Question 1: What is your understanding of the governance structure and systems of SAANED?
SAANED the non-profit company is nested within the for profit holding company SAANED and registered in Jordan. The founders followed such legality of registration because of the difficulty of registering charitable activities in Jordan. To guarantee propriety, the finances for the non-profit and the for-profit will be kept separate and the for-profit will charge a 15 per cent overhead to cover support costs (secretarial, audit, office etc.).
For example to British eyes, where there is well established tradition of charitable law not present in the Arab region, this may seem a bit unusual. Unlike Charity Laws in UK which allows charity to do consultancy as long it serves its objectives, this is not the case in Jordan. Registering charity in Arab region is not straight forward. Most of the entities that one of the founders, Atallah Kuttab, was involved in founding in the last five years (like Arab Human Rights Fund (AHRF), Arab Foundations Forum (AFF) and Naseej) had to register in Europe and then register a branch in the Arab Region (AHRF took two years to register its branch in Lebanon and still incomplete at end of August 2011; AFF and Naseej are still struggling till August 2011 with registering their branches in Jordan). It was felt that it is important that SAANED should be incorporated in one of the Arab countries, if it was meant to support Arab Philanthropy, and Jordan was selected.
To be able to do that, SAANED as a holding company was established and owns a not- for- profit company which will undertake activities to improve the performance of the philanthropy sector, build benchmarks for performance and develop local discourse. SAANED will provide the not-for-profit all the needed administration and support at 15% charge to recoup its costs.
Question 2: How is transparency in relationship ensured between the profit and not for profit entities in the governance structure and their finances?
SAANED not-for-profit entity is independently incorporated and has its own finances. It is audited as required by Jordanian law. There is clear delineation of its finances and at no point any grant funds will be used outside the not-for-profit entity except for paying the 15% overheads fees for using spaces and admin support. Currently the advisory committee meets at least once a year virtually, or in person if budgets allows, to guide the activities of both the profit and the not-for-profit companies to ensure compliance with the objectives.
The advisory committee is chaired by one of the founders, namely Atallah Kuttab, and includes 5-6 international figures plus same number from the Arab region.
Experience in the sector of philanthropy and development together with gender and geographic representation is key in the selection of advisory committee members. By end of 2013, the founders will discuss with the advisory committee setting a governance board (around five people) that will actually oversee the activities of the not-for- profit SAANED and ensure independence from the SAANED holding company.
None of the advisory committee members nor founders of SAANED (Ebba Augustin and Atallah Kuttab) will benefit financially from the not-for-profit company. The advisory committee members might be engaged in the work of the main holding company SAANED.
Question 3: What role do you see SAANED playing that is distinct from the role of other philanthropy support organizations like the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF)?
The work of SAANED and AFF is complementary. The results of research and advisory assignments undertaken by SAANED in addition to its cumulative experience over time will play a catalytic role in the Arab Region to improve the performance of philanthropy sector, build benchmarks for performance, and develop local discourse. It is difficult for a group like the Arab Foundations Forum to do this because, just like similar networks for example European Foundation Center (EFC) or Council on Foundations (CoF), such organizations are formed of peers and tend to move at the pace of the slowest. SAANED will be nimble and swift in its approach filling gaps that no one else in the region is playing by creating an external force that will encourage good practice. Of course a Forum or Association of foundations can engage in peer exchange of information but often more is needed by young and upcoming foundations and that cannot be offered by a Forum or an Association. At such a moment an organisation like SAANED can come in. The ‘how’ of this is still being worked out, but the founders together with the advisory board members have extensive experience in the field to ensure a strong and focused start. So SAANED will not be short of advice and support.
Question 4: What is the basis for work on the benchmarks/standards. Do you have an existing methodology which you plan to adapt?
The needs for work proposed as related to benchmarks (one should avoid using standards as by definition every situation in our field has its own specificity) have been discussed with a group of foundations representing several geographic areas and they all agreed to the need for benchmarks as it will improve accountability, performance, allow foundations to push for improvement of regulatory and legal structures, and create positive competition in the sector. SAANED is not going to invent the wheel all over again. The advantage of being lagging behind other regions is that one could import from methodologies from various regions around the globe and adapt. We are looking at cooperation with centers supporting philanthropy in the US, Brazil, South Africa and several in Europe.
Question 5: What relationship does or will SAANED have with AFF and Gerhart Center at the American University in Cairo?
SAANED should at all times closely coordinate efforts with both AFF and Gerhart Center, and ensure relevance of what it is doing. AFF membership is one of the main client of SAANED and we share complementary objectives. At no point SAANED will compete with either AFF or Gerhart Center.
SAANED profit Institutional Overview- board formation and FAQs