Who’s Doing Good?

3 September 2018 - 9 September 2018

THE GIVERS

Alibaba’s Jack Ma announces plans to focus on philanthropy. China’s richest man and chairman of Alibaba, Jack Ma is set to retire from his corporate position next week to focus on philanthropy and his passion for teaching. In an interview with Bloomberg, Ma said that he would like to lay the groundwork for the Jack Ma Foundation to help teachers and kindergartens in rural areas. “There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” Ma said in the interview. “I think someday, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching. This is something I think I can do much better than being CEO of Alibaba.” 

Asteroid named after Taiwanese philanthropic vendor. Chen Shu-chu, a retired vegetable vendor and philanthropist, recently had an asteroid named after her by the Lulin Observatory operated by Taiwan’s National Central University. Chen is known for her good deeds that were brought to light by local and foreign media. She was honored as one of the 100 most influential figures listed by the Time magazine in 2010 for contributing over NT$10 million (US$325,000) to different charitable causes. In 2012, Chen was one of six winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for helping the poor, receiving a US$50,000 cash prize which she donated to the Taitung branch of Mackay Memorial Hospital. “Money serves its end only when it can help people in need,” said Chen.

THE THINKERS

“Minds Wide Open” documentary shows that increased support for fundamental brain research is crucial to achieving major breakthroughs. Earlier this month, the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute (TCCI), a nonprofit aiming to deepen the understanding of the human brain, hosted an international meeting in Shanghai. The event brought together top scientists and doctors working on brain-related topics in the United States and China. TCCI also released the “Minds Wide Open” documentary this week in the hopes that it would make the case that more support for fundamental brain science is needed if we are to keep achieving significant breakthroughs. The Chens, founders of the TCCI, have committed US$1 billion for this cause. The documentary will be available on Apple iTunes, Amazon Video, and Google Play from September 19 onwards. All proceeds from the film will be donated to causes chosen by Brandon, Chelsea, Eric, Lisa, and Violet—five patients featured in the film. Watch the 25-minute version of the film here.

Businesses thrive when they benefit society, says Hiroaki Nakanishi. Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) chair and chairman of Hitachi, Hiroaki Nakanishi preached the values of a sustainable and socially responsible business in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun. In fact, Keidanren made the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals the guiding principles of its Charter of Corporate Behavior when it was revised in November. Explaining that Japanese businesses previously thought creating high-quality products and generating profits was the end of their responsibility to society, Nakanishi said that this attitude and way of thinking is increasingly changing in the private sector in Japan. 

THE NONPROFITS

Five moon bears rescued by Hong Kong-based charity from a bile farm in Vietnam after being trapped in cages for 21 years. Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based charity, has rescued five moon bears from a bile farm in Vietnam after more than 21 years in cages. After a five-day journey, the bears are now at the organization’s Vietnam Bear Rescue Center, a sanctuary in Tam Dao National Park. In 2017, Animals Asia signed a deal with the Vietnamese government to relocate the around 800 bears who remain on farms in the country to sanctuaries. So far, the charity has rescued 177 bears. 

THE BUSINESSES

Didi Chuxing to pay promised reward to rescue team via charity donation. Didi Chuxing, China’s ride-hailing company, is to pay the reward of 1 million yuan (US$160,000) it promised for information relating to the whereabouts of a driver suspected of killing a passenger earlier this year. A Zhengzhou-based water rescue team found a body in a local river and after several unsuccessful attempts to contact the company and claim the reward, filed a lawsuit in August. The reward money will reportedly be donated to a charity in Zhengzhou and be dedicated to the water rescue team that received the body of the suspect. Niu Zhenxi, head of the rescue team, said that members of his team have agreed to accept the donation via the Zhengzhou Charity Federation. Didi Chuxing has also announced that it will donate another 1 million yuan to the China Foundation for Justice and Courage, a national public fundraising foundation headed by China’s Ministry of Public Security.

