Phi­lan­thropy in China is get­ting cre­ative, and spread­ing out

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICA - Chris Davis Con­tact the writer at chris­davis@chi­nadai­lyusa.com.

’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.”

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