In a world where times of crisis are set to become more frequent and more serious, Qatar Charity has become a major player in the NGO world by providing relief assistance and contributing to stability and development in more than 70 countries. We discuss with CEO Yusuf Bin Ahmed Al Kuwari how he expanded Qatar Charity’s global reach by creating a new concept of NGO and his current focus on sustainable development.
Qatar has been placing itself in the international arena through the promotion of humanitarian causes and you, being the largest NGO in Qatar, are playing a key role in this regard. Now, coordination in tackling with current global challenges is critical. What is the role that Qatar and Qatar Charity, as the main NGO in the country, are playing in this regard?
We design most of our projects in line with the Qatar’s National Vision 2030. When there is a crisis, such as the one taking place in Syria, we make sure to be the first NGO to respond. In the particular case of the Aleppo assaults, our aid workers on the ground were delivering emergency assistance on the very same day the attacks took place. This exceptional intervention has been documented by video and pictures; we are honored to have been able to extend a helping hand.
We have a wide range of partnerships with various UN agencies and specialized bodies such as World Food Program (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), as well as several other International NGOs like the (International Medical Corps), Save the Children and others.
The UN OCHA’s Financial Tracking System (FTS) shows that Qatar Charity has been ranked number one among NGO’s in terms of level of support for the victims of the Syrian conflict as well as in Yemen, Somalia and Palestine.
Finally, Qatar Charity has recently signed an agreement with Al Jazeera Mubasher Channel to promote and to raise awareness, internationally, about key global humanitarian and development challenges.
You are present throughout a diverse range of activities, including food security. Only in Niger, 800,000 people already benefited from the agriculture projects that you have implemented, granting the people a way to make their own living. In which other sectors are you also working towards achieving these goals of social inclusion, solidarity and of providing a future for the people in these nations?
Qatar Charity was established nearly three decades ago as a committee to care for orphans, purely dedicated to them, originally named as “Qatar Charitable Society” and renamed to Qatar Charity in 1993.Today, in the area of social welfare and other areas of work, our concept has changed from providing food or relief assistance to focus on sustainable development. For instance, our approach to orphan sponsorship has overtime become holistic and empowering, as such; we have sponsored 213,750 young orphans into adulthood, with nearly 100,000 orphans being sponsored in that manner today. To elaborate, Rofaqa Village is yet another creative initiative by QC, which was launched in December 2013 for the welfare of orphans around the world regardless of their nationality, faith, race or gender. The initiative covers education, healthcare and food for orphans. Financially, the initiative has its own platforms for donations and is the first of its kind to establish sponsorship through SMS.
In addition, education is one of the areas of expertise that QC has developed over the years. In collaboration with (local and international) partners, QC capitalizes on this area of expertise to increase the impact of its educational projects locally and internationally; it is worth mentioning that Qatar Charity has built 621 schools worldwide.
Finally yet importantly, Qatar Charity is proud to have been able to contribute to stability and development of Darfur Region in Sudan, following the signing of the peace agreement between the Sudanese Government and armed groups in Darfur, mediated by the State of Qatar. QC has implemented several projects in the region in the areas of education, water and sanitation, social reconciliation, etc.
How do you enhance efficiency and transparency in your organization?
We have an efficient IT software system that tracks and displays all donations received in real time.
We maintain our own advanced Contact Center, which is equipped with top-notch technologies ensuring that all calls/complaints are attended to professionally and automatically. We are in the nonprofit sector, but we give customer service no less importance than it is given in the business sector since they count as a key stakeholder in the work we do.
We have managed to change the idea of charity in the region by having benefitted from and utilized efficient and effective practices from the business sector. For instance, our Contact Center operates 24 hours a day and 7 days a week and we ensure that every call is attended to.
In addition, our donations’ tracking system notifies the CEO whenever a major donation is made (i.e., QAR 100,000 and above) which includes the donor’s contact details. This allows the CEO to immediately contact the donor to personally thank her or him to help enhance donor loyalty to the organization.
Due to the difficulty of finding the perfect out-sourced solution, our system is an in-house designed technology, produced by our own IT department, which is a major investment that QC has made.
The system has a complete dashboard, reflecting all different projects that we currently have. The importance of highlighting this is crucial, as per every single delay that occur, it gives us the instant possibility to react accordingly, and contact the International Director immediately.
Additionally, we have a built-in control system that ensures every check is being printed locally, once a project has been approved. We also conduct a due diligence exercise when working with local partners to ensure we are working with the right partner/s.
Can you export this system that you have created?
If people want to buy it why not? (Laughs).
