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Corporate and High Net Worth Giving in the time of COVID-19: Spotlight on Indonesia

Insight number three: "Partnerships with Faith-based Organisations can amplify impact"

The charity fundraising landscape was already experiencing rumblings of change over the past few years – and now COVID-19 has brought things to a head. Fresh research by our team at Just Cause highlights the need for non-profits to think in new ways about fundraising and partnerships. We cannot sit and wait for things to go back to the way they were.

Over the past few months, we’ve been taking stock of what corporate and High Net Worth (HNW) donors in Singapore and Indonesia are thinking and doing. As the world hunkered down on lockdown, over 25 experts in this field generously took time to speak to us on the phone. We talked to charity leaders, policy-makers, CSR managers, private bankers, consultants and philanthropists across Singapore and Indonesia.

We asked all of our interviewees one basic question: what does COVID-19 mean for the future of private philanthropy and non-profit fundraising? Their responses were at times inspirational and at other times truly bleak. Some people said they simply could not predict. But woven through many of the conversations, we could see several silver linings shining through the clouds. This blog post by our advisor Robin Bush introduces the third of those insights…


Partnerships with Faith-based Organisations can amplify impact

Trust is lacking in the philanthropic sector in Indonesia – some of our respondents told us that it is rare for the government to partner with philanthropic organisations or NGOs in delivering its social welfare programmes, and corporate CSR outfits often provide services in-house rather than partnering with NGOs or religious organisations. This is due to lack of trust on all sides among corporate, government, and religious NGO circles. NGOs in general in Indonesia are often seen as lacking transparency, and taking anti-government stances, so some philanthropists are hesitant to partner with them. This lack of trust results in missed opportunities for impact.

Religious mass-based organisations (MBOs) have the trust of their communities, and often know who is most in need of assistance. The many religious MBOs in Indonesia have a presence both throughout the country and down to the village level, and can provide accurate data at a micro-level to both corporate and government programmes, which according to our respondents, was often missing in COVID-19-relief initiatives.

Indonesia is a highly religious country, and its religious mass-based organisations provide individuals and communities with many opportunities to donate their time through volunteering. Indonesia was ranked in the #1 spot for having a ‘giving culture’ by CAF World Giving Index 2018, largely due to having the highest proportion of people volunteering globally. The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) for example, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, has over 37,000 branch offices across all provinces and districts, and even most sub-districts in Indonesia. But more importantly, each of these ‘branches’ include associated women’s groups, student groups, youth groups, farmers groups, university groups, legal aid associations, para-military groups, activist groups, …you name it and if you are one of the 50 million NU members in Indonesia there is a place for you to get involved and volunteer your time doing a wide range of social welfare activities.

Religious organisations in Indonesia provide outlets not just for donating time, but also for donating money. Muhammadiyah (Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation) for example, has an active zakat organisation, called LazisMu, which helps coordinate the collection of zakat (2.5% of income that Muslims are required to give to the poor) from the 25 million members of Muhammadiyah, and channel it effectively so that it reaches the most needy. As of April 2020, Lazismu had collected IDR 2.8 billion (USD 192,000) in monetary donations for poor communities in need of Covid-related medical assistance, as well as provided up to USD 400,000 in in-kind donations of disinfectant, PPE, hand-sanitiser, and basic needs for poor communities.

Of course, Muhammadiyah is not the only Muslim organisation to channel its members zakat towards COVID-19 needs – the national zakat agency BAZNAZ reports that zakat giving is up 56% this year as compared to last year, and the agency was able to raise IDR 142 billion (USD 10,000) for COVID-19 response needs.

The culture of volunteerism and national networks of these Muslim mass-based organisations make them perfect vehicles for combining fund-raising and service/goods delivery. For example, pictured here is the women’s branch of NU, MuslimatNU, delivering basic food items to COVID-19-affected communities suffering due to loss of employment during this period.

Church groups are also actively raising funds and providing COVID-19-related donations. The Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Church Association (PGI) raised USD 1,600 for medical supplies and COVID-19-related needs in their community.

The real potential for transformational impact, however, comes in the instances where we see religious organisations partnering with the private sector and government. For example, the Buddhist foundation Tzu Chi has partnered with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (KADIN) and several large corporations to donate 80 tons of equipment – 100 ventilators, 76,000 hazmat suits, and 26,000 N95 masks for COVID-19 response. Tzu Chi will work with the Ministry of Health to distribute the equipment to hospitals and clinics in most needy areas. This kind of approach has been institutionalised as part of the Indonesian Multi-Sectoral Response Plan to COVID-19, released by UNOCHA last month -- over half of the twenty-odd agencies and organisations partnering on the planning and delivery of COVID-19 services were religious organisations.

As such it is heartening to see faith-based groups coming together with the public and private sector to provide assistance and services in the context of COVID-19. These partnerships tap into the respective strengths of each member – the faith-based groups have a vast network at the ground level, and can not only distribute supplies but can identify those most in need at a community level; the government of course provides policy, official authority channels, and resources; and the private sector provides donations and resources from their CSR and philanthropic bodies. It is a collaboration model that could have far reaching impact beyond just COVID-19 assistance, if it works well (as it appears to be doing) and as relationships and trust are built during this period.


Over the next few months we will continue to investigate the new normal post-COVID-19 here at Just Cause and will hopefully have more to share on this blog in the coming months. If you’ve come across a great example or have thoughts for us on this topic please do get in touch!


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