Shaanxi charity boss: online giving is transformative

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Chinese people are giving more money to charity. Last year alone, funds raised by just 62 organizations totaled 1.83 billion yuan ($286.44 million), accounting for 45.1 percent of the total amount raised by charities, an increase on the previous year of 4.8 percent.

Among the 62 charities, funds raised by four provincial charities ranked in the top five: Henan Charity Federation, Chongqing Charity Federation, Shaanxi Charity Association and Jiangsu Charity Association. This is the third consecutive year that Shaanxi Charity Association has been ranked in the top five, with the organization raising 339 million yuan on the annual 99 Charity Day alone, representing an increase of over 60 percent on the previous year.

To find out more, a reporter from China Philanthropy Times interviewed Zhao Haoyi, vice president of the association.

Zhao told the reporter that the original fundraising target for 99 Charity Day had been set at 200 million yuan. Around 4.15 million people participated in the fundraising drive, with public donations eventually amounting to 298 million yuan. Companies matched 15.16 million yuan of the money donated, with Tencent matching 23.79 million yuan.

Fundraising was also undertaken to unite civic groups to launch public welfare projects, encourage provincial charity associations, municipalities and counties to apply for the online fundraising projects of private organisations and jointly solicit funds, encourage city and county charity associations to partner with local disability federations, orphans and elderly care institutions and prompt social volunteer teams to launch public welfare projects to spur fundraising efforts.

Zhao believes online philanthropy is transformative as it helps charities develop better and faster, noting that from 2016 to now over 1 billion yuan has been raised through the internet. While some districts and countries only generate a small amount of economic activity, which is reflected in their ability to raise funds offline, online fundraising can help to make up for this.

To take advantage of the power of online fundraising, the former president of Shaanxi Charity Association, Liu Weilong and the current president, Wu Qianjin, have both attached great importance to online charity work and in 2016, the organization set up a separate online department.

However, Shaanxi Charity Association still faces difficulties with raising money online.  Zhao says that the main problem is that many charity staff are older and do not understand online philanthropy, with some even thinking it is fraudulent. Another issue is that charities lack funding and are unable to recruit young people, although in recent years some charity associations at the municipal level have been able to recruit younger staff. However, the district level is still relatively weak and many activities still require experienced staff.

When asked how future funds raised will be used and monitored, Zhao said: “We are very strict about project management. Every year before 99 Charity Day, we require all charitable organizations to ensure they have completely implemented the previous year’s online fundraising projects, and to make public the progress of individual projects that have not yet been completed. All information will be published online. We also organize two audits every year and visit local charity associations to check on their work. Tencent also conducts spot checks and audits every year and at present there have been no recorded violations.”

But Zhao is clear that fundraising is not simply about focusing on how much money is raised.

“The millions donated by caring entrepreneurs are the same as the few yuan donated by an ordinary person. The act and intention is the same; it is not about the amount of money. The main thing is to raise awareness of charitable giving and to build a more charitable atmosphere in society.”

This article was kindly translated by a CDB volunteer.