When it comes to charitable giving, Pakistan is a generous country. It contributes more than one percent of its GDP to charity, which pushes it into the ranks of far wealthier countries like the United Kingdom (1.3 percent GDP to charity) and Canada (1.2 percent of GDP), and around twice what India gives relative to GDP.

A study conducted by Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy shows that Pakistanis give around PKR 240 billion (more than $2 billion) annually to charity.

Fueling this culture of generosity is the Islamic emphasis on giving—in the form of Zakat, Sadaqa, and Fitrana—as well as other moral and social factors and a deeply rooted sense of compassion toward community members.

But despite this tradition of giving, most donations go directly to individuals, thus bypassing charitable organizations.

For Pakistan to become a more integral player in the sustainable development agenda, we need to make efforts to institutionalize the individual tendency of giving and redirect it toward more-structured efforts. Thus, understanding the dynamics behind this preference of individual vs. organization is essential to building a truly civil and sustainable future.

According to our research, there are four major reasons Pakistanis prefer giving to individuals over socially minded organizations:

  1. Compassion spurs in-the-moment giving.
  2. Religious institutions are set up to collect small donations.
  3. Lack of trust in charitable organizations.
  4. Wealth plays a role in giving to organizations.

Read more about philanthropy in Pakistan by Shazia M. Amjad and Muhammad Ali at Stanford Social Innovation Review.