The overall value of million-dollar giving in the Middle East (GCC) increased dramatically in 2015 thanks to one ‘mega gift’ of $32bn, but overall the number and value of donations was lower than the previous year.

The UAE continued to produce the highest number of million-dollar donations in 2015, accounting for 14 of the 20 gifts identified. The pledge of $32bn from HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, however, meant the highest value of donations came from Saudi Arabia.

While some prominent ‘mega gifts’ of $100m+ grabbed the headlines, million-dollar giving in the region decreased overall in terms of both the number and value of donations, which may be as a result of falling oil prices. Of course, given that many major donations remain anonymous, the data captured in this report is likely to underestimate the true scale of giving in the region. 

[1] The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries include the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar

Number and total

A total of 20 donations worth one million dollars or more were identified in GCC countries in 2015, with a combined value of nearly $34bn.



Total value of donations worth $1m+


Total number of $1m+ donations

The number of donations dropped significantly from 2014, when 34 donations were recorded. However, the total value increased significantly thanks to one pledge of $32bn.

Average size of million dollar donations

The median donation was significantly higher than in 2014 but the median and mode decreased.

Thanks to the $32bn pledge in Saudi Arabia, the mean donation in 2015 rose dramatically to $1.7bn. However, the median (the middle value when all are placed in ascending order) is often a better guide to the general size of gifts and was significantly lower than the previous year, at $2.7m. The mode returned to $1m after having risen to $2m in 2014.  



in 2015


in 2014


in 2013



in 2015


in 2014


in 2013




in 2015


in 2014


in 2013

Value of million dollar donations

Most grants were below $2m but three ‘mega gifts’ made up 99% of the total value.

Donations of less than $2m made up 40% of the total number of gifts – a much greater proportion than in 2014 – but collectively represented less than 1% of the overall value. Conversely, three ‘mega gifts’ of $100m+ accounted for 99% of the total value.

20% of donations were in the $2m-$9.9m range, with a further 25% valued between $10m and $99m.

The largest gift identified was a pledge by the HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, worth $32bn, to ‘foster cultural understanding, empower women, and provide disaster relief’. The funds will be disbursed to these causes over time via Alwaleed Philanthropies, the Prince’s foundation.

The second-largest gift was a donation of $1,143,432,864 from Emirati philanthropist Abdulla Ahmed Al Ghurair, the founder and Chairman of Masreq Bank, to invest in improving the quality of education and helping promising Arab and Emirati youth from underprivileged backgrounds to pursue higher education. 

Find out more about the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education in the case-study interview with Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, the foundation’s Chairman


Source of million dollar donations

Individuals accounted for 98% of the total value of million-dollar gifts.  

Individual donors made eight donations of one million dollars or more, which collectively accounted for 98% of the overall value. As in 2014, corporations made the highest number of gifts (10). The total amount donated by corporations increased from $605m in 2014 to $618.5m in 2015, but the large donations from individuals mean that corporate giving accounted for a much smaller proportion of the overall value than in 2014. Only two of the million-dollar donations identified in 2015 were from foundations, with a combined value of $15.6m – a significant decrease from the $127m donated by foundations in 2014.  




0.046% of total value in 2015




98% of total value in 2015




1.823% of total value in 2015

Location of million dollar donations

Million-dollar donations were identified from four of the six countries in the GCC.

Continuing the trend from 2014, the highest number of gifts (14) came from the UAE, accounting for 70% of the total number of donations but less than 4% of the overall value. Saudi Arabia gave the second highest number of gifts (3), accounting for 15% of the total number of gifts and 96% of the overall value, due to the pledge made by HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal. The remaining gifts came from Qatar (2) and Kuwait (1).



96% Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

3.88% United Arab Emirates

0.0442% Kuwait

0.0065% Qatar




Recipients of million dollar donations

As in the previous year, the majority of recipients received a single donation of a million dollars or above.

A number of the donations pledged during 2015 were to support organisations in Yemen, with the Yemen: We Care campaign (organised by the Emirates Red Crescent) receiving five gifts. In addition, both the Dar Al Bir Society and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees received two gifts each.

Distribution of million dollar donations

The foundation sector benefited from one large gift but the majority of donations continue to go overseas.

The largest portion by value (94%) of all donations worth $1m or more in 2015 was donated to foundations, due solely to the pledge of $32bn to Alwaleed Philanthropies for ‘fostering cultural understanding, empowerment of women, disaster relief, and development projects’. While this gift was the only one to be directed to a foundation, its size means that the foundation sector rose to the top in terms of the total amount given in 2015.

As in previous years, however, the vast majority of donations (80% of the total number of gifts) went to organisations overseas. Closer analysis of these donations shows that they were directed to a range of causes: human services (7 donations), government (6 donations), health (2 donations) and education (1 donation).





20 donations of $1m+




1 donation of $1m+


Overseas [1]


16 donations of $1m+


Human Services


3 donations of $1m+

[1] ‘Overseas’ refers to organisations headquartered outside the GCC countriesr