China’s post-90s generation to become the pillar of philanthropic donations

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While people born in the 80s contribute the largest number of donations in 2016, people born in the 90s have the highest degree of participation, according to the 2016 Internet Philanthropy Data jointly released by Ants Financial,, and the Institute of Philanthropy of Tsinghua University.

As shown on the donation platform of Alipay, 48% of people born in the 90s gave money to charities in 2016, a figure 13% higher than for the 80s generation. Statistics from the news aggregator also indicate the same trend — readers aged 18 to 30 constitute 65% of the group with the most interest in philanthropy information.

“The post-90s generation may not be as affluent as the post-80s generation, but they represent the future,” says Deng Guosheng, deputy head of the Institute for Philanthropy of Tsinghua University. According to Deng, these statistics reflect two trends in China’s charity sector — first, more and more Chinese are paying close attention to philanthropy; secondly, the generation grown up with mobile devices are turning online fundraising into the future of charitable fundraising. “Charities should seize upon the future instead of only looking at the present”, he emphasized.

The post-90s generation love projects that can provide a sense of experience. Deng cited a project on Ants Financial which enables users to donate money according to how many steps they have walked on that day. The project quickly became popular and amassed a large amount of donations in a short time. “What do young people like? — to take part in philanthropy in a happy and sustainable way,” said Deng.

The One Foundation led the 2016 ranking of donation by Ants Financial. Shen Yu, deputy secretary general of the One Foundation, considers the low cost of online donations as one of the reasons of their popularity among young donors. Yet, with the threshold for donations being almost zero, “the 80s and 90s generation are also a group that may very easily quit the sector.”

Still, individual donations are booming. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation has received increasingly small sized donations by individuals over the years, reaching 4.5 billion yuan in 2016 from 2 billion years a few years ago. “Two fifths of our total donations came from individuals in 2016. This is a significant thing for us, a strategic choice,” said Yan Zhitao, assistant secretary-general of the foundation.

Donors on a monthly basis are increasing dramatically on Alipay. Compared to 2015, monthly donation numbers have more than doubled in 2016. With big data, social organizations are able to evaluate the effects of their projects more intuitively.

One example is the issue of environmental protection. While environmental protection became the hottest social problem last year according to Toutiao, there is only one environmental project out of the 10 most popular donation projects on Alipay. Therefore, questions can be raised over whether environmental protection projects really hit home.

“The statistics reflect the preferences and changes in people’s donation behavior, and even the trends of the development of China’s philanthropy sector,” said a person in charge of corporate responsibility at Ants Financial. “The statistics can provide guidance on project planning and fundraising, which was our initial intent in releasing this report on internet philanthropy data.”

For Han Yishun, deputy head of the Tsinghua University Institute for Data Science, big data can rebuild the confidence of the public in the charity sector. “Relatively transparent charity data based on the Internet helps to establish credit for the sector,” he says.