Philanthropy in China is getting creative, and spreading out
’Tis the season of giving and maybe a good time to look in how the business of philanthropy is faring amongst China’s burgeoning millionaire/billionaire class.
Tong Ning, director of China Philanthropy Institute’s Center for Teaching Management, oversees ways to teach philanthropy from a variety of angles and is an expert on philanthropy in China.
She was also just named one of the first Richard Rockefeller Fellows, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s effort to bring together China’s long tradition of charity with its new found wealth to create the most meaningful change.
Tong said that in general, philanthropy among China’s high net worth population is growing and emerging with three notable positive trends: the sheer volume is expanding the fields being given to are broadening; and parameters like geographic location, industries, age and gender are also diversifying.
According to the Top 100 Chinese Philanthropists 2015, total giving was 12.8 billion RMB, with the biggest gift being 2.927 billion RMB, the smallest 12 million RMB and 24 people giving more than 10 million RMB.
Foundations got 81 percent of the gifts, half of them with university affiliations. Higher education was the top benefi with 6.17 billion RMB. Environmental protection came in second with 1.12 billion RMB.
Most of the philanthropists are from the business sector — real estate, manufacturing and finance, mainly.
“However, people from internet enterprises have been becoming potential big donors in recent years,” Tong told China Daily in an email. “I think the trend follows the diversity in the transformation of Chinese fortunes.”
According to Harvard Kennedy School’s 2015 “Generosity Index”, the top 100 Chinese philanthropists were generally male with an average age of 54.
Guangdong, Beijing and Fujian had more generous givers than other provinces. “China’s wealthiest prefer to give in their home provinces — six out of every 10 RMB donated by the Top 100 are given locally,” the report said.
“One challenge for newly wealthy people,” Tong said, “is how to do strategic and effective philanthropy,” which is where her “donor education” comes in.
Newly rich people are well ¬educated and have achieved great business success, she explained. They have instincts and insights when it comes to corporate management, but not so much when it comes to running their own foundation or charity.
“It is very important in our donor education to think about how to make business capital shift to social capital to create a better society,” she said.
Similar to the US, China has tax incentives to the nonprofit sector, such as tax exemptions and deductions, and their first charity law was implemented in September.
Tong points to three particularly promising provisions of the new law: nonprofits get more tax advantages; aid projects like poverty alleviation get preferential treatment; and an improved tax carryover could promote more corporate giving.
Tong pointed out other spurs to giving in general, including the idea of “matching” gifts.
“Our ‘Day of Giving 99 (Sept 9th)’ started in 2015,” she said, “is the biggest public giving event with broad participation and high popularity in giving through the social medium of Wechat. The event is organized by a corporate foundation of Tencent, the founding corporate parent of Wechat. There are similarities with ‘Giving Tuesday’ to raise funds from crowds.”
She called it program-¬based crowd-funding. “I gave to three charitable programs on the day this year with a small amount of money for each,” she said, “one was a research program on ‘left¬-behind’ rural kids’ education.”
The Day of Giving also generates an idea of “match” in a different way. “The (Tencent) foundation gives the same amount of money to match every individual gift. Say, if I give 100 RMB to one program, the foundation gives the same match fund of 100 to the same program.”
Despite some upcoming changes in the rules, she said, “the idea keeps on going: promoting civic engagement through creative philanthropy.”