Qatar Charity has been increasingly building its presence globally, not only operationally but also in terms of policy and advocacy matters. As such, we have secured consultative positions with major International NGOs and intergovernmental organizations in addition to International NGO networks. Most recently, QC has become a member of START network, which is a global coalition of NGOs for which QC has successfully completed the network’s due diligence process. This has included a thorough examination of our internal systems, part of which attracted praise from the evaluators.
In what sense have all these developments help to create a new concept in the world of NGOs?
Qatar Charity has created something new, by requesting a report from every NGO field office, and ensure proactive feedback as well as a visual overview for every donor. Just to state an example, if a school is being built in Niger, we will make sure to present the donor the benefits of his donation, by providing her/him real pictures and videos of the project progress to build a strong bond between the donor and the beneficiary.
For this purpose, we have created our own application for each office, which requires them to produce a 30-second video reporting (just like Instagram) that demonstrates the project from different angles and areas of the field. Donors will also receive pdf reports as well as videos and pictures of the projects they have donated to. On the other hand, every video that is being taken is reviewed by our committee, to ensure that follows our policies; once approved it will be emailed to the donor accordingly, stating: “Here is your project” Imagine when the donor sees the beneficiaries happy and thanking him for his support!
For example, this year we dug many wells in villages where the people had no access to water. Now they do, and you can see all these children and women, whose lives have been changed, cheerful. The donor who receives this video will either make another donation or, at least, send the success story to their friends and family to show what they were part of. And take into account that we are talking about 27 field offices.
You have been working in this field for over 20 years, but your education background is IT—something absolutely different. You ended up doing this, dedicating so many years and all your efforts in devising this innovative approach, which has also led to the internationalization of this institution. What were the main drivers for you to get involved so deeply in this initiative?
Qatari people are kind and generous. I dedicate day and night working at Qatar Charity because of Qatar’s good hearts. I would only be able to sleep well when I see results such as sponsoring 99,000 orphans, or building 600 schools for people in need. Results bring satisfaction, and this is the reason that makes me serve this organization with the best of my abilities and resources
We don’t understand the meaning of discrimination among beneficiaries. Regardless of the race, nationality, religion or age, Qatar Charity delivers assistance to whoever is in need. We count on our dedicated relief professionals who have proven to respond to emergencies immediately, such as the case of natural disasters in the Philippines and Haiti, where QC relief teams were among the very first responders to those disasters.
Moreover, we have recently launched our offices in Turkey, a regional institution that will mostly be focused on the Syrian crisis, and its surrounding countries.
How is the organization supported?
Unlike other NGOs, Qatar Charity Receives nearly 85% of its donations from local individual donors, and 15% divided among other institutions, which reflects the strong trust from our donors. The amounts being donated are not considered large amounts, 80% range from QAR 10,000 (2,700 USD) or less, but we have a huge database of over 200,000 donors that continuously support us, and that makes us extremely proud of what we do.
We have two main sectors, the international and internal or local development (which includes the labor sector). We are working with many Qatari and non-Qatari volunteers who are willing to contribute to Qatar Charity’s work and philosophy.
All of our five Executive Directors have the Qatar National Vision 2030 as a strong reference. Project decisions and designs are in line with this vision and that is what makes us strongly successful. We work towards the local plan, strongly collaborating with the local government needs, making sure to cover the country’s needs and specifying projects according to their requests.
How involved are you in International cooperation and international humanitarian system in general?
Since its establishment in 1983, Qatar Charity has been keen to set a strong partnership with all humanitarian and developmental actors, including the UN agencies and has successfully translated this vision into solid partnerships to increase the impact of its work in favor of its beneficiaries.
Operationally, Qatar Charity is currently working in more than 70 countries, and has field offices in 27 countries, QC is working to contribute to the development and humanitarian action within the national priorities and strategic directions for the countries in which it operates.
In the performance of its activities in cooperation with different humanitarian and development partners, we are committed to the most important principles of partnership such as equality, transparency, responsibility and integration. In humanitarian actions, QC is also committed to the fundamental humanitarian principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality.
QC is a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (1997), a member of the Founding Conference of the Arab Network for NGOs established in Cairo (1999), has a Consultative status as observer in the International Organization Migration (2006), is signatory to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief since 2009, has a consultative status in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and since 2015, QC is also a member of START Network.
Do you think the world knows about this humanitarian face of Qatar?
We are considered quiet workers; we are not in the media with what we do and do not like too much exposure. Furthermore, anonymity of our donors is extremely important to us, as it is requirement for the majority of our major donors. Just to state an example, we have spent USD 450 Million the last four years in benefit of the Syrian people, they know about our contribution, but the majority of the population is not aware of it.
It is important that the international audience is aware of Qatar Charity’s work and how Qatar’s humanitarian and development assistance is making a significant difference for those in need, internationally.