THE INNOVATORS

Volunteering mobile application allows users to get points to redeem gifts. Chen Yew Nah, managing director of Zeles, always had a passion for helping others but soon realized that there was a gap in the feedback system. Zeles aims to encourage more volunteers to come forward, connects them with various corporations and causes, and allows users to redeem food and retail vouchers in return. Additionally, the in-application chat function allows volunteers to send feedback to the organizations they are working at. The application currently has 2,000 volunteers and numerous voluntary host organizations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Association for Persons With Special Needs.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Army of volunteers boosting support for the Thai King. The Volunteer Spirit scheme, officially started last year by Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn, has created a new army of civilians who have pledged allegiance to the King and are boosting his image ahead of his formal coronation at the year-end. Over four million volunteers have joined the scheme, carrying out a range of tasks from cleaning public spaces to helping police direct traffic. Their most high-profile activity came when the volunteers joined an international effort to rescue 12 boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave last month.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

China continues to toughen the crackdown on dishonest behaviors in charity work. The Ministry of Civil Affairs has intensified its campaign to crack down on dishonest behaviors in charity work. Most recently, the Ministry of Civil Affairs released a regulation that required charities to provide factual information to the public, putting it into effect on September 1, 2018. The ministry has also established the “Charity in China” website that publishes information about charities. Early this year, the government established a mechanism that shares information on charities’ credibility, specified five types of dishonest entities, and stipulated 24 punishment measures.

Korean tax agency clamps down on tax-evading foundations. A conglomerate-affiliated cultural foundation received cash from three corporate subsidiaries under the pretense of building a memorial hall, which instead was revealed to have been used to purchasing land surrounding the birthplace of the conglomerate’s founder. The National Tax Service (NTS), Korea’s governmental tax agency, retracted the gift tax exemption given to this foundation and slapped a ₩3 billion (US$2.67 million) tax. The NTS said that since the second half of last year, a special team has investigated nearly 200 charitable foundations owned by conglomerates and found 36 instances of tax evasion, totaling a tax figure of ₩41 billion (approximately US$36.3 million). “In recent years, the founding families of conglomerates have been using their charity foundations for personal purposes, including strengthening their governance, said an NTS official.

Who’s Doing Good?

27 August 2018 - 2 September 2018

THE GIVERS

Indonesian medal winners contribute towards Lombok cause. The series of earthquakes that hit Lombok has killed more than 500 people and caused damages worth more than US$500 million. In support of the relief efforts, Indonesian athletes and medalists at the Asian Games have offered to contribute a share of their winnings. Badminton men’s singles winner Jonatan Christie said he would contribute part of his US$102,000 winnings to the cause, while other badminton medalists offered to auction off their jerseys and rackets to raise funds.

THE THINKERS

Alibaba Foundation and UCWeb to host philanthropy conference in New Delhi, India. The Alibaba Foundation and UCWeb, a subsidiary of the Alibaba Group, will host a week-long global forum of the Xin Philanthropy Conference 2018 in India starting September 5, marking the first time that part of the conference is to be held outside China. The conference will focus on education, child protection, and women’s empowerment and feature prominent public speakers from public policy, global welfare, business, and science.

THE NONPROFITS

Chinese charities required to disclose information starting in September. According to a regulation issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, charities should publicize various information in a complete and timely manner starting September 1. The range of information includes a charity’s yearly work, financial accounting reports, major asset changes, transactions, investments, public funding, and other projects. According to the newly issued regulation, which is based on the Charity Law from 2016, charities that fail to disclose such information can be reported to civil affairs authorities by any other organization or individual.

THE BUSINESSES

China’s Huawei appeals to Korea through CSR programs. As part of its ongoing efforts to give back to Korean society since it first entered the Korean market in 2013, Huawei launched an incubating program for young local information technology talents. Named “Seeds for the Future,” the two-week-long program hosted 10 Korean engineering students at its headquarters in Shenzhen, China. The students were additionally invited to visit the Beijing Language and Culture University to experience China. Other CSR projects in Korea run by Huawei include granting scholarships and running annual contests for young female software engineers.

Hermes Taiwan collaborates with an intellectually disabled student artist to sell limited edition scarves for charity. Hermes Taiwan teamed up with Chou Ti-chuan, an intellectually disabled student at Taipei City Yangming Home for the Disabled, to design and create a limited edition scarf whose proceeds will be donated for charity. The scar will be priced at NT$6,800 (US$221.67) each, with only 600 available in the market.

