PART TWO OF A TWO PART SERIES
Muslim Giving and Philanthropy remains one of the largest and most generous economies in the world. While recognizing that ad hoc giving within the Muslim community is a part of the culture, it also attracts suspicion and, for the most, reduces the value and impact of each dollar. While there has always been a historical focus and culture from within to tackle many basic social needs, creating an organized, institutionalized network for Muslim philanthropy has been elusive, until now.
This is the gap that World Congress of Muslim Philanthropy (WCMP), founded by Dr Tariq Cheema with Sheikha Aisha al Faleh al Thani of Qatar, the founding Chair, has been slowly filling over the last five years since its foundation. The WCMP is at the forefront of bringing a new approach and focus on strategic investment for a long-term infrastructure of giving to creating real change. Wealth inspired philanthropy is growing within the Muslim community and capacity to eradicate poverty and disease is growing too. But to reach this capability, Muslim giving needs to recognize the successes and address the failures head on.
The Academy of Philanthropy, an initiative of the WCMP has been inaugurated in London and Doha and the first Journal of Muslim Philanthropy is also about to be launched (academyofphilanthropy.org). The Academy provides best practice training and support for philanthropists, foundations, corporate giving as well as NGOs in a range of specialist areas with a view to creating a global and local view of Muslim philanthropy. One of the areas of work of the Academy is to challenge all giving where impact is at a minimal – be it small-scale donations or the work of foundations and trusts.
The Academy of Philanthropy has also started a think tank, ‘Centre for Muslim Giving and Philanthropy’ to develop the work of the WCMP. Of course all philanthropy is about hope and creating opportunity. Although there is a focus within the WCMP to improve the impact of Muslim inspired giving, the WCMP and the Academy works on behalf of all people and all communities of the world that need support, and that really does mean everyone, regardless of religion, nationality or gender.
As an illustration of the work of the WCMP and the Academy, in 2008 the WCMP convened world leaders, grant-makers, academics and practitioners of unique backgrounds and experiences and adopted 10 Guiding Principles for Muslim Giving.
1. The worldwide community of Muslim philanthropists should be proactive in reaching out to the destitute and oppressed, irrespective of race or religious beliefs.
2. The work of Muslim grant-makers should be furthered strategically through enduring and sustained international engagement amongst key partners in critical areas of philanthropy.
3. Muslim Philanthropists should take a closer look at the potential new challenges ranging from environment to political conflict, and from Islamophobia to extremism, and set their giving priorities according to the newly emerging sociopolitical frontiers.
4. While compassion is the most powerful driving force behind helping victims of natural and man-made disasters, there is a need for capacity building, mutual cooperation and communication among Muslim humanitarian organizations for ensuring well-coordinated, low-cost and high-efficiency operations.
5. Developing benchmarks, such as establishing a clearing-house, creating best practices, and helping CSOs leverage the available capital and human resources through effective consulting and training, are vital for the growth of Muslim philanthropy.
6. Accountability and transparency of the recipient organizations should be a must-criterion in grant-making process. A mechanism that can educate and update grantees on compliance and cross-border giving needs to be explored and implemented.
7. Besides donating to the faith-based, educational and health institutions, it is essential to fund the non-conventional initiatives that promote research and innovation, leadership development, and social entrepreneurial advancement, environmental stewardship, sports, arts and literature, religio-cultural co-existence and effective response to the negative aspects of globalization.
8. Muslim giving needs to shift its focus from conventional to strategic thus making long-term impact rather short term through building endowments and pooled funds and incorporating strategic planning. As important as emergency assistance will always be, Muslim philanthropy must also engage the root causes of poverty and conflict and be ready to invest in longer term solutions.
9. Strategic partnerships and alliance building with mainstream philanthropies around the issues of common concern should be encouraged.
10. Networking among Muslim philanthropists through international conferences, regional and national donor roundtables, and retreats are essential to fostering collaborations and combating negativity often associated with Muslim giving.