Donations: individuals giving more, charities giving less

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A report from the 2021 China Social Organization Blue Book titled the “2020 Charitable Organization Development Report”, recently released by the National Governance Modernization and Social Organization Research Center of the University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, analyzes the changes in the total number of charitable organizations and their distribution in provinces since the implementation of China’s Charity Law, as well as publishing statistics on charitable donations and volunteer activities.

According to the National Charity Information Disclosure Platform, by the end of 2020, the number of registered charitable organizations had reached 10,310 — an increase of around 8.7 percent compared to 9,485 in 2019.

From 2011 to 2015, the total number of charitable organizations remained relatively flat, with an average annual growth of 555. After the implementation of the Charity Law, the total number of charities developed rapidly from 2016 to 2020, with an average annual growth of 969. The report concludes that the implementation of the Law has lowered the threshold for the establishment of charitable organizations, enabling charities to develop more rapidly.

In terms of distribution, the five provinces with the largest number of charitable organizations are Guangdong (1,369), Zhejiang (1,030), Beijing (836), Fujian (700), and Jiangsu (660) — all in the east. The five provinces with the fewest are Tibet Autonomous Region (6), Qinghai Province (39), and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (49), Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (58), and Hainan Province (58), all located in the western and southern regions where the level of economic development is lower and there is little tradition of philanthropy.

The development level of organizations is uneven across China’s provinces, with the eastern part of the country taking the lead, followed by the central part, according to the report.

The total number of organizations in the eastern region is large and the growth rate has been rapid, while the total number of charities and the growth rate in the central and western regions is relatively low. However, the development of the central and western regions has certain latecomer advantages, and the future development of organizations still has room and potential for development.

The report shows that the total number of charitable organizations in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region has grown most rapidly nationwide, with the slowest growth in the Yellow River Basin area. Due to their economic and policy advantages, the total number of charitable organizations in major national strategic development areas has generally shown annual increases in recent years, but there is still a development gap between them and other provinces.

Based on the data from China Civil Affairs Statistical Yearbook and the 2020 Civil Affairs Development Statistical Bulletin, the report states that the number of donation stations and charity supermarkets has slowly increased since 2018, reaching 15,000 by the end of 2020. In terms of donations, charitable organizations received 105.91 billion yuan ($16.67 billion) in 2020, an increase of about 18.59 billion yuan from 2019 or 21.3 percent.

The report also reviewed the distribution of donors and the recipients of donations in 2019. The three main sources of donations are still businesses, individuals and charities. Among them, corporate donations and personal donations reached 93.15 billion and 39.85 billion yuan, an increase of 4.56 and 10.54 percent respectively from 2018, while charity donations decreased by 9.84 percent to 8.68 billion yuan.

In terms of the recipients of donations, organizations involved in education, poverty alleviation, and healthcare were the major recipients. Among them, education organizations accounted for 29.17 percent of donations, poverty alleviation and development accounted for 25.11 percent, while healthcare accounted for 18.04 percent. In addition, the amount of donations invested in scientific research and advocacy has grown rapidly, increasing 60.23 percent from 2018.

The report found that the number of volunteers in the civil affairs department in 2019 was 34,255, a decrease of 19,957 from the previous year. Similarly, the total number of hours put in by volunteers in the department fell to 123,016 in 2019, a decrease of 31.83 percent. Despite this, the number of volunteers has increased by 55.24 percent compared with the previous year — reaching 16.64 million people.

The report pointed out that since the implementation of the Charity Law, charities have continued to develop and the total number is increasing, although there are still some areas that require improvement.

For example, it suggests that charities should play a greater role in alleviating public crises like the pandemic. It is necessary to create a government-led model that enables charities to help with planning, the report argues.