There is an old saying that charity begins in the heart. While this may be true, when it comes to fundraising in Dubai you must follow your heart and fundraising laws. The penalty for contravening the fundraising laws could be a jail sentence and/or a fine of up to a Dh500,000.
Whether you are raising money on Facebook or have started a GoFundMe campaign to cover unexpected medical expenses, you are indeed unwittingly breaking the law. So here's what you need to know to legally fundraise in Dubai.
Decree No 9
The 2016 Decree No 9 prohibits the collecting of charitable funds or promotion of fundraising operations through all forms (digital, print, and video media) in Dubai without receiving prior written approval from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD). To obtain this approval, the individual must disclose how they intend to use/spend their donations.
Although a fairly new legal mandate, authorities have been prompt to take action against offenders as soon as their illegal fundraising activities are reported to officials. While all fundraising efforts, including emergency fund-raising, require approval from IACAD, their is a distinction between volunteering and fundraising initiatives. Pro bono services and other volunteer acts do not fall under the umbrella of decree No. 9.
So how does this impact online fundraising?
Under the new mandate, online fundraising operations are held to the same laws and regulations as all other physical organization. Organizing and operating a website and using any other IT medians to promote the acquisition of charitable donations without a permit is punishable by law.
How to obtain fundraising licensure in Dubai
Two governmental agencies in Dubai oversee social responsibility initiatives (i.e. legal fundraising and charitable donations). In addition to IACAD, the Community Development Authority regulates and provides licenses to non-profit social clubs and organizations that coordinate social, cultural, entertainment, and artistic activities. While only a limited number of charities have been approved and licensed by IACAD, Dubai authorities maintain the law was established to ensure charitable donations reach the organization/individuals for whom the funds were raised.
Please keep in mind that Decree No 9 is applicable in Dubai only. Abu Dhabi and the other emirates have their separate fundraising guidelines. If an organization or individual wants to raise funds or support a charity or initiative outside of Dubai, they need to follow that specific emirate's fundraising guidelines and work with charities registered in those respective areas.
When in doubt play it safe! If you are unsure about the fundraising laws or licensing, ask the charity you're working with or seek legal counsel. We are always happy to assist you with any of your questions or concerns about legal fundraising in Dubai and throughout the UAE.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.