THE INNOVATORS

Singaporean social enterprise baits charity donors with luxurious lucky draw prizes. The Given Company, a new social enterprise in Singapore, is raising money for charities by enticing donors with luxurious lucky draw prizes such as cars and private apartments. The company plans to take a commission of about five to 10 percent from each donation for subsequent draws to help pay for the prizes and other operating costs. The Given Company’s business model is triggering controversies and public debates around what the right motivation should be behind individual giving and the legal validity of this fundraising model in terms of Singapore’s relevant regulations and legislation.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Pilot program for youth leadership partners young leaders with social service organizations. Youth Corps Singapore initiated a new 10-week immersion program that placed 22 youth leaders for full-time work at 12 social service organizations, helping more than 1,900 beneficiaries and tackling social issues like care for the environment, the elderly, and people with special needs. “The objective is for our Youth Corps aspirants to develop a better understanding of the social sector and to acquire skills in serving the community,” said Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Facebook donation drive scam uses a photo of a comedian’s sick daughter. A picture of comedian Mark Lee’s sick five-year-old daughter was allegedly used in a Facebook donation drive scam. Lee and his wife said on social media last week they were alerted to a Facebook post soliciting donations using a picture of their daughter in a hospital war. The post had asked for SG$200,000 (approximately US$146,000). Such scams highlight the potential risks of donation drives done online and on social media, said multiple charity experts in the country. Andy Sim of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre said online fundraising is a useful tool but faces a risk of fraud, while Tan En of crowdfunding platform Ray of Hope Initiative said, “The crowdfunding sector here is very small. There are only a few platforms, so whenever there is a scandal, people get skeptical.”

 

New charity financial disclosure requirement brings further confusion to interpret charity’s financial information

Hong Kong Economic Times

Vincent Cheng (CAPS) analyzes the Hong Kong government’s latest requirement stipulating all charities to release audited financial accounts of their public fundraising activities. Intended to address public concerns over costly charity fundraisers, he believes the measure will instead further deepen public misperception and mistrust of overhead costs, and penalize less established charities with an even greater administrative burden.

Here is an age-old horror story of donations: people—with enormous goodwill—send money to a charity, hoping that these funds will be used to help those in need. To their dismay, they soon find out that a considerable portion of their donations goes to anything but that. The donor feels deceived, their money squandered for little or any return. These types of experiences and the worry about them, together with other mishaps or scandals, contributes to the trust deficit of the charitable sector. Hong Kong is not alone in this situation.

On 1st August 2018, the Hong Kong government issues a new regulation meant to increase transparency and accountability specifically on charities’ public fundraising activities, after complaints of the hefty price tag of fundraisers. Charitable organizations in Hong Kong are now required to place on a public website audited financial statements of each of their public fundraising activities (e.g. flag days, the sale of raffle tickets, or other charity sales). The new measure aligns with other efforts of achieving greater transparency such as HKCSS’s WiseGiving initiative, an information-sharing platform where charities can voluntarily share their mission, structure, governance, and financial information with the public.

While the government’s goal of increasing transparency is well-intentioned, this latest attempt is half-baked and will likely do more harm as it adds fuel towards the general public’s visceral, but misguided understanding regarding the administrative costs associated with both fundraising and project management. Unbeknownst to the policymaker, the new measure may also unwittingly penalize less established charities as all compliance takes time, effort, and often professional knowledge that many charities lack.

The two faces of regulations

The Doing Good Index by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society (CAPS).

Regulations, in general, have two important purposes, as the inaugural Doing Good Index published by the Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society explains. First, they can make it easy or more difficult to exist as a legal charitable entity. For the charitable sector to thrive, it is essential to have clear, easily understandable and enabling regulations which encourage organizations to register and operate within the law. Second, regulations can enhance transparency and accountability through, for instance, annual reporting requirements and assign legal liability for noncompliance.

