Who’s Doing Good?

11 June 2018 - 17 June 2018


Realizing sustainable quality education, Harvard style. The Straits Times profiled Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, the Malaysian construction magnate who donated all of his equity in Sunway Education Group, valued at more than RM1 billion (approximately US$250.1 million), to a foundation dedicated to realizing sustainable quality education. This structure models that of universities in the West, mirroring in particular John Harvard’s contribution to Harvard University over 400 years ago. “It is my personal goal to award more than RM1 billion in my lifetime in scholarships,” says Cheah. As of 2017, his foundation is already one third of the way there, having given out RM330 million in scholarships and grants.

Japanese anime creator donates US$8 million for earthquake relief. Eiichiro Oda, famous for his hit anime series One Piece, donated US$8 million for Kumamoto earthquake relief. In commemoration of his donation, a statue of the anime series’ protagonist will be constructed in Kumamoto.


“Switching the donor-grantee relationship.” In this article, Ashok Alexander reflects on the problematic “heads and legs” relationship between donors and grantees. Unlike in the business sector, where entrepreneurs conceive up ideas and then approach investors for funding, Alexander notes that in the social social sector, it is the funders who come up with ideas and then look for recipients to carry out the legwork. “Donors should reject donees who don’t have new ideas; donees must be willing to walk away from donors who tell them exactly what they should do.”


Poverty alleviation charity project aids 120,000 children. A project by the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation has raised nearly 21 million yuan (US$3.3 million) in donations and aided 120,000 children since 2014. The donations have been used to provide stationery, clothes, and fine arts equipment for more than 32,000 children and to build 146 kitchens in schools, providing better meals for 60,000 students. The project also employed “companion mothers” to care for more than 30,000 rural children whose parents migrated to larger cities for employment opportunities.


Garuda Indonesia launches “umrah” donation program. Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia’s national flag carrier, has launched a donation program that allows its GarudaMiles members to contribute miles toward an “umrah” pilgrimage trip for underprivileged people. Garuda Indonesia is currently aiming for this program to benefit 100 individuals.


Li Ka-shing joins Bill Gates to fund probiotic product to fight child malnutrition. Along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Horizons Ventures, the investment arm of Li Ka-shing’s philanthropic foundation, led a US$40 million round of funding for California-based Evolve BioSystems, which is developing an infant probiotic product that helps restore the beneficial bacteria in infants’ guts. As the funding has been widely hailed as a notable impact investment, lead investor Patrick Zhang said, “We are excited to increase our investment in Evolve, and for the tremendous societal impact that Evolve can make on restoring the infant gut microbiome, particularly in Asia.”


Singapore Children’s Society recognizes outstanding volunteers. On June 12, 2018, the Singapore Children’s Society recognized 47 volunteers and donors for their longtime service and dedication to the organization. Most notably, Kurt Wee, who received the Ruth Wong Award for volunteers, was lauded for volunteering to help raise over SG$106.8 million (approximately US$79 million) for the Singapore Children’s Society since 2008.


Amnesty International exposes questionable payments by Kirin Brewery to the Myanmar military. The human rights-focused organization published correspondences between Kirin’s Myanmar offshoot, Myanmar Brewery, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Amnesty International has urged the Japanese government to investigate the “immoral payments,” which come at a time when Myanmar’s military has been undertaking an unprecedented ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya population in the Rakhine state. In the interim, Kirin has banned all new charitable donations in Myanmar, while it conducts a human rights assessment of its suppliers and partners in the country.

How Can Asia Boost Philanthropy?

AsiaGlobal Online

Wealth in Asia is growing rapidly, but philanthropy has not kept pace. Governments should improve regulation and change tax and fiscal policies to make it easier for Asians and corporations to give in a systematic way. They should also ensure donations can efficiently reach organizations working to meet society’s needs.

This article looks at how the Doing Good Index can help governments improve regulations and policies relevant to the philanthropic and charitable sectors by identifying the levers that best enhance local philanthropy across 15 Asian economies.

This article was first published in AsiaGlobal Online.

Who’s Doing Good?

