Frequently Asked Questions

About the Aga Khan Foundation
  • What is the Aga Khan Foundation? For more than 45 years the Aga Khan Foundation has been partnering with communities, governments, business and local organizations to build better futures together. As part of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s leading poverty solutions networks, the Aga Khan Foundation breaks the cycle of poverty by making long term investments in people, communities and livelihoods, building high quality institutions like hospitals, universities, and banks and cultivating an active civil society.
  • How are you different from all of the other poverty alleviation organizations in the world? The Foundation is a member of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s leading poverty solutions networks with an approach that touches a wide range of investments critical to development from early childhood education to economic empowerment, from health programs to green space preservation.
  • What is the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan or the Foundation at large? Believing in a shared humanity and that we all have a purpose, the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan is an improved quality of life for all. Peace and prosperity happen when we harness the best from people of all walks of life.
About the Aga Khan Development Network
  • How is the Foundation connected to the Aga Khan Development Network? Aga Khan Foundation is a member of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the world’s leading poverty solutions networks, and we work together to help communities around the world to build better futures. Poverty is a complex problem, yet we make progress when we integrate the efforts of organizations from all sectors and across borders. AKDN has been working in communities across Africa and Asia for decades—and will be there for generations to come.  Consisting of nearly a dozen agencies, AKDN invests in high-quality institutions such as clinics, banks and universities that anchor communities and provide opportunities for people to unlock their own promise.
  • I know about the Aga Khan University. Are you an education organization? Education is only part of what we do in the Aga Khan Development Network. It is true that education plays a critical role in development. So, education is one pillar that extends through all phases in AKDN’s integrated and pluralistic approach to development, from early childhood development to university and beyond to professional training.
  • Who is the Aga Khan? His Highness the Aga Khan, the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. When he was studying at Harvard University in 1957, he was chosen by his grandfather to succeed him as spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan has a deep commitment to improving the quality of life for all through the agencies of the AKDN. Over the past 50+ years, this has meant building a network of social development agencies and investing in infrastructural enterprises, such as telecommunications, bridges and electric utilities that contribute to economic development.
About the Foundation’s Leadership
  • Who is the Aga Khan? His Highness the Aga Khan, the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. When he was studying at Harvard University in 1957, he was chosen by his grandfather to succeed him as spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan has a deep commitment to improving the quality of life for all through the agencies of the AKDN. Over the past 50+ years, this has meant building a network of social development agencies and investing in infrastructural enterprises, such as telecommunications, bridges and electric utilities that contribute to economic development.
  • What is the National Committee? How is it related to the Foundation? The National Committee is appointed by His Highness the Aga Khan to oversee the Foundation’s work in the U.S.A. to ensure that it is consistent with the vision and mission of His Highness. The National Committee consists of a Chairman, Vice Chairman and six other members. They meet once a quarter with the CEO and senior staff of the office.
About Our Impact
  • What are your impact numbers? How can you prove that Aga Khan adds value to communities? The Aga Khan Foundation monitors, measures and evaluates for impact. A few examples include:
    • In northern Pakistan, where we have had programs for decades, the literacy rate is 90%.
    • In Tajikistan Early Childhood Education improved school performance of 4 – 5 year olds in two districts, as measured by achievement scores.
    • In Kenya, Aga Khan Foundation has improved the quality of learning for more than 500,000 children in 935 preschools and primary schools. Nearly half are girls. The Kenyan Government has adopted the Foundation’s successful Whole School Approach for 36,000 primary schools nationwide. This example shows the ripple effect of our programs and how a successful approach can become institutionalized across multiple regions.
  • How do you change a community if many of the countries you work in are in constant crisis or conflict zones? Building on the resilience of communities, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, our sister agency in Aga Khan Development Network, is often the first responder to humanitarian crises. Aga Khan Foundation is then able to strengthen that resilience and help people to move from crisis to opportunity. See stories from our 2013 and 2014 Annual Reports.