Hong Kong performs reasonably well in the Doing Good Index, although it ranks behind Japan, Taiwan, and rival Singapore, and is on the same footing as developing countries such as Vietnam and Thailand. Generally, the charitable sector is mature and vibrant. Laws are established, clear, and easily understandable and charities are incentivized to register and operate within the law. Hong Kong is only second to Taiwan in this regard: only 17% of HK charity respondents find laws pertain to the charitable sector difficult to follow, the second lowest across 15 economies we surveyed (the Asia average is 39%).

But, Hong Kong could do even better with some relatively accessible fixes which could propel the charitable sector further. The recent directive for charities to share audited financial statements of public fundraising is no doubt intended to increase transparency. However, there are two potential issues with this well-intended measure, one operational which can be easily mitigated; another has to do with its underlying logic, which is less easy to fix.


A blinkered perspective of understanding charities

Close to half of HK respondents said that it took them more than 3 months to comply with the annual reporting requirement, which—for many—merely requires the submission of an audited financial statement. This percentage is the highest across 15 economies. One interpretation is that many charitable organizations do not have the capacity to adequately manage and explain their accounting practices as well as measuring the impact of the projects they manage. Grappling and complying with new requirements—especially those having to do with tax and fiscal policies—often equates to extra time, manpower, and resources. For nonprofits with tight budgets and stretched staff, they find it difficult to explain their programs and outcomes as well as their budgets in clear, compelling manners. Unfortunately, the result is that many people assume that they must have something to hide. For larger charities with professional staff, additional reporting requirements may work but the burden on small organizations can be life-threatening.

The more important issue, however, is understanding what is included in administrative costs (or more commonly known as overhead cost outside of Hong Kong), and why these are necessary and useful. While a blow by blow report of each public fundraising activity will quell public concerns over the costs of these fundraisers, it will not necessarily allow the public to come to a meaningful conclusion on how effective these charities are in doing their job. Why is that?

Firstly, funds for charities come from a variety of sources, so a measure that only necessitates explaining those funds raised as a result of a public exercise, only tells a portion of the story. Most charities in Hong Kong also receive funding from government and corporate sponsorship, funding streams that are not accounted for in the new regulation. In fact, those charities which raise considerable government and corporate support may rely less on the public.

More importantly, there are several points to bear in mind when thinking about administrative costs, which generally include such items as the salaries of administrative personnel and rent, in many cases of Hong Kong and internationally. Funds spent on raising more funds are also considered part of overall administrative expenses because they do not go directly to project support. Here is the main issue: these expenditures differ greatly from one charity from another due to their age, size, the nature, and function of charitable activities. Charities which require higher skilled professionals will certainly have higher overhead costs. In Hong Kong with a very low unemployment rate, charities compete with government and the private sector to find and hired skilled staff. Only by paying reasonable wages can they hope to compete for many of these employees.

But this lopsided attention on financial matters of charities is perhaps reflective of the larger context of oversight of Hong Kong’s charitable sector. With the exception of fiscal matters, there is little continual oversight for Hong Kong’s charitable sector after the approval of their tax-exempt status. For instance, charity’s eligibility to continue to be tax-exempt, which is determined by the organization’s objective and may change across time, is not a remit of any governmental body. Nor does governance mishaps of charities, except perhaps with criminalizable acts, or those receiving lump sum grant from the government.

A dedicated charity commission is needed

The Law Reform Commission (LRC)’s 2013 suggestion of having charitable organizations be registered and overseen by a future charity commission in the long run was a good step towards Hong Kong’s regulatory progression, an issue reiterated an audit report released by the Audit Commission in 2017. The LRC suggested an oversight system similar to the one used in the Philippines and currently being adopted by several countries in Asia.

The Law Reform Commission released its report on charities in December 2013. Source: The Government of the HKSAR.

The Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) in the Philippines was set up as an accreditation body with the blessing of the Filipino government to scrutinize aspects of charities’ mission, projects, governance, and financial information every one, three, or five years. Only with this accreditation can donors to the organization receive a tax subsidy. If respected charitable sectors practitioners who understand the operations, together with professionals in legal and accountancy team up to monitor, accredit, and offer timely and appropriate professional assistance to charities, as with the case the Philippines, charities in Hong Kong can become more accountable, transparent, at the same time, an enabling ecosystem for these organizations to grow and prosper. The future charity commission—as a standard bearer—can also educate to the public of the appropriate ways to understand and evaluate the work of charities they support, and show that which charities are checking all the boxes under this rubric. It will, in short, help build trust for those working in the charitable sector.

