Indonesia ranked as the most generous country in the world

By Natasha Mayestha, Senior Manager - International Partnership & Special Initiative, Filantropi Indonesia and Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde, Policy and Public Affairs Manager, CAF

CAF’s 2021 World Giving Index (WGI) shows that Indonesia is the most generous country in the world. Indonesia is ranked first with a score of 69, up from 59 the last time a yearly index was published in 2018, when it also ranked first. More than eight in 10 Indonesians donated money this year and the country’s rate of volunteering is more than three times the global average.

Hamid Abidin (Director of Filantropi Indonesia – an organisation that helps to advance philanthropy, social justice and sustainable development in Indonesia) notes that the pandemic and its economic impact did not seem to have prevented Indonesians from giving, but has led to more solidarity and people supporting each other: “The only thing that has changed is the form of donation and the amount. Affected communities continue to donate money even though the amount is smaller, or donate in other forms, such as goods and time.”

There are a set of drivers that are contributing to this wider development:

  • Religion as a driver for giving: Zakat (alongside infaq and alms) is a traditional form of Islamic charity practiced widely in Indonesia, the proceeds of which are redistributed to the needy. Reports suggest that Zakat payments globally were particularly high in 2020 as a response to the pandemic. In Indonesia, there were calls from Indonesian religious authorities for people to use such payments to help people in their communities who were experiencing hardships as a result of the economic slump caused by the pandemic. According to Outlook Zakat Indonesia 2020, current zakat donations are estimated to be at Rp 8 trillion but could potentially reach up to Rp 233 trillion (US$16.6 billion), in particular when collections are further digitised.

  • Local traditions and mutual aid: The country’s rate of volunteering is more than three times the global average. This showcases Indonesians’ continued engagement with gotong-royong, a practice of mutual aid across islands, ethnicity and religions, particularly during times of emergency.

  • Wider government response: According to the World Bank the impact of the crisis is still lingering and the pace of recovery is uneven across sectors, but it also states that ‘the government’s strong fiscal response to save lives and livelihoods and stimulate the recovery (4.3% of GDP) has been decisive’. This could have buffered some of the economic impacts on people’s lives and incomes, as well as their capacity to give.

  • Digital transformation: Different actors in the philanthropy sector in Indonesia seem to have been successful in bringing into the mainstream the use of digital platforms for various philanthropic activities, including engagement with mass giving. Like in many other countries, fundraising during the pandemic was constrained due to social distancing and other measures. But these restrictions were overcome through the use of giving platforms and online fundraising. Online donations increased by 72% during the pandemic. And even before the pandemic, there was a noticeable increase in the number of online donations to organisations and good causes using digital platforms – a trend that increased during the crisis. Mass engagement with online giving was also facilitated through a variety of grassroots crowdfunding campaigns which were set up to raise millions for community support and Covid-19 relief efforts during the crisis.

  • Youth involvement, role models and the use of social media: Indonesia has seen an increase of prominent people, opinion leaders and influencers publicly championing philanthropy and giving. For example, one prominent influencer on Instagram was able to mobilise almost USD 500,000 from her followers in a week for Covid-19 relief efforts in late 2020. Using traditional and new communication platforms, including social media, they reached broader audiences and in particular young people who started to engage with the topic. A recent survey among donors also found that younger people (24-39 years old) are the most frequent donors compared to other age groups with 1.5 donations on average per month.

There are many positive developments to be proud of in Indonesia. But sector voices also advocate for further improvements that could help to advance Indonesia’s philanthropy sector and increase engagement with giving, as well as the impact it can have on societal progress. 

For example, Indonesia has a high prevalence of informal and peer-to-peer giving. Indonesians prefer to donate directly to individual beneficiaries rather than to charitable organisations that try to achieve more long-term change across society. Giving is also more skewed towards religious causes and welfare provision which remain popular causes compared to other areas such as education, health, economic empowerment or the environment. 

A concerted effort by the government and other stakeholders to collect more data could help to track giving trends and the impact that philanthropy has. In addition, simply collecting this type of information may well raise awareness of the topic of philanthropy as a whole. Some have called for more government support for volunteers (such as providing equipment or allowing earlier vaccination for volunteers who do important work with communities where significant in-person contact is needed). Regulation and tax incentives could also be improved so that they are more consistently applied. In particular, tax incentives for charitable giving could be increased so that more individuals and businesses are willing to make use of them, further incentivising giving.

Indonesia has seen much progress and large achievements when it comes to building an enabling environment for giving as a whole, evidenced by the levels of giving the country has seen during the pandemic. And philanthropy has also been widely recognised as one of the building blocks for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Indonesia. But there is also further giving potential that could be unlocked. This might require additional government support; further improvements in regulation and tax incentives; investment in philanthropy infrastructure; as well as further mobilisation of the philanthropic sector as a whole. The pandemic has shown that the generosity of the Indonesian people is vast and will probably remain an important driver for the country’s development in future years to come. 

About the World Giving Index

The CAF World Giving Index is based upon data from Gallup’s World View World Poll, an ongoing research project that was carried out in 114 countries in 2020. Together those countries represent more than 90% of the world’s population. The survey asks questions on many different aspects of life today including giving behaviour. 

The World Giving Index provides insight into the scope and nature of giving around the world and looks at three aspects of giving behaviour. The questions that lie at the heart of the report are: Have you done any of the following in the past month? Helped a stranger, or someone you didn’t know who needed help? Donated money to a charity? Volunteered your time to an organisation?


               Natasha Mayestha                     and                             Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde

Natasha has a demonstrated history of working in the Indonesian nonprofit and philanthropy sector for both local and international organisations. Natasha's work at Filantropi Indonesia mainly focused on building effective communications, leveraging partnerships and bridging stakeholders between philanthropy actors to create greater impact. She has a Master's Degree focused in Public Administration from Portland State University and a Bachelor's Degree in Communications from the University of Indonesia.

Daniel's focus includes challenging the closing space for civil society, enabling positive environments for charities and the Sustainable Development Goals. Previously Daniel worked at the Directory of Social Change and RAND Europe. Daniel has experience in international development in Cambodia and working with the Mercator Foundation. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the Hertie School of Governance and a BA/BSc in Public Administration from the University of Twente and Münster.  

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