  • What is impact investing? What can you tell me about my return on investment? Aga Khan Foundation defines impact investing as actively placing capital in businesses and funds that generate social and/or environmental good and provide at least a modest return to the investor. AKF’s impact investing portfolio was created to get the most out of the funds we raise, by using them to support sustainable enterprises with business models that address our goals of reducing poverty and improving quality of life.
About Our Long-term Committment
  • You say you are in communities long-term. What does that mean? AKF and our sister agencies are part of the communities where we work and are there for decades. We build quality, permanent institutions that are part of the fabric of society. How can such efforts remain sustainable over a long period of time? All projects are planned with the intent that the change they bring about doesn’t end after external funding ends. We see impact investing as one way of making the changes sustainable, and community philanthropy as another.
  • What is a permanent institution? We have examples of banks, clinics, hospitals and even airlines.
  • What happens to programs that fail? Do you let them go or keep investing even though they are not working? We take an evidenced-based approach to our work. We learn from what doesn’t work and what works and we continually try to improve our programs. We do not walk away from failure, we fix it.
About Our Reach
  • If you are a leading poverty solutions network, why don’t my friends know your name? We are less known in the United States because most of our work is focused in Africa and Asia. So it may be reasonable that your friends in the U.S. have not heard about Aga Khan Foundation’s work. In reaching out in partnership to companies, associations and communities across the U.S., for 20 years we used the brand “PartnershipsInAction” as an initiative of Aga Khan Foundation and its network of volunteers across America. In a recent re-evaluation, we have determined that it makes sense to use our organizational name – Aga Khan Foundation – in outreach events so that the broader community in the U.S. can learn more about the amazing impact of our organization and its role in building better futures together.
  • Do you have programs in poor communities in the US? Why not? Our programs in the United States are intended to educate and engage people with the communities in which we work in Asia and Africa. Our programs are not oriented to provide assistance to poor communities in the United States because there are many extremely effective organizations that do that already. We all have a different purpose and capacity; ours is about global development.
About PartnershipsInAction
  • What happened to PartnershipsInActionAga Khan Foundation hosts many different events in the U.S. to raise awareness of global development and the work of the Foundation, and to raise funds that support its programs. Some of these events, such as walks, formerly called Partnership Walk, continue across the United States. They will now be known as Aga Khan Foundation events so that the Foundation’s name can be better known by the people who support us.
About Islam
  • Is the Foundation a religious organization? Are you connected to Islam? The Aga Khan Foundation was founded by His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. While inspired by the values of Islam – particularly consultation, solidarity with those less fortunate, self-reliance and human dignity – the Foundation is not a religious organization. Staff, partners and the people we serve represent all religions and persuasions.We are driven by the belief that when all people – regardless of faith, origin or gender – live and work side by side to improve their communities, the fabric of society is stronger. Our work is driven by a firm belief in our shared humanity. We know we are stronger together.
  • Your organization works in a number of Muslim-majority countries. Does your organization support extremism? We work in numerous countries across the Middle East, South and Central Asia and in Africa to help people break the cycle of poverty. We do not support extremism in any way. Our work is driven by the belief in a shared humanity. His Highness the Aga Khan is a world-recognized leader in promoting pluralism and civil society. A vibrant civil society is a key ingredient that complements democratic institutions.Awards from many prestigious international organizations of the AKDN’s work provide evidence that our work has universal appeal, advances freedom and is in no way linked to extremism. Learn more here: www.akdn.org/awards.asp.
  • Do you have to be a Muslim to work for the Aga Khan Foundation? No, we are a very diverse group of people who work at the Foundation.
  • Do you only work to help Muslim communities? Our work is in service to all those in need regardless of religion, gender, ethnicity or nationality.
About Our Funding
  • Where does your funding come from? With resources from His Highness the Aga Khan, and our own fundraising campaigns, we are able to leverage other resources from the U.S. government, the World Bank, other private foundations and corporations.
  • What is the legal status of the Aga Khan Foundation? Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. is a non-denominational, non-profit, tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
About Staying in Touch
  • How can I get information about the Foundation on a regular basis and learn how my donation is making an impact?