China’s Philanthropy Development 2015 in a Nutshell

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2015 was the year legislation on philanthropy first caught public attention. The Overseas NGO Management Law and the Charity Law were published for public comment; philanthropy scholars joined social organizations to urge open the doors of legislation; industrial chambers of commerce and business associations were de-coupled from governmental departments to achieve administrative separation; and Civil Affairs agencies explored the creation of a new system for the comprehensive supervision of social organizations.

2015 also saw citizen charity go mainstream as internet charity became wildly popular. ‘Finger Philanthropy’ not only dismantled traditional forms of charitable donation, but reinterpreted and decentralized public fundraising and citizen donations. It also used the internet’s capacity to connect many different places, points, and projects at the same time to both online and offline donations, clearly making charity the most cultural and creative industry in 2015. Different projects were disseminated by a whole range of media in ways that were both moving and believable. This hugely magnified the social influence of charity and gave birth to many working heroes of the internet age.

2015 was also a year of structural re-organization for philanthropy. The social sciences helped form many heavyweight academic institutions that promoted philanthropy as a scholarly discipline. Enterprise philanthropy focused more on sharing its products and technologies with charitable organizations, providing technical support and a platform for citizen participation. The philanthropic environment also improved and sector-supported alliances emerged. Social enterprises explored path transformation by forming different platforms and certification methods. They also kept in step with the national “one Belt and one Road” strategy and actively advanced internationalization by going aboard.

Out of the year’s Ten Talking Points in Philanthropy, eight were positive. However, the two others exposed serious social problems. One concerned four young siblings left-behind in Bijie (Guizhou Province), who collectively committed suicide out of abject helplessness. The other involved a man who used web-based charitable donations for ‘educational support’ as a cover to solicit and sexually abuse young female students. The former case highlighted the severe imbalances within overall national socio-economic development. The latter became a powerful reason for excluding individual donations from the scope of public donations under the Charity Law. In addition, social organizations working on educational assistance, the environment, labor and women experienced a tightening of their space to exist and operate. Questions on how government entrustment or procurement of services by social welfare organizations could be made more fair and equitable indicated the efforts still needed to create true government support for social organizations. Moreover, National People’s Congress delegates expressed particular concern over how to distribute the hundreds of billions of Renminbi generated from sales of social welfare lottery tickets during 2015. Mid-year, the State Audit Administration disclosed a hugely fraudulent and illegal use of social welfare lottery funds. Questions began fermenting in society at large over whether the social welfare lottery fund should be regarded as a philanthropic or national financial resource; how it should be distributed; whether supply-side reforms were needed; and systemic top-level reforms with increased public participation and oversight.

2015 was also a fruitful year for philanthropy. By the end of the year, there were 658, 000 social organizations nationwide, an increase of 8.6% over the 606,000 by the end of 2014. Out of these, 326,000 were membership-based organizations, 4,719 were foundations and 327,000 private non-enterprises entities.

Roughly 100 million people nationwide (in mainland China) registered as volunteers in 2015, or 7.27% of the national population. Of these, 94.88 million actively took part in volunteer services. Volunteer contributions increased 6.9% in 2015, totalling 1.559 billion hours nationwide and valued at CNY 60 billion. The total number of volunteers increased by 4.87 million over 2014, or an increase of 5.4%. The donation rate increased by 4.9 percent. Volunteer service time increased by 337 million hours or 27.5%. Donation value increased by CNY 15.7 billion, an actual increase of 29%.

Donations from society in the form of cash and goods totalled CNY 105.8 billion in 2014, with CNY 79 billion in cash and securities and CNY 26.8 billion in goods. The social welfare lottery fund added a further CNY 36.1 billion and the in-year value of volunteer services equated to roughly CNY 44.2 billion. Together, these totalled CNY186.1 billion in social donations.

Social donations are anticipated to total CNY 99.2 billion in 2015, with donations received by the foundation system potentially reaching CNY 37.4 billion; charity system cash and goods CNY 36.2 billion; donations of cash and goods to the Ministry of Civil Affairs system CNY 5.623 billion; and donations to other organizations CNY 20 billion. Adding the imputed value of volunteer service hours nationwide (CNY 60 billion) and an estimated CNY 34 billion from the social welfare lottery fund, this yields a total value of CNY 193.2 billion.

Anticipated social donations (goods and cash) for 2015 were slightly below those for 2014, but the increased number of volunteers, and the extension in volunteer service hours, indicate that the total value of charitable donations will exceed the 2014 figure. This demonstrates that growth in volunteer services has achieved significant dimensions.

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