Pakistan is moving forward on its agenda to become a developed country. To help the country achieve that status and realise its full potential as a democratic nation, the citizens of Pakistan must exercise the power of purposeful philanthropy.
Pakistanis are already among the most generous people in the world. The country contributes more than one per cent of its GDP to charity according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This is just below the United Kingdom where 1.3 per cent of GDP is given to charity and Canada which donates 1.2 percent of GDP to giving. It is two times better than neighboring India.
Being a nation with strong emphasis on religion, Pakistanis donate generously to fulfill their Islamic obligation of giving in the form of Zakat, Sadaqa, and Fitrana. A study conducted by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy reveals that Pakistanis contribute around PKR 240 billion (more than $2 billion) annually to charity. About 98 percent of people in the country give in one form or another — if not with cash, then with in-kind donations or by volunteering for charitable causes.
So, the spirit and passion for philanthropy is present in abundance in the Pakistan society. This commitment can be leveraged to build a stronger and better Pakistan through what I call purposeful philanthropy.
Purposeful philanthropy is making investments directed at creating a difference in pivot point areas that matter to the future of a society. The returns on those investments are changes to problematic conditions and/or the creation of individuals who will become change agents to address those conditions.
There is a distinction between purposeful philanthropy and charity. The distinction is a critical one.
The focus in charity is to provide a handout. The focus in purposeful philanthropy is to provide a hand-up.
There certainly must be charitable support and assistance to address the needs of the socially and economically disadvantaged and natural disasters. Considering the monsoon rains and flooding of this year and last year in Pakistan, the importance of charitable giving to well-recognised groups such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Doctors without Borders and religious and local non-profits becomes evident.
Charity as the sole means of philanthropy, however, has limitations. It does not get at the root cause nor change the underlying reason for the need for the charity.
By contrast, purposeful philanthropy concentrates on improving circumstances and conditions. This hand-up approach can take a wide range of forms, ranging from eliminating contaminated water that poisons those who drink or bathe in it; to enhancing the safety of working conditions; to developing the requisite knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes and behaviors for a person to be successful in life.
The pivot point areas — important areas that can be addressed effectively and efficiently to effectuate change and achieve positive outcomes — for purposeful philanthropy are virtually endless. My personal priority philanthropic areas are education, arts, world peace and civic engagement.
I have chosen those areas because they are important to me and because I know that improvement in them can make a substantial difference. The short reasons and a brief description of the nature of my investments follows.
Education is bridge to the future and opportunity creator. It moves people up the ladder and to help others climb the ladder with them. It is a powerful equaliser for opening doors to lift themselves out of poverty.
In the educational arena, I have supported many scholarships at colleges in the United States. My most significant investment though has been in India where in February of last year my wife Debbie and I dedicated the Frank and Debbie Islam Management Complex at Aligarh Muslim University. At that dedication, I predicted: “From this management complex will come the future leaders who will make the world a better place.” I firmly believe that. I also firmly believe that the students are our best hope. This is my way of saying thank you and keeping the hope alive and well.
President John F. Kennedy said: “Art nourishes the roots of a culture.” It connects and inspires citizens and communities. It has a unifying and healing power.” I agree with President Kennedy’s perspective and that is why I decided to serve on the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and to invest in its programs to expose youth to the arts.
We are living in an increasingly dangerous world and times. World peace is essential for the future of this planet. There is much deadly conflict now and threats of it around the globe which must be controlled. Recognising this, I support the US Institute for Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center both of which bring scholars and practitioners to develop programs to try to find peaceful means for conflict resolution.
The free press is one of the defining qualities of a healthy democracy and a means for promoting civic engagement. Because of this, I support the Alfred Friendly Press Partners Scholarships to bring experienced reporters from India to the United States to work at a major newspaper and study at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
Those pivot point areas are named for illustration purposes only. There are countless others.
For example, in Pakistan water shortage is reaching a critical point. The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan have appealed for generous philanthropic contributions for the construction of the Diamer-Basha Dam. The construction of dam will save and improve millions of lives in Pakistan.
This could be an important area for investment. So, to could be any of the many areas or nonprofits that can be connected to through the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy.
Each citizen must choose an area or areas that matters to them for their purposeful philanthropy. The essential thing is to make that choice and to invest.
The size of that investment isn’t what counts. The act of investment is not just financially, but also in non-financial aspects such as giving time and talent and ideas or being a volunteer.
Purposeful philanthropy provides the platform for citizens to maximise their participation and contributions to enable Pakistan to achieve its full potential. It is a pivotal idea whose time has come.
The writer is an entrepreneur and civic leader and thought leader, based in the Washington, DC
Published in Daily Times, October 26th 2018.