Interest in global philanthropy is on the rise and many individuals, corporations, foundations and nonprofits are looking at the opportunities for developing their presence in China. In the “Philanthropy in China” session at the Council on Foundation’s annual conference in Philadelphia, we looked at the growth of grassroots groups and explored some of the challenges and opportunities of philanthropy promotion and discussed legal and practical barriers of making grants to local NGOs inside China.
As moderator of the session, I quickly realized how diverse our audience was—some had already developed programs inside China while others were still trying to understand how to start their work there. Even seasoned global practitioners were mystified by the diverse range of challenges of working inside China.
C.Y. Yeung, director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Intel China, shared his experiences on engaging his company’s more than 7,000 employees. He spoke about how important it is to partner with the different layers of government in accomplishing major programs, and encouraged more bridge building and shared learning between philanthropy experts in China and the United States. He also encouraged groups like the Council on Foundations to establish themselves in China to continue philanthropic innovation between the two countries.
Grace Chiang, co-founder and board chair of Social Venture Group (SVG), fielded questions on the growth of grassroots groups working inside China. As the first philanthropic advisory firm in China, SVG is registered in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Chiang shared her experiences in growing SVG and the challenges local grassroots groups face, including the difficulty in obtaining appropriate nonprofit registration status. Recent trends, including the development of an online fundraising portal for the Shanghai United Foundation, also were discussed.
During the breakout session, Jennifer Lofing, vice president of Give2Asia, moderated a roundtable discussion on how U.S. donors can support projects in China. In addition to some of the U.S. legal and financial requirements, she answered questions about the ability of organizations to receive foreign funding under the SAFE legislation in China. Conversations also centered on capacity building and managing the expectations of donors when it comes to what organizations inside China can and cannot do.
Overall, I found the session to be a good beginning to understanding the intricacies of working in a foreign country where the enabling environment for philanthropy to grow is not yet fully developed. Under the leadership of John Harvey and Andy Ho, I am confident that the Council’s global philanthropy program will grow. Their commitment to create more opportunities for members to gain substantive, philanthropic knowledge from leaders and experts working in emerging countries will only enhance understanding and deeper impact of programs on the ground.
Dien is chief philanthropy officer for Give2Asia