A leading voice in China’s charity sector has called for reforms after a recent scandal which shook public trust.
Xu Yongguang, known for pioneering programs like Project Hope, criticized “matching donations” – where corporate or individual contributions are matched by platforms to incentivize giving.
In an interview with the China Philanthropist magazine, Xu said the model was well-intentioned but flawed. Fierce competition leads charities to “snatch” and falsify donations. Some even exploit this type of donation for Ponzi schemes.
The scandal involved the China Charities Aid Foundation for Children (CCAFC) which Xu helped establish. The foundation is accused of faking donations to reap matching funds. Xu had supported CCTF after a 2012 accounting controversy. But he believes that “moral and legal lines have been crossed” by the organization.
While some defend matching donations, Xu regards this model as “fundamentally shaken” and he argues that charities must rebuild legitimacy.
Xu states that the core value of a charity is in pioneering solutions through “civic innovation”, not revenue. CCAFC providing individual assistance rather than public goods violates this ethos. With limited resources, he says charities must focus on public trust, not growth.