Everything you need to know about UAE's charity laws — and the dangers of donating to rogue sites

There are strict laws governing fund-raising and volunteering in the country

Members of the public must follow strict laws to carry out voluntary work and support charities in the UAE. Pawan Singh/The National
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Supporting good causes and volunteering your time to help others is a passion for many. But even those with the best of intentions could land themselves in jail if they fall foul of the UAE's laws.

Anyone who donates to unregistered charities and fund-raising groups online puts themselves at risk of committing a cyber crime, which can be punished with a three-year jail term or a fine of up to Dh500,000.

A number of cases have been referred to the Anti-Cyber Crimes Public Prosecution for investigation, said UAE Attorney General, Dr Hamad Al Shamsi.

In April, new legislation was brought into force in Dubai to oversee voluntary work and community groups.

The law: It is illegal to call for, promote and collect donations online without first obtaining the proper permission and licensing from the correct authorities, as per Article 27 of the Federal Law No. 5 of 2012 on Combating Cybercrimes.

The consequences: Anyone found breaking the law faces a prison terms of up to three years or a fine of between Dh250,000 and Dh500,000.

How to raise funds: Funds can be raised only after obtaining approval from the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments at the national level or the Islamic Affairs 7 Charitable Activities Department in Dubai.

Working with registered charities: Once approval is obtained, the charity initiative must be organised in conjunction with licensed charity associations, such as Emirates Red Crescent.

Setting up a charity: UAE nationals wishing to set up a charitable organisation in the UAE can apply online to the Ministry of Community Development. Expatriate residents need to submit their application to the ministry through their respective embassy or consulate in the UAE.

Community challenge:  Community groups and other organisations need permission to carry out any kind of voluntary work and must carry ID cards.

Show your work: Under the law, public and private bodies engaged in volunteering activities should set out the nature of their work to the Community Development Authority. They should also specify the category and nature of the volunteering activity and train the volunteers if required.

Keep records: Groups must maintain a record with the volunteers' names, personal information, the nature of work and the hours they have done, register such information with the CDA, provide all necessary tools and equipment and insurance coverage against injuries.

Age aware: volunteers under 18 years must obtain approval from their legal guardian.

Here is a full list of the registered charities operating in the UAE:

Government entities responsible for social, charitable and humanitarian work within and outside the UAE:

Charitable organisations in the UAE:

Humanitarian organisations for women: