Marwa El-Daly, chair of the Maadi Community Foundation offers a new perspective for achieving sustainable donation in Egypt. She believes donations can be more sustainable if it works within time-honored Middle Eastern charitable traditions. The first area is directing the Muslim obligation of zakat- giving alms to the needy, one of the five pillars of Islam- to business development rather than supporting basic needs, a practice El-Daly terms ‘venture capital philanthropy’. The second is revitalizing the centuries-old instutition of waqfs, which are historical revenue-generating institutions that channels its profits to a specific worthy cause.
El-Daly has devoted her career to the study and implementation of sustainable development models of charitable giving in Egypt. In her previous position as program manager for the Near East Foundation’s Philanthropy for Development project, El-Daly conducted a study in partnership with the Ford Foundation, which concluded that domestic giving in Egypt was as high as LE 5.4 5 billion, (approximately US$1 billion). Her study further indicates that a main problem is pepole favor giving person-to-person charitable donations, which focuses more on meeting the immediate needs of the individual, with just 0.6 percent given to sustainable development projects, which focuses on changing people’s life patterns.
One reason that charity is preferred over supporting business development projects is because of the discrepancy over whether such projects can be considered zakat. Hence, a fatwa was called for which encouraged giving for development purposes and declaring it a form of zakat. Building trust through increasing transparency is also crucial to attract more donations to development organizations.
Waqf is a a long-practiced traditional means of sustainable giving in Islam. However, many currently do not correctly understand waqf or had forgotten the essence of the concept, mistaking it for government property. El-Daly advocates reviving waqf because it is endowed with a certain project, such as a school or sewage system, ensuring that it is maintained and used for a prescribed purpose, which differentiates it from other charities.