Charity vs. philanthropy in Saudi Arabia
If we can picture charity as the act of giving a hungry man a fish; then philanthropy would certainly be the act of teaching that man how to fish for himself. Although both tackle the problems of the unfortunate segment of society, but one is merely easing the pain of a social crisis while the other help solve the root cause of the problem.
In Saudi Arabia, there are approximately 700 charity centers and foundation registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs. The majority of donations to those charities go to organizations with religious affiliations, which are concerned with building mosques, supporting Qur’an teaching schools, sponsoring orphans and general charity work. The rest goes to health organizations and social services.
However, charity work is still below the level of expectations in terms of both quantity and quality. If we compare the numbers of registered charities with that of a country like the United States, which has over 1.8 million charity organizations — the city of New York alone has more than 98,000 active foundations — we would sense the urgent need for increasing the number of working charities in the Kingdom.
The vital role and main objective for the existence of our charities lack the much-needed efficiency and training and that is required of these organizations. Their members lack most of the skills and scientific knowledge in disciplines that are required in order to work in the field of organized charities.
Even at the level of statistics there is no official published information that is available to the public regarding the amounts of donations received by these charities. Due to the absence of this information there is an increasing alarm about the inflation in the operative and administrative expenses, such as salaries and buildings, at the expense of the beneficiaries, i.e. the needy.
The problem with charity work that is left unscrutinized is that much of the donations do not go to the right people. Even families in need that are registered with these organizations are not getting enough assistance to become more self sufficient, and end up being more dependent on the support of these charities.
Monetary contributions are only one way in which people could support their communities. The main challenge is how to increase the individual skills of the needy in order for them to be effective individuals in their communities.
This can only be achieved through changing the points of view of charity organization as well as the public, to what constitutes real philanthropic work. There should be an introduction of the correct vision of the role of charity in the education system as well as increasing capabilities within charities. In addition, there must be an open centralized data for charity centers, which would serve as an important indicator of the state of philanthropy in our country.
A tweet: “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” John D. Rockefeller
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