Tencent’s 9/9 Charity Day breaks fundraising records once again, but gains are unequally distributed

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The sixth edition of Tencent’s 9/9 Charity Day, which took place from the 9th to the 11th of September, has once again broken all of its own records for the amount of funds raised. As the event successfully concluded, data showed that this year donors interacted with the participating organisations 1.899 billion times, or 2.15 times more than last year. Individual donors donated 2.32 billion RMB (342,607,392.00 USD) in total, while companies donated 342 million RMB (50,507,278.20 USD) under a system where they could match with a particular charitable organisation. The Tencent Foundation also gave 399.9 million RMB (59,059,827.35 USD) in donations to nonprofits that appealed to them. In total, donations made during this year’s 9/9 Charity Day reached 3.044 billion RMB (449,551,009.20 USD).

These figures represent a significant increase compared to 2019, when 1.8 billion RMB were raised from the public and 2.49 billion in total, including donations from companies and the Tencent Foundation. In turn, last’s years Charity Day raised far more than the previous editions. Many feel these figures are a sign of hope for the Chinese nonprofit sector as it moves forward. According to a report from the Charity Forum, results from past 9/9 Charity Days demonstrate that new technologies and the nonprofit sector are perfectly compatible, and to a great extent the internet makes it easier for charitable programmes to gain more exposure, and makes the nonprofit sector richer and more diverse. The new strategies adopted by Tencent this year are also described as effective. Individual donors were given awards for their donations and were able to share their donation certificates on social media. The usage of blockchain technology and the C2B (customer to business) model has increased the transparency of the fundraising as well as nonprofits’ operational efficiency.

As the Charity Forum reports, feedback from the Tencent Foundation reveals even greater hopes for the future of the nonprofit sector. Chen Yidan (Charles Chen), co-founder of Tencent and founder of the Tencent Charity Foundation, has asserted that the genuine focus of the 9/9 Charity Day is the “ecological efficiency” of the nonprofit sector. He has also envisaged the progress that the nonprofit sector would make in the next five years, when resources will be more equally distributed and shared between nonprofits of different size, missions and backgrounds. Meanwhile Ma Huateng (Pony Ma), the Chairman and CEO of Tencent, has sent an email to the entire company claiming that “the continuous exploration of digitalised charity brings no less value than fundraising. A responsible digitalisation is the greatest contribution that tech companies can make to charity.”

Nevertheless, the 9/9 Charity Day also leaves some reasons to be less optimistic, especially from the point of view of small, grassroots nonprofits. A report by the Charity Forum published two days ago reveals a different side to the story. The report discloses that four big organisations have in fact received one-third of the total funds raised in the three-day event. The four organisations in question are the Chongqing Charity Federation, the China Charities Aid Foundation for Children, and the Henan and Shaanxi provincial charity federations, all of which are organised and backed by the state. Competition between organisations has grown fiercer, while the gap in the funding received has also widened with time. Statistics on the 9/9 Charity Day show that the top four organisations raised nearly 10 billion RMB (1,476,734.00 USD), while the top ten organisations raised over 1.534 billion RMB (226,530,995.60 USD), literally taking up more than half of all the funding. This means that the other half of the funding was divided between hundreds of small and medium-sized organisations.

A report by Sixth Tone also uncovers a concerning fact about the 9/9 Charity Day: after years of competing with the giants, some smaller nonprofits have ceased to participate at all. The reason is simply the impossibility for such organisations to compete with the big players and raise sufficient funds for themselves. In order to take part in the annual Charity Day, organisations have to prepare one month prior to the event and adopt whatever methods they can to attract attention and potential donations. But all their efforts may ultimately turn into a disappointment for small organisations. Sixth Tone reports that the Beijing LGBT Center, a nonprofit providing services for LGBT groups, obtained merely 3,627 RMB (534.47 USD) through the 9/9 Charity Day in 2019, including 508 RMB from Tencent and 1,200 RMB from its own founder. The unequal distribution between organisations is quite apparent and it is difficult for smaller grassroots organisations to compete against giant competitors backed by corporations or state organs. Taking stock of this unfortunate reality, the Beijing LGBT Center decided to skip this year’s Charity Day all together.

Mr Zhang, founder and director of another grassroots organisation named Return to Wilderness, told Sixth Tone that the 9/9 Charity Day was once the best platform for grassroots nonprofits like his organisation to receive donations, but then added: “However, these past few years, we’ve found the 9/9 Charity Day is getting more and more unfriendly toward us.”

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