challenge, which clearer reporting and feedback to donors may help plug.

Arab giving in the GCC retains its generous spirit, but the survey reveals a growing gap between aspiration and action. While donors express an increasing desire to be better informed before handing over more cash, more than half still give on impulse. It is a disparity charities could do more to dispel.