Southern Metropolis – Song Zhibiao: will 98.6% of foundations please “wake up”

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Song Zhibiao: will 98.6% of foundations please “wake up”
By Song Zhibiao 宋志标, Southern Metropolis Public Welfare Weekly 南都公益周刊 , November 5, 2013

The scale and capacity of foundations has always been regarded as a huge variable for the new social order of mainland Chinese public welfare. However are foundations aware of what is responsible for this characteristic? Looking at the statistical data it is difficult to be optimistic; foundations are still “fast asleep”. Recently the Weibo account known as “Chinese Foundations Evaluation Notice” published information that showed that over the past three years just 47 foundations have given financial assistance to 103 NGOs. According to figures released by the China Foundation Center, as of 31st October there were 3417 foundations on the Chinese mainland; 1369 public foundations and 2048 private foundations. With these two sets of statistics you can also observe that when the net assets of these foundations are compared, only three of the top ten foundations have given generously.

This data smashes the delusions held by many of those working in the public welfare world about the new social order. Of course, if a foundation has not provided financial aid to NGOs, this doesn’t indicate that they have not contributed to public welfare work. However, according to a view held by the public welfare world, the proper relationship between NGOs and foundations is a top-down one: foundations are in charge of fundraising, NGOs are in charge of spending money, and foundations should not go beyond this relationship. However, the 1.4% of foundations that have funded NGOs, and the remaining 98.6% that have not, show that there is a huge gap between reality and this ideal. The ratio of these statistics shows that the top-down concept is accepted by very few foundations. The public welfare chain remains weak and the new social order remains a mere glimmer. It seems as though mainland public welfare falls considerably short of the standards set by this theory.

Of those foundations who have helped NGOs – the tip of the iceberg – all are active participants in the public welfare world. They contribute resources, ideals, and methods; pro-actively interact with the outside world; and push the boundaries of public welfare. However, the other foundations – those who make up the bulk of the iceberg that is submerged below – drift aimlessly, not knowing whether to live or die. These organisations drift away from the character of the foundation.

Translation by Tom Bannister. See article for full text. (Chinese)

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