30 April 2018 - 6 May 2018


Panda Express co-founder discusses donations to Caltech and underserved kids. Peggy Cherng, co-chair and co-CEO of Panda Restaurant Group born in Myanmar and raised in Hong Kong, spoke about her philanthropic donations to Caltech and for underserved children. With an engineering background herself, Cherng, along with her husband, pledged US$30 million to endow Caltech’s medical engineering department. She commented, “Our mission to help other people live better lives. With our support of Caltech, they can develop some devices to better people’s lives, that is something that touches our hearts.” Through their fast food businesses, the Cherngs also set up Panda Cares, the philanthropic arm of Panda Restaurant Group. Since 1999, Panda Cares has raised US$107 million, with US$89 million coming from in-store donation boxes. All proceeds go towards serving underserved children in health and education.


Debate on “the WhatsApp philanthropists.” “Social media is encouraging Indians to click for a cause. But should giving be about impulse or impact?” In her article, journalist Himanshi Dhawan touches on the rising trend of one-off giving via social media through a few simple clicks. Is the sheer amount of giving rising from this online philanthropy good on its own merit, or should we think about the more complex implications such as lack of regular giving?

Bill Gates expresses optimism about growing trend towards philanthropy in India. Bill Gates said he is encouraged by recent trend towards philanthropy in India and commended the example set by billionaire Azim Premji. “Well, I think Azim Premji and some others are pretty phenomenal in the example they’re setting. And they’ll do philanthropy, each person in their own unique way,” said Gates.

New index shows political uncertainty as greatest challenge to philanthropy. The Global Philanthropy Environment Index, released by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, reveals that the political environment presents significant challenges to philanthropic activity. The average score measuring the political environment was the lowest average score of all five factors studied.


International nonprofit joins forces with computer manufacturer. Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief charity, teamed up with Lenovo Malaysia to provide free meals to those in need. In conjunction with Lenovo Malaysia’s inaugural Make A Difference week, more than 100 Lenovo employees participated in a meal-packing event for Rise Against Hunger. Over 20,000 meals were packed at the event, which were then distributed by Rise Against Hunger to local schools, as well as other programs promoting self-sufficiency.


Google.org donates US$3 million to support Indian teachers. Having set aside a dedicated fund of US$50 million to bridge the gaps between students in developed, developing, and underdeveloped nations, Google.org, Google’s philanthropy arm, has announced its second round of funding for education and learning institutions in India. In 2017, Google.org had already donated more than US$8 million to local charities. In 2018, Google.org will make two major donations and grants. First, Google.org will grant US$1 million to The Teacher App, which provides free learning and teaching material to teachers. Second, Google.org will grant US$2 million to Central Square Foundation to create more video resources that could assist those interested in learning.

Yum China launches book donation and exchange program in China. On May 2, 2018, Yum China launched the Pizza Hut Book Donation and Exchange Program at Pizza Hut restaurants across China. The company’s CEO commented, “By pioneering innovative CSR programs like this, we aim to make a positive difference to the lives of our customers and the communities in which we operate. Using our strong brand and scale, Yum China is in a privileged position to support government initiatives to encourage reading in the long term.”


UNICEF turns to cryptocurrency mining for fundraising. UNICEF Australia has launched The HopePage, which allows people to make a donation by keeping the web page open and using the computer’s processor to mine cryptocurrency.


Korean celebrities participate in Children’s Day donation program. MBC, a major television broadcasting station in Korea, is hosting its 28th annual New Life for Children donation program. For the past 28 years, it has delivered over ₩40 billion (US$37 million) in donations and aided treatment for 13,000 children. Korean idol groups, actors and actresses, and comedians are expected to participate in the program’s television show, concert, and other promotional events to help raise donations and awareness.

Beneficiaries contribute to annual Ramadan charity drive. Resulting from a collaboration of 17 Malay/Muslim organizations with the mission of helping the poor, needy, and less fortunate, the Tabung Amal Aidilfitri (TAA) Trust Fund launched an annual Ramadan charity drive to raise donations. The article highlights examples of low-income beneficiaries of the TAA Trust Fund, who also give back to the donation campaign as part of their religious culture of giving.


Who’s Doing Good?

19 March 2018 - 25 March 2018


Chinese philanthropist donates US$3 million to alma mater. Ming Mei, co-founder and CEO of GLP, a leading provider of global logistics solutions, is donating US$3 million to Indiana University. Half of the donation will endow a tenured chair in Chinese economics and trade in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, while the other will establish a tenured chair position in logistics.

