There has been a rapid rise in the number of philanthropic institutions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the past 15 years. In 2014, U.A.E. institutions contributed approximately 40% of all philanthropic donations in the Gulf region (Coutts, 2015a).1 Currently, the UAE is home to 43 formal donor entities, and approximately half of these are state- run organizations (Sabry, 2014). Most of these state organizations have been established by members of various ruling families, and their activities are typically modeled on private family foundations from the United States (US), such as the Gates Foundation. Despite the growing philanthropic sector, there has been no aggregation of information related to state-funded foundations’ various missions, and, in general, information on philanthropic activity in the country is scarce.
This paper, which lays the groundwork for future research on philanthropy, examines the growth of 11 state- funded philanthropic foundations in the UAE, nine of which opened in 2003 or later. These state-funded foundations are defined as those that receive the majority of their funding from various government figures or related entities. Data was obtained through interviews with mid- and executive-level staff at the foundations, as well as from publically available reports and websites. The data was then analyzed to explore the growth of foundations in the UAE, the ways in which they engage with stakeholders, their primary areas of focus, and challenges for their future developments. The paper concludes by offering suggestions for future policies and research that could lead to more cohesive, sustainable, and wider- reaching philanthropic endeavors in the country.