Overall, while we applaud the government’s bid to increase transparency and accountability of the social sector, the downside of the new measure requires attention. There are easy fixes to give the public a fuller picture in the shorter term: we recommend the government request charities to submit their annual audited financial statements ready for Inland Revenue Department’s review, and make them public on one centralized governmental platform for public scrutiny. Specific accounting requirements can be made to make clear of the specifics as deemed necessary for better transparency and accountability, such as fundraising administrative cost or overall administrative cost in these statements. With this measure in place, at least 74% of Section 88 charitable organizations, which are legally incorporated as a limited company, will be made more accountable and transparent. Some charities in the city have taken the initiative to achieve this goal on their own. World Vision Hong Kong, for instance, has put their audited financial statements online and gone the extra mile to lay out clearly how donations are spent. In the long run, a one-stop charity commission which registers, oversees, and provides professional support to the charitable sector should be set up to offer to inspire confidence and trust for all those endeavoring to make Hong Kong a better place.

 

This op-ed is an extended version of the Chinese op-ed ran originally in the Hong Kong Economic Times.

Who’s Doing Good?

20 August 2018 - 26 August 2018

THE GIVERS

Chinese billionaire shares his story of donating for brain research. Shanda Investment Group founder Chen Tianqiao has dedicated US$1 billion to help with brain research, saying that a better understanding of how the brain works could help better treat mental disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. His donations include a US$115 million gift to the California Institute of Technology and a 500 million yuan (approximately US$72.9 million) to the Fudan University-affiliated Huashan Hospital. In this interview with Bloomberg, Chen shares his thought on the field of brain research and his philanthropy.

THE THINKERS

New financial disclosure requirement brings further confusion to the charitable sector in Hong Kong. Vincent Cheng (CAPS) analyzes the Hong Kong government’s requirement stipulating all charities to release audited financial accounts of their public fundraising activities. Intended to address public concerns over costly charity fundraisers, he believes the measure will instead further deepen public misperception and mistrust of overhead costs, and penalize less established charities with an even greater administrative burden. For the English version, click here.

Corporate giving – when cash isn’t always best. Cash continues to be the preferred form of giving for the company in Singapore, with perceptions that larger the monetary donation the merrier, a program of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre finds. SME which makes up over 90% of enterprises in Singapore suffer from this mindset, leaving them feeling like they have nothing to give. But the trend is gradually shifting in a healthy way. Companies are found to diversify their engagement with charities, such as in-kind donations, purchase of goods and service from non-profits, and volunteerism. They are also exploring ways to give more effectively.

Study finds Korean conglomerates’ dominance in the economy, including corporate donations. A new study by the Korea Economic Research Institute found that the 31 largest conglomerates in Korea account for two-thirds of the country’s facilities investment and exports, as well as close to half of research and development investment, donations, and market capitalization. In particular, with 2.4 trillion (approximately US$2.4 billion) in 2016, these companies made up 51.4% of all corporate donations. “The chaebol groups are leading Korea’s economic development and playing an important role in boosting the people’s quality of life,” said Yoo Hwan-ik, the head of innovative growth at the institute.

THE NONPROFITS

Chinese NGOs to offer its development model abroad. A MoU between China NGO Network for International Exchanges and Social Welfare Council (SWC) of Nepal has initiated a deal to allow 30 Chinese NGOs to enter Nepal. This deal is seen to be a part of China’s “Going Global” formulated in 2001 to further its “public diplomacy” abroad. Chinese NGOs, such as One Foundation, and the Amity Foundation, first entered Nepal in 2015 to support victims of a mega-earthquake.

