How to Spend Sadaqah and Donations

Dr. Monzer Kahf, a prominent economist and counselor, states: “Sadaqah and donation should be treated the same when an Islamic center receives them; they can be used for the general activities of the center. Only what is marked as Zakah must be exclusively distributed to any of the eight categories mentioned in the Qur’an: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise.” (At-Tawbah: 60)”
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, adds:
Sadaqah is a general term for any charitable deed. There are various types of sadaqahs. Zakah is also a kind of sadaqah but it is obligatory. It has specific rules about who should give, how much, how often and to whom. Any nafl (voluntary) charity is sadaqah and it can be used for the expenses of the Islamic centers. However, if a sadaqah is for kaffarah (expiation of sin), then it should not be used for the center’s expenses. Kaffarah is meant for the poor and needy and should be used only for that purpose. Also if a person gives some sadaqah for a nadhr (vow), then it should be used for the purpose for which it is given. General voluntary sadaqahs can be used as donations for the building or activities of mosques and Islamic centers. The Islamic centers should make it clear to their members that all sadaqah for the poor and needy should be clearly designated. All general sadaqahs can be treated as donations.
There are hundreds of ways of making sadaqah. It could be by giving money to the poor and needy, giving donation for a good cause, saying a good word, meeting people with a smiling face, going to the mosque to attend the prayers, removing the obstacles from the road, etc. There are many Qur’anic verses and hundreds of Hadiths on this subject.”