Across the private sector, investors make calculated decisions supported by reliable data and a guiding team to ensure the effectiveness of their investment prior to deploying funds. Philanthropic investments should be treated the same way, if not with higher precaution, as it is high-risk capital.

While private personal giving continues to be an important source of financing for grantees and beneficiaries in the region, these actors are now giving through an increasingly diverse range of family foundations and social investment initiatives, including established foundations, new philanthropic ventures, as well as corporate vehicles. Further, there has been growing discussion around the sustainability and effectiveness of regional philanthropy, heated by the desire to optimise the scale and impact of giving.

This panel discussion addressed the necessary factors for the continued growth and expansion of strategic giving across the Gulf Region.

More specifically, it explored the following questions:

  • What is strategic philanthropy?
  • Is institutional philanthropy essential to the growth of strategic giving in the Gulf Region?
  • What do donors need to enable more structured philanthropy?
  • What impact does structured giving have on the scalability and sustainability of philanthropic projects?


What we learnt: 
  • It is important to think about philanthropy as a social investment, where there is an increasing expectation for it to yield a social return. When treated as an investment, philanthropy becomes more strategic and guided by the desire to optimise impact.
  • Institutional philanthropy refers to how giving is made and in what form. In its best form, institutional philanthropy relies on robust governance mechanisms, transparency, impact measurement and collaborations.
  • Philanthropy is, in its core, about problem-solving. This kind of problem-solving can be enhanced with better communication, data measurement and reporting and. This is especially essential towards building a strong and compelling narrative in order to engage the next generation of philanthropists.
  • Whilst giving is deeply engrained within the regional culture; it is often conducted in privacy. It is vital to steer away from this private nature of giving, as transparency plays a key role not only in inspiring others to partake in philanthropic activities, but in reducing the duplication of efforts.
  • As a non-profit organisation (NPO) or philanthropic organisation, communicating effectively and openly on interventions and on their impact enhances giving and makes it possible to scale activities. Transparency in reporting is not only vital in relaying the work an organisation is carrying out, but also in allowing both donor and recipient to be able to identify relevant gaps and strengths. 
  • Data collection is extremely vital in accurately measuring impact and allows for the optimisation of giving strategies. In addition, it allows donors to more effectively decide where to deploy their capital or philanthropic investments.
  • Impact measurement is particularly challenging as there is yet to be a set framework that is used across the board. Some common frameworks include the Sustainable Development Goals, Theory of Change and Social Return on Investments.
  • Whilst impact measurement is vital, it should not become overly burdensome on either the donor or the grantee. As such, it is most beneficial for donors to work in conjunction with their beneficiaries to understand the challenges and limitations and find an impact measurement mechanism that works best with the given resources.
  • NPOs often do not have the capacity to conduct rigorous impact measurement on their interventions. This can be due to limitations in human resources or other overhead related expenses. As such, it is most effective for foundations and other donor organisations to provide NPOs with unrestricted funding; this allows NPOs operating within restrained resources to carry out quality interventions and to also be able to effectively communicate on their impact as well.
  • It is also vital to engage the end beneficiary of a grant in order to best understand the challenges and what interventions would work best to resolve them.
  • Collaborations not only allow philanthropic organisations to leverage expertise, but also to utilise time and resources most efficiently in order to reduce any wastage. In addition, it saves from reinventing the wheel if other organisations are already conducting similar work.
  • Collaborations allow organisations to exceed their operational remit and allows for the scaling of impact. For instance, some organisations are better at creating content, whilst others may be better at delivering events; a collaboration in this regard would achieve a greater scope of impact.
  • Whilst some organisations can be concerned about the loss of control over a project within a collaboration; it is vital to understand that impact can significantly increase within a collaborative.
  • For more information on how to effectively plan and manage your giving strategies, you can view the Pearl Initiative’s guides and resources here: http://circle.pearlinitiative.org/resources/