THE BUSINESSES

Apple donates US$1M to Kerala flood relief efforts. After opening iTunes’ donation mechanism earlier this week to help victims of the Kerala floods in India, Apple pledged Rs 7 crores (approximately US$1 million) to support Mercy Corps efforts in the region. Apple has in the past made direct contributions to relief and rehabilitation efforts, including a US$2 million donation for Hurricane Harvey relief, and US$1 million for last year’s Southern California wildfires. The company also donated US$1 million to a Chinese NGO after heavy rains caused massive flooding along the Yangtze river in 2016.

First National CSR Awards in India now opens for nominations. The Corporate Affairs Ministry of India has invited entries for nominations for the first-ever National CSR Awards. “MCA has instituted National CSR Awards 2018 to recognize corporate initiatives in the area of CSR to achieve inclusive growth along with inclusive and sustainable development,” the Ministry said. The enactment of Companies Act, 2013 has made the CSR mandate a part of corporate functioning.

THE INNOVATORS

Crowdera: This crowdfunding platform is creating a ‘giving economy’ by connecting do-gooders with those in need. India is well-versed with the concept of crowdfunding, especially when it comes to seeking aid in the form of donations during medical emergencies and natural calamities. Crowdera has launched the latest efforts “Stand with Kerala”, where the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund is accepting donations made through Internet banking, RuPay cards, Paytm and bank transfers. The startup is also working to make fundraising “a sustainable process”, so that, in a year or a two, fund-seekers can look at previous donors on the platform for further fundraises.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Korean Air volunteers build homes in Bicol, Philippines. Korean Air’s volunteer group “Didimdol” flew to the Bicol region of Philippines to volunteer for the local community. They helped the local residents of the village to build homes as well as provide free meals at the slum areas and elementary schools. As one of the world’s top 20 airlines, Korean Air continuously supports global volunteer activities in order to perform its corporate social responsibility.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Japanese charity telethon faces criticism over squanders on charitable donations. People—with great goodwill—donate money to support charitable endeavors. To their dismay, they soon find out that a considerable portion of their donation does not go to the intended cause. The donor feels deceived. This was the case of Nippon TV’s charity telethon, “24-Hour Television”, which raises money for charitable causes. Much of the 7 billion yen (approximately US$ 63 million) raised last year is said to be deducted for production expenses: two emcees of the show last year were allegedly paid 5 million yen (approximately US$50,000) each, and a celebrity “volunteer” was paid 10 million yen (approximately US$90,000) to participate in the show. Many deemed the show hypocritical.

Who’s Doing Good?

6 August 2018 - 12 August 2018

THE GIVERS

Singaporean retiree gives SG$500,000 (approximately US$363,000) for charity. Loh Kiong Poot, a Singaporean retiree from the trading industry, has donated SG$500,000 to The Straits TimesSchool Pocket Money Fund to help troubled children in need. His contribution to the fund is his biggest donation yet, though he has given money to charities and orphanages in countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. The fund was initiated in 2000 as a community project by The Straits Times, providing pocket money to children low-income families to help them through school. Since 2000, it has disbursed over SG$60 million (approximately US$43.6 million) worth of funds.

THE THINKERS

Anti-corruption rules are not clear on donations or political contributions, says author. In his opinion editorial, Thompson Chau argues that the code of ethics recently released by the Myanmar government is still unclear on what companies and their associated individuals and charities can and cannot do. This code of ethics was devised by the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) under the finance ministry in order to cover all dealings and “business activities” between government organizations and the private sector. For example, giving charitable and political donations in dealing with the government is prohibited. The author, however, calls for further clarity on what constitutes as influencing a decision of the government and as an act of corruption.

THE NONPROFITS

Ngee Ann Polytechnic and Singapore Red Cross raise funds to help Lombok villagers in Indonesia. While students and staff from Ngee Ann Polytechnic are organizing a campus donation drive, the Singapore Red Cross is utilizing online fundraising platforms to raise funds for villagers hit by the recent spate of earthquakes in Lombok, Indonesia. So far, the two organizations have raised SG$20,000 (approximately US$14,500) and SG$42,000 (approximately US$30,500), respectively. For students and staff from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, the cause was all the more relevant at a personal level, as many of them have been traveling regularly since 2014 to Lombok for community service work.

