Governance in Philanthropy

Optimising the impact of giving across the Gulf Region

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Governance in Philanthropy programme has been developed to support corporate and individual donors striving to be more strategic and impactful in their giving.

Through community engagement and research, the programme promotes improved governance standards in the Gulf region’s philanthropic ecosystem. On a higher level, the programme promotes the regional transition away from the traditional way of thinking about philanthropy, CSR, and corporate giving, to a more strategic understanding of the vehicles to drive greater impact.

The ‘Circle’ Project

In 2021, the programme kickstarted a new phase, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and in partnership with Philanthropy Age. Using a multi-pronged approach, the Circle project has developed two network streams: one comprising Individual Philanthropic Donors and the other comprising Corporate Donors.

Through the establishment of a robust community, the Governance in Philanthropy programme is working to deepen our engagement with our network through the provision of bespoke tools, trainings and subject matter experts who support the development of strategic plans for our donors’ philanthropic investments.

The Circle project aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Equip individual and corporate donors with the knowledge, tools, and guidance to enhance their philanthropic strategy
  • Establish a leading community of donors who spearhead the regional drive for increased transparency, accountability, and trust in giving in the Gulf region
  • Support regional corporate and individual philanthropic donors make more informed decisions when giving and adopt better monitoring and evaluation practices

As part of the knowledge-sharing convenings, we have featured prominent international speakers and thought leaders in the philanthropic space to share their insights with our network, including Valerie Rockefeller, Board Chair, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; Hadi Partovi, Founder,; Sarah Ojjeh, Board Member, 21/64; Myrna Atalla, Executive Director, Alfanar Philanthropy; Naghma Mulla, CEO, EdelGive Foundation, to name a few. Our programming is enhanced by expert facilitators such as 21/64 and Innovest Advisory.

Learn more about our upcoming events here.

Glance through some of the latest insights and guides on philanthropic governance on our newly launched Circle website here.

If you are either an individual donor, corporate philanthropic donor or a key advisor to a principal philanthropist and would like to get engaged with our programme, please feel free to reach out directly to the Governance in Philanthropy programme leads at:

Anissa Punjani, Programme Manager,

Sumaya Nair, Senior Programme Associate,



At A Glance: Programme Background and Key Achievements

Upon the launch of the programme in 2017, we collected significant data on the existing practices adopted by regional philanthropic and non-profit organisations and identified the three (3) main challenges in the sector as being (i) transparency, (ii) reporting, and (iii) impact evaluation. Through the development of a range of interactive workshops and bespoke guides, the programme aimed to promote and incentivise the implementation of best practices in the three areas across the philanthropic activities of entities operating in the Gulf.

Our findings were published in a thought leadership report titled ‘The State of Governance in Philanthropy’ and the findings were shared at the ‘Excellence in Philanthropy’ roundtable in Dubai and workshops held in Kuwait and Riyadh.

By raising awareness, creating networks, and inspiring action, the programme engaged over 1000 corporate executives and philanthropic donors in the regional ecosystem over the past 3 years, and have provided them with the working knowledge and know-how to improve their giving practices and optimise the impact of their investments.

support from Bill & Melinda Gates foundation
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