UAE leads GCC in million-dollar philanthropy

The UAE tops poll of GCC states in number of $1m-plus donations

The UAE is the source of more $1m-plus donations than any other GCC state, according to a new report, with foreign charities one of the dominant destinations for high-stakes philanthropists.

The UAE accounted for 38 per cent of the $894m donated in 2014 from GCC-based philanthropists, found the annual Coutts Million Dollar Donors report. Saudi Arabia made the second highest number of donations, at six, but accounted for 54 per cent of the overall value.

Overall, philanthropy in the region saw a downward trend. While the number of $1m-plus donations dwindled only slightly – from 38 in 2013, to 34 last year – the overall value of those gifts fell almost $963m on the previous year. In part, this reflects a $48.5m mega-gift in 2013, which was not repeated last year.

Across the GCC, corporations and foundations were a driving force in philanthropy. Corporations yielded 44 per cent of the million-dollar gifts, while 38 per cent came from foundations. The remainder came from individual donors. Half of the grants fell between the $2m to $10m marks, with a median value of $5.2m. In the Gulf, three donations in excess of $100m made a substantial contribution to the overall total.

While giving in the Gulf is often very private, making it difficult to track, Coutt’s identified the largest donation as being from the Saudi Fund for Development. Worth $232m, the funds went to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in Jordan. At $149.6m, a donation from Obaid Khalifa Al Jaber Al Marri, the chairman of the UAE’s Al Jaber Group, to a children’s cancer hospital in Egypt was the second-largest single gift. The third-largest, worth $104m, was a donation from the Saudi Islamic Development Bank to support the UN’s World Food Programme.

Support of the World Food Programme (WFP) was part of a larger trend of gifts to organisations, headquartered outside of the Gulf, tackling foreign aid and disaster relief, health and human service projects. Two donations made to the WFP, totalling $109m, represented more than 10 per cent of the overall value of last year’s donations from the Gulf.

Around the eight regions and countries it studies, Coutts found that there were 1,831 donations in excess of $1m totalling $24.5bn. Globally the most popular recipient to support was education, which was targeted by 798 donations worth a total of $7.58bn. A further $6.77bn was given to foundations through relatively low number of 168 donations, illustrating a trend of giving large gifts to grant-making organisations.

As a country, the US donated the most with gifts of $14.11bn, with China in second place with $3.61bn.  

Photo credit: WFP/Marco Frattini