Total charitable giving in China increased 66 percent between 2009 and 2014, yet lags far behind giving in the United States or Europe, a report commissioned by the United Nations Development Program finds.
The report, Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy in China (HTML or 36 pages, PDF), found that while the approximately five hundred billionaires who call China home — more than the number of billionaires living in the U.S. — boast a collective net worth of some $830 billion, charitable giving in the country totaled just $16.74 billion in 2014, or about 4 percent of total giving in the U.S. At the same time, the number of foundations in China has increased 60 percent since 2009, to 4,211 — with 65 percent of them either corporate or family foundations. The study also found that corporate giving accounts for nearly 70 percent of charitable giving in China, which leaves individual donors as the largest untapped source of giving in the country. According to the report, the lack of enthusiasm for charitable giving by individuals in China can be blamed in part on an absence of financial incentives, a lack of transparency and public trust in the charitable sector, and a shaky legal and policy framework.
To encourage more giving, the report calls on the Chinese government to simplify bureaucratic procedures and allow smaller independent foundations to play a bigger role in the sector, and to create incentives for giving such as tax rebates and charitable deductions. Other recommendations include incentivizing competition and innovation in the charitable sector, building the capacity of civil society organizations, and lifting the cap on foundations' overhead, which currently stands at 10 percent.
UNDP also announced a new partnership with Tencent, China's largest Internet service portal, to conduct a study of philanthropy in the digital age, including the effects of online giving and crowdfunding.
"At UNDP we believe that a strong and healthy philanthropic sector in China, confident in looking outside its borders, will benefit China as well as the rest of the world," said Patrick Haverman, deputy country director of UNDP China. "UNDP has always incorporated the support for an enabling environment for civil society and philanthropy as a key component of effective development cooperation in our work here in China. We are committed to continue to do this and to use the recommendations and findings of this report to guide our future work in this area."