Muslim Charities – How can we be better?

In this article, Gilly shares his experience of working in the charity sector & addresses the issues surrounding Muslim charities in hopes to make sure our work has the maximum impact.

I remember the first time I bought a £30 fundraising dinner ticket. I soon realised I actually paid £30 to go to a cattle-market-like auction. It was a terrible experience and unfortunately I’ve had to grit my teeth through a few more over the years. If you have been to one of those “fundraising dinners” you’ll know exactly what I mean (and know all the “spoken word poets”).

“Why do we encourage to give to charity like this?

People have cottoned on that there’s more to charity in Muslim communities than what “The Big Fish*” tell you. In the last 3/4 years this has led to, in my opinion, the rising numbers of smaller Muslim charities who are angling their efforts at a more grassroots level.

I’ve had experiences of working in and around the Muslim Charity sector for around 4–5 years (part-time/ad-hoc) so I’ve been able to see my fair share of what goes on front-facing VS behind closed doors, the ups & downs, pros & cons, etc.

I’ve always been asked “So what was/is it like?” and thought to share, in summary, my answer:

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  • Flexible— you wont find the millennials at the same desk 9am–5pm. We work wherever and whenever — in an agile method to ensure objectives get achieved and done so efficiently (most of the time). Very similar to a start-up. This is fantastic if you can only commit a few hours a week (or less)
  • ImpactYou can actually make a real difference and don’t really need to worry about the majority of your donations going to “administration costs”. You should be able to have a chat with Senior Management to know exactly where money is being distributed.
  • Passionthere’s more of this in the smaller Muslim charities. A significant proportion of the smaller Muslim charities are led by young people; innovation, creativity and determination are just some of the core qualities to expect.
  • Less politicsin any organisation you are bound to come across individuals who throw power trips or feel the need to unnecessarily assert their authority, but not so much in the smaller Muslim charities. I believe a reason to this is the absence of out-of-touch uncles running dictatorship-like management.

  • Muslim before charity— if you volunteer, work or are a part of a Muslim charity, then you must understand your approach and methods will be different. It is not a University society or a social club. We hold our values extremely close to our heart; our speech, actions and manners should reflect the teachings from the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Don’t get ahead of yourself thinking you have the green light to behave a certain way or you are entitled to special treatment because you work for a Muslim charity. Muslim comes before charity.
  • Managementif you use LinkedIn, you’ll see a lot of self-proclaimed Founders/CEOs/Directors of Al-Something Foundation. Titles come with responsibilities, with the vast majority of those responsibilities being unfulfilled by these individuals. It’s fair to say a lot of these individuals in “management” are young so therefore don’t have the experience. However, that’s not to say someone can’t take a part-time Management course, or read on the methods/practices of Prophet (pbuh) & the Sahabah for Leadership etiquette.
  • Processes— for me, this has always been a big one. Grievance processes, HR processes, service processes, volunteer processes, etc. should be defined, documented and regularly kept up to date. I had the pleasure of being the first person to raise a grievance at a small Muslim charity and the way it was handled (or the lack of) was one of the reasons why I left. Management should protect and support the growth of their staff/volunteers. Always ask to see an Employee Handbook or Guide if you are looking at joining a small Muslim charity.
  • Recognitionremember how I said there’s “less politics”? Well, this is the grey area. This doesn’t apply to all but indeed, a good proportion. A growing number of people in the Muslim Charity field welcome the pedestal that people will put them on. Social media has clearly proven this in many ways. That being said, egos run high and you will find people do want to make a name for themselves. Determination, passion and zeal are all fantastic qualities to have, but management should ensure that staff/volunteers fit the build of “we” as opposed to “i” through the recruitment and vetting stage. Take a step back, remember what you are here to do and why.

To conclude, I thought it would be good to put a list together of some of the small Muslim charities/social enterprises that are doing fantastic work, so be sure to check them out below!

Gilly is a consultant specialising in designing, building and delivering bespoke streamlined solutions to complex businesses and marketing processes, across a spectrum of industry verticals.

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