Singaporean philanthropists come together to develop facility for assisted living. A group of five philanthropists from Singapore have joined forces to set up the first purpose-built assisted living facility that will allow seniors with mobility issues to live independently.This announcement was made by Laurence Lien, chairman of the Lien Foundation, at the inaugural ASEAN Philanthropy Dialogue. The facility is expected to be completed by 2021.


“Philanthropy in Pakistan: Why civil society organizations get bypassed in favor of donations to individuals.” In this article, Shazia M. Amjad and Muhammad Ali of the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy explain why Pakistanis prefer to donate directly to individuals over nonprofit organizations. Four major reasons are cited: 1. Compassion spurs in-the-moment giving in small cash. 2. Religious institutions receive the bulk of giving that goes to organizations. 3. There is a lack of trust in nonprofit organizations. 4. It is usually with more wealth that giving to formal organizations become more common.

Malaysian Sultan states Islamic finance can be combined with impact investing and philanthropy. Speaking at a forum themed “Enhancing the value of Islamic capital market through social and impact investment” co-organized by the Securities Commission Malaysia and the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah said that the Islamic finance sector must remain relevant by being involved in the global agenda to alleviate poverty and inequality. Impact investing was one channel through which Islamic finance could contribute to social causes, while he also cited philanthropy as another area that can be combined with Islamic finance via institutions such as sadaqah (voluntary charity) and waqf (endowment).

“Money or Mission? The Fight about Big Tobacco’s Philanthropy” In this article, Erin Rubin discusses the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s conflict of interest with the tobacco industry. While tobacco companies provide roughly US$15 million in donations for social projects sucha s programs to end child labor, they are also notorious, according to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, for “poor working conditions, exploitation of workers, and abuse of their rights.”


Lien AID leads a collective effort to provide clean water access in rural Myanmar. Lien AID, a Singapore-based international nonprofit committed to enabling sustainable access to clean water and sanitation for Asia’s rural poor, is planning to create more clean water projects in Myanmar. To do so, Lien AID believes tackling the problem of sustaining access to clean water must be a collective effort. That is, it seeks to work in close partnership with governments, businesses, individuals, other nonprofits, and academia in order to increase the impact of its own programs.


AmorePacific hosts marathon for breast cancer awareness. AmorePacific, South Korea’s beauty and cosmetics conglomerate, hosted a marathon in Busan to raise public awareness about breast cancer. According to the company, about 5,000 participated in the marathon, and funds raised during the event from ticket sales have been donated to the Korea Breast Cancer Foundation to cover surgical expenses and medical examinations for cancer patients.


Three Southeast Asian social entrepreneurs win inaugural social impact award. Three social entrepreneurs were chose as the winners of the inaugural ASEAN Social Impact Awards in recognition of their social impact and innovation. Indonesia’s Tri Mumpuni won first place for her efforts in providing access to electricity, as well as training villages to run the plants independently. Cherrie Atilano from the Philippines and Somsak Boonkam from Thailand were runners-up. Atilano was recognized for her role in increasing farmers’ access to finance, technology, and information on the best farming practices for the purposes of fair trade, as well as working with farmers on sustainable farming methods to protect the environment and farmers’ future livelihoods. Boonkam was recognized for his work with local communities to build their capacity for community-based tourism.


Zhou Xun announced as TOMS giving ambassador. Zhou Xun, a renowned Chinese actress who is also a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, will become the American footwear company TOMS’ Goodwill Giving Ambassador in Asia. Zhou and the company’s founder Blake Mycoskie went on a trip to Yunnan province late last year to donate shoes to primary school students.


Former Korean President’s private foundation comes to the spotlight amidst corruption allegations. Founded by former President Lee Myung-bak, Lee & Kim Foundation (known as “Cheonggye Foundation” in Korean) was recently criticized for receiving tax benefits as a charitable organization when only 0.7% of its total assets were used for scholarships. This criticism comes at a time when President Lee is currently under investigation for a corporate corruption scandal involving his family members and cronies.

Who’s Doing Good?

