Charity
Picture used for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Gulf News

Dubai: The month of Ramadan is here, and many people take this opportunity to increase their charitable activities. From organising charity drives to donating to a social cause, many UAE residents actively make an effort to help and uplift the community.

However, it is important to note that charitable activities are regulated in the UAE. Federal Decree Law No. 3 of 2021 on Regulating Donations also stipulates the rules and guidelines for collecting donations to protect contributors against exploitation and ensure the donations reach the beneficiaries. As per the law, donations can be in cash or kind, or even in local currency or foreign exchange, bonds, cheques and shares. It also discusses guidelines for food and pharmaceutical donations.

Who is allowed to raise funds?

If you have been approached by an individual or organisation informing you of a charity drive, you may wonder whether they are legally authorised to be doing so. To understand what the law states about entities that are allowed to raise funds, it is important to differentiate between a ‘licenced entity’ and an ‘authorised entity’. As per the Ministry of Community Development (MOCD), a licenced entity is a charitable association at the federal or local level, or a non-governmental organisation (NGO) established by laws, decrees or decisions, which is licensed to collect, receive, distribute or direct donations. An authorised entity, on the other hand, is not permitted to organise or act with the aim of collecting donations without receiving approval from the concerned authorities. Collecting and distributing donations is not within the scope of authorised entities.

So, fundraising activities are carried out by licensed charities, and are restricted to organisations classified by law as charitable and humanitarian organisations. Government and non-governmental institutions can also take part in fundraising but they should have a law, decree or resolution allowing them to collect donations.

There are 27 organisations authorised to collect and receive donations, as per the website of MOCD. These are:

1. The Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation
2. Zayed Charitable & Humanitarian Foundation
3. Emirates Red Crescent
4. Authority of Social Contribution - Ma'an
5. UAE Water Aid
6. Noor Dubai
7. Dubai Cares
8. Al Jalila Foundation
9. Dar al Ber Society
10. Beit Al Khair Society
11. Dubai Charity Association
12. Tarahum Charity Foundation
13. Sharjah Charity International
14. Sharjah Charity House
15. Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Foundation
16. International Charity Organization
17. Al Ihsan Charity Association
18. Saud Bin Rashid Al Mualla Charitable and Humanitarian Est
19. Umm Al Quwain Charity Society
20. Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Foundation for Charitable and Humanitarian Affairs
21. Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Educational Charitable Foundation
22. Hamad Bin Muhammed Al Sharqi Foundation for Humanitarian Affairs
23. Fujairah Charity Association
24. Zakat Fund
25. Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation
26. Make a wish
27. The Big Heart Foundation

Are individuals allowed to raise funds?

According to the law, an individual is not allowed to host, organise or carry out any fundraising activity without a permit. MOCD’s official website – mocd.gov.ae - states: “Normal persons are given authorisation by the competent authority according to the provisions of the law. As such, they must obtain a permit from the designated authority in accordance with the regulations and conditions stipulated in the law and its executive bylaws.”

How do you raise funds?

According to the official UAE government portal – u.ae – these are the methods for raising funds:

Any non-profit association that wants to raise funds in the UAE must obtain a licence from MOCD or a competent authority in each emirate. Nevertheless, fundraising must be done through a licenced charity in the UAE.

To raise funds, you must follow these rules:

• Approval from the respective charity.
• State the objectives of the fundraising.
• List the names and present the ID’s of the persons in charge of the operation.
• Mention the beneficiaries.
• List the places where fundraising will be carried out.

Can you receive donations from outside the UAE?

Yes, you can receive donations and funds from outside the UAE, but legal procedures, outlined in the donations law must be followed.

According to MOCD, this is how you can collect foreign donations: “The organising process of collecting or receiving donations from outside the UAE is one of the priorities of the Federal Donations Regulatory Law since it maintains the reputation and UAE rank globally and prevents abusing of such donations in illegal activities or projects. The designated authority must be fully aware of the source and purpose of these donations.”

Are you allowed to change the purpose of donation or the beneficiary?

Legally, you cannot change it. The donation must be provided to the beneficiary defined in the permit. However, the decision to do so lies with the chairman of the licensed authority.

This is what MOCD’s official website states in this regard: “… The law allows the chairman of the designated authority to be granted permission to identify beneficiaries or other purposes for such donations, if they cannot be presented to beneficiaries or spent on the purposes specified in the permit.”

The penalty for donating funds for other purposes and not what they were collected for is imprisonment and a minimum fine of Dh150,000 and maximum of Dh300,000. The penalty or fine is doubled in the case of recurrence.

Penalties for violating the Donations Regulatory Law

As per MOCD’s official website, violating Federal Decree Law No. 3 of 2021 can lead to imprisonment and a minimum fine of Dh200,000 dirhams and maximum of Dh500,000 for the following cases:

Whoever collects or receives donations, grants or subsidies from any person or entity outside the UAE, unless in compliance with the regulations and procedures stipulated by the law. The penalty or fine is doubled in the case of recurrence.

An individual or entity that trades in donated funds or engaged in financial speculation, or the distribution of revenues among the members or employees of the associations, the penalty or fine is doubled in the case of recurrence.

Whoever commits any act while collecting, accepting or making donations that may harm public order, national security, public morals, any act that may encourage sectarian, ethnic, racial, religious, or cultural disputes, or any illegal purpose according to the enforced legal legislations in the UAE, whereas the penalty or fine is doubled in the case of recurrence.

In all cases, the court shall order the confiscation of all collected donations or donation amounts in violation of the provision of this law.