Hisham Dafterdar, CPA, PhD
Chairman, Awkaf Australia Ltd
A brand is more than just a name, a trademark, a logo, a symbol, or any other visual identity that distinguishes a product or service from others. It is the value the brand stands for, the benefits it offers, and the overall impression we gain when dealing with a company or using its products and services. For awqaf organisations, the waqf brand has a broader and more strategic role in expressing the organization’s vision and mission, as well as its core objectives and guiding principles.
The awqaf label appears as the epitome of a culture which for more than 1400 years has established its own brand of moral and ethical constructs. Awqaf values cover a broad range of religious and behavioral practices based on honesty, integrity, fairness, commitment, compassion, trust and responsibility. These values send messages about what awqaf is and what it stands for. They are especially important in projecting the right image of awqaf and in managing external perceptions of the waqf organisation in its strategic communication, fundraising plans and social programs.
Awqaf need a steady flow of funds to enable constant delivery of social work. The most reliable way to ensure this is to have a range of projects in train, creating multiple streams of income that supplement charitable contributions. While companies are driven by the pursuit of profit and growth, awqaf takes a different approach to the process of allocating investment funds. Awqaf investments merge the social mission with the market approach of business. When investing, awqaf applies an ethical rigour built on social and economic factors that connect business to the challenges in peoples’ lives. Awqaf investments cannot be viewed simply as business deals, and some awqaf projects may not be cost effective or financially rewarding. But the exponential impact on society through the creation of jobs, the provision of products and services and making the community more vibrant should not be underestimated.
The brand identity of awqaf is development and compassion. Compassion in awqaf runs wide and deep. Awqaf’s projects are investments that at heart are philanthropic rather than commercial and clearly define their contribution to society. Before considering a project, we want to know what the needs are and what we can do to help. We also have to sustain profitability and ask questions about present value and return on investment. Awqaf’s vision is not myopic. Our investment choices are focused on adding long term value and making a lasting difference.
Branding in awqaf is now on the cusp of lift-off. Although many awqaf organisations take a narrow approach to brand management using the awqaf brand mainly as a fund raising tool, a growing number are developing a broader and more strategic application to create a greater social impact and tighter organisational cohesion. The awqaf brand helps in galvanising support for the waqf organisation, building its operational capacity, maintaining focus on its social mission, and consequently helping its transition from a cash-strapped organisation to an investment powerhouse.
Brands come and go, but when an awqaf brand is damaged, the consequences are dire and more damaging than those faced by private sector enterprises. Commercial companies may always find a way to spin around and do business. But it’s much harder for an awqaf organisation to regain lost credibility or to reverse bad publicity and negative sentiments. Awqaf organisations need to be always ethical about how they collect, invest, use and disburse funds.
Ethics and compassion have a lot to do with awqaf. So let’s protect and promote the awqaf brand with passion and tenacity like we treat our personal identity. Building the awqaf brand could be the best investment awqaf ever makes. If we are efficient, responsible, ethical, and compassionate, financial success is a natural outcome. For many awqaf organisations, this will not be easy but it’s worth the effort in the interest of building goodwill and spreading the awqaf culture. At the end of the day, awqaf is our most precious heritage and our most auspicious future.