29 January 2018 - 4 February 2018


Indian-born Middle East billionaire joins the Giving Pledge. Shamsheer Vayalil, founder of VPS Healthcare whose net worth is projected to be around US$1.7 billion, joined the Giving Pledge along with his wife on his 41st birthday. On top of this commitment, Vayalil is also in the process of forming the VPS Foundation for providing healthcare and education to “those people who tend to be forgotten.”

Apple teams up with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai to fund education for 100,000 girls. The support from Apple will help the Malala Fund double the number of grants to fund secondary education for girls in India and Latin America. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, will also join its leadership council.


With the right policies and incentives, the Doing Good Index claims Asia can unlock over US$500 billion in philanthropy. The DGI is a groundbreaking inaugural study by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society that maps the philanthropic and charitable landscape in Asia and looks at the enabling environment for “doing good.”

Rati Forbes argues, “Impact is not limited to big philanthropy.” In her opinion editorial, Forbes laments the lack of supporting ecosystem and resources for smaller individual givers, who are more than eager to ensure that their giving is making an impact. Her four-point advice includes: 1. Identify a cause that resonates with you; 2. Build a long-term association with a nonprofit; 3. Think about sustainability; and 4. Collaborate.


Singaporean charities help bridge economic, religious, and racial divides. With the support of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and its Harmony Fund, various community organizations have stepped up to address societal issues facing Singapore. While Beyond Social Services have helped convene residents of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds to mediate their complaints against one another, Roses of Peace and More Than Just have addressed interfaith and interethnic conflicts.


A New York Stock Exchange-listed company wins top awards at the China Charity Festival. Air Products, a world-leading industrial gases company serving China for 30 years, has won the “2017 Overall Community Care Award” and “The Best Community Program of 2017” at the China Charity Festival, a nonprofit event co-organized by over 30 Chinese media outlets advocating philanthropic spirit and behavior of individuals and organizations. Air Products has been consistently recognized for its services that help Chinese manufacturers improve their environmental performance and for its many CSR initiatives such as the LIN Ambassador Program, an education initiative that fosters the next generation’s interest in science and innovation.

PetroChina does good and does well in Indonesia and Myanmar. PetroChina, the country’s largest oil supplier and distributor, has gone philanthropic, thereby earning trust from the foreign local markets. In Indonesia, the company has helped with the long-term sustainability, capacity, upscaling of local coffee farmers. In Myanmar, it donated more than US$24 million for various infrastructure projects.


South Korean city debuts “smart donation box” for charitable contributions. Incheon, known for its international airport, became the first in Korea to offer high-tech donation boxes that allow passersby to use credit, debit, or transportation cards for charitable giving. The machines are run by a local social enterprise that also selects a portfolio of beneficiary organizations.


Jet Airways’ internal employee-driven volunteering program continues to help the underprivileged in India. “Joy of Giving,” branded in line with its corporate slogan of “Joy of Flying,” is an annual corporate volunteering program that engages with a host of NGOs serving the cause of the less privileged such as children, women, and senior citizens. This year, Jet Airways’ employees not only spent time with those affected, but also donated cash and other resources.


Major charitable crowdfunding scam hits Singapore. A scammer has been targeting people who raised money on crowdfunding websites for charitable purposes. One case includes losing SG$53,000 raised via Give.asia for a baby’s surgery. This scandal ironically comes at a time when the Commissioner of Charities-led code of practice for online charitable fundraising was launched only last month.

Philanthropy in Asia needs a push from good government policies

South China Morning Post

Ruth A. Shapiro says that governments in the region must send strong signals that they value philanthropy through tax incentives and other policies. This could encourage a more systematic approach to giving and spark innovation in the social sector.

The Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society has just released its inaugural Doing Good Index, which looks at the factors that both enable and hinder philanthropy and other kinds of private social investment in Asia. We found that Asia has enormous potential to do good. If Asia were to donate the equivalent of 2 per cent of its GDP, the same as the United States, it would unleash US$507 billion (HK$3.9 trillion) annually. This is more than 11 times the foreign aid flowing into the region every year and one-third of the annual amount needed globally to meet the sustainable development goals by 2030.

