A Dubai resident was arrested for fundraising illegally this month, as many of you have heard. But this doesn't mean you should say goodbye to your days of charitable work. You just need to learn how to do it legally.

It's about time that someone with fundraising experience in Dubai wrote on how it should be done. I’ve been fundraising here for about four years, and applying for approvals every couple of months with different charities. While there are legal papers on the issue, most notably from DLA Piper, I’ve been through the process and know its ups and downs, which can be different from the statute books.

So, here goes.

1. Fundraising is regulated

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Firstly, let’s start with the obvious. Fundraising is regulated in Dubai, and to fundraise you must do two things. Find a charity that is allowed to collect donations. Then you must submit a request to the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities (IACAD). Once this is approved, you can fundraise.

If you don’t abide by the above, you can face a year in prison or a fine of up to 500,000AED. And when I mean you, I mean YOU! Even when fundraising is undertaken by a company, an individual must bear responsibility for the application.

2. You have to donate to a Dubai-based charity that is permitted to fundraise

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The number of charities who are licensed to fundraise is short. There was a point where there were no more than seven. These are the Dubai Charity Association, Dar Al Ber Society, Dubai Autism Centre, Beit Al Kheir, the UAE Red Crescent Authority, Awqaf & Minors Affairs Foundation, and The Relief Committee.

Other charities have been added to the list since then, including the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, the Al Jalila Foundation, and Friends of Cancer Patients.

For a comprehensive list, do contact the Dubai Chamber of Commerce’s Syed Atif on [email protected] The Dubai Chamber is particularly active in terms of promoting engagement with charities in the country, and they’ll be able to give you on who and which charity aligns with your cause.

Once you’ve found your charity, you’ll have to talk to them about what you’re doing and why, in order to get their buy-in and support. This may take time.

Any application through the charities above to IACAD will take up to one month. You cannot fundraise until you have permission from IACAD, who will also follow up after the fundraising, to ensure that the charity has received the money.

There’s another option, which is to support a charity based in Dubai’s International Humanitarian City (IHC). These include Save the Children, SOS Children’s VIllages and UNICEF. In this case, IHC will act as the charity and then route all funds to the intended recipient. This process will take longer than the month mentioned above, so you’ll need to plan ahead.

3. Online fundraising is not exempt from the legislation (and penalties)

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Many people I know in Dubai used to fundraise through online sites such as Just Giving  for charity drives. This isn’t strictly legal, as has been shown by a recent criminal case. If you want to fundraise online, then either do it through a registered charity as per the above, or don’t do it in Dubai (ie do it when you’re out of the country and not breaking the law).

To make it as easy as possible, I’m attaching an IACAD form which you can fill in either in Arabic or English. You can find the form online, and it includes contact details at IACAD.

I’ll end on an important note

This only covers fundraising in Dubai. If you want to fundraise in any other Emirate, there are separate procedures you have to follow, or you’ll have to partner with the Emirates Red Crescent, or the Al Jalila Foundation. These are the only two organizations which have the pre-approval to fundraise across the United Arab Emirates.

If you need more advice on fundraising, please do drop me a comment and I’ll help further. While the above isn’t easy, I don’t want people to think that they should stop fundraising. The procedure does take time, but it doable, so keep on fundraising and supporting good causes.

This is a StepFeed Community post, written by a guest contributor. Alex Malouf originally posted this article on his blog, Alex of Arabia . If you’re interested in contributing to the StepFeed Community, please contact [email protected]