We did this study after understanding several important dichotomies affecting Asia and its social sector. First, there is enormous wealth being created in Asia but still incredible and at times tragic need. Second, while there is a long history of charity in Asia, philanthropy, or the systematic approach to doing good, is relatively new. Third, while many on the ground are carrying out extraordinary efforts to help relieve suffering and need, there is often a debilitating lack of trust towards the sector. Last, many Asian governments realise that philanthropy is growing and are reacting by crafting new policies and regulations that both encourage and control its flow.

The Doing Good Index is an ambitious initiative. Supported by donors in Asia, the team worked with 34 partners from 15 economies to survey 1,516 social delivery organisations and 80 experts. They answered questions about a range of factors that influence philanthropic capital. The questions fell into four categories – regulations, tax and fiscal policies, procurement and ecosystem. The first three are government-driven, while ecosystem looks at the role that people, communities, companies and universities are playing in addressing social challenges and nurturing the social sector.

We find that people are ahead of government: on average, Asian economies perform better in the ecosystem category than in the other three. Society is rewarding philanthropists and organisations in the social sector. Public recognition and awards are becoming more prevalent in most economies we studied. Many are volunteering both through their companies and on their own, people are serving on boards, and universities are offering classes in philanthropy and non-profit management.

Our study also shows that the right policies and incentives do matter. Tax subsidies contribute a great deal towards the propensity to give across income levels and have an important signalling effect. Asian philanthropists are pragmatic. People want to help their communities but also want to do this in ways that are aligned with their own government’s goals. When a government signals that philanthropy is appreciated, it has a positive influence on giving.

The right policies can address the trust deficit and mitigate the deleterious effect on philanthropy. Many social delivery organisations in Asia are endeavouring to become more transparent and accountable. In our study, 75 per cent of those surveyed have a website and 86 per cent have a board of trustees with nearly all reporting regular board meetings. Organisations in 13 of 15 economies are required to submit an annual report. The right regulations create a culture of accountability and facilitate the ability of organisations to report.

However, regulations need to be calibrated to reduce friction in the social sector and facilitate its growth. In some economies, organisations need to work with many government agencies, with one country having 15 different ministries all with different reporting requirements. This puts a burden on non-profit organisations and encourages underreporting.

Last, the social sector is vastly understudied. There is very little reliable data. For the Doing Good Index, we had to create the data from scratch. More information about philanthropy can help address the trust deficit and showcase which practices, models and policies are best in class. There is no dearth of humanity, creativity and commitment in Asia.

The key is to put systems and practices in place that allow us to learn from each other, contribute to our communities and help Asia become a global philanthropic leader and a centre for social innovation.

Ruth A. Shapiro is founder and chief executive of the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Right policies can boost Asian philanthropy.

This article ran originally in the South China Morning Post.

Doing Good Index 2018

Maximizing Asia's Potential

The inaugural Doing Good Index examines the enabling environment for philanthropy and private social investment across 15 Asian economies. Composed of four areas–tax and fiscal policy, regulatory regimes, socio-cultural ecosystem, and government procurement–the Index reveals how Asian economies are catalyzing philanthropic giving.

If the right regulatory and tax policies were in place, Asian philanthropists could give over US$500 billion, contributing to the US$1.4 trillion annual price tag needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Index serves as a unique and useful body of data for Asian governments, as well as for nonprofits, foundations and charities in Asia, to learn from each other. At a time when policy is evolving, the social sector is growing, and interest in philanthropy is rapidly developing, the DGI shows the potential for Asia to leapfrog and become a leader in social innovation.*

*The latest version as of 19 January 2018 is available for download now.

*Please note that for Korea the 10% rate of tax deduction for corporate donations refers to the limit on corporate income eligible for deduction. The rate of tax deductions for corporate donations in Korea is 100%, with a 10% limit. This change has no effect on the results of the index. For further information, please contact us.

Civil Society Briefs

Asian Development Bank

Introduction: Civil society is a very important stakeholder in the operations of the Asian Development Bank and its borrowers and clients. It is distinct from the government and private sector and consists of a diverse range of individuals, groups, and nonprofit organizations. They operate around shared interests, purposes, and values with a varying degree of formality and encompass a diverse range—from informal unorganized community groups to large international labor union organizations. These Briefs provide an overview of civil society organizations (CSOs), with a particular focus on nongovernment organizations (NGOs). These Briefs were first published by the Asian Development Bank (www.adb.org).”

Click here to read the Briefs.