THE BUSINESSES

Korean retail conglomerate donates US$100,000 to flood-hit Laos. Lotte Group has offered US$100,000 to Laos for disaster relief aid after the dam accident. The donation has been handed over to the Community Chest of Korea for the purchase of relief goods and restoration of the damaged area. “We hope this donation could help children, among others, who are vulnerable to heat and diseases,” Lotte’s vice president Oh Sung-yup said in a statement.

 THE INNOVATORS

Online charity platforms in China raise 980 million yuan (US$143.5 million) in the first half of 2018. According to China’s charity law that went into effect in 2016, online fundraising for charitable purposes must be conducted through government-approved platforms, and China’s first group of 11 government-approved online charity platforms have received 980 million yuan of donations in the first half of 2018. Compared to the previous year, the amount increased by 30%. The platforms have altogether publicized over 11,000 fundraising projects from 992 charitable organizations.

Alternative forms of giving and investing. Venture philanthropy and impact investing are growing among private wealth owners, especially among the millennial generation. Several factors including exposure to standards of social contribution and environmental sustainability and having resources and opportunities at their disposal are encouraging these next-generation wealth owners and controllers to contribute. In addition to money, people are also willing to offer assistance with regard to mentoring, commercial or professional expertise, and industry connections.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Singaporean student ditches his corporate dreams to devote his life to volunteering. Daryl Tay, an undergraduate from Singapore Management University, took an oath to make the world a more equal place and hopes his efforts will help reduce poverty. The 29-year-old joined the Radion International with the aim to curb the rampant substance abuse problem among young children in Thailand. Today, the entire recovery program has 40 children aged six to 17.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Ex-chief of Tokyo Medical University admits to backdoor admissions to “increase donations.” A former board chairman of Tokyo Medical University, Masahiko Usui, has admitted to padding certain students’ scores on its general entrance exam. Usui said during the school’s internal investigation that he did so to “increase donations to the school.” In the recent two examinations, Usui directed university staff to admit 19 students by adding points to their scores during the first stage of testing. Many of the students involved were the children of alumni, and in some cases, tens of millions of yen in donations were paid to the school.

Who’s Doing Good?

30 July 2018 - 5 August 2018

THE GIVERS

Evergrande’s Xu Jiayin comes out as top Chinese philanthropist in the annual list. According to Forbes, Xu Jiayin, chairman of Evergrande Real Estate Group, hold the top position on the 2018 Forbes China Philanthropy List, followed by He Xiangjian, founder of Midea Group, and Zhang Jianbin, chairman of Jiangsu Winfast Investment Holding Group. Xu gave away 4.21 billion yuan (US$617 million) for poverty reduction. Those on the list had donated 17.31 billion yuan in cash donations, a 66% increase from the previous year’s figure. The minimum donation amount required to be on the list increased from 5 million yuan to 13 million yuan. The list also found education, poverty alleviation, and medical care was the main focus of donations.

THE THINKERS

Amid sexual harassment scandals, Beijing nonprofits and law firm launch anti-sexual harassment network. Following recent allegations of sexual harassment and assault against prominent Chinese media professionals, charity activists, and intellectuals, two nonprofit organizations in Beijing—the Maple Women’s Psychological Counseling Center and Equality—and Qianqian Law Firm have launched a joint network aimed at stopping sexual harassment. The network will provide services such as legal consultations, legal aid, psychological counseling, media assistance, and training courses. “We want to offer reliable help for women who suffer from sexual harassment. We hope more victims would come forward to make the authorities aware of the seriousness of the situation,” said Lin Lixia, an employee at the law firm.

Charities in Hong Kong forced to reveal finances. Charities will have to disclose their financial accounts on a designated government webpage for public inspection as a measure to promote transparency. The administrative action was announced in response to the government audit chief’s criticism last year over lax rules in the sector. A “good practice guide,” covering donors’ rights and fundraising practices, has also been made available. However, critics claim this measure will not go very far. “The guidelines are too mild and non-binding,” said Labour Party lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung. Other critics urge the government to step up public education “to arouse the awareness of donors of their rights.”

Government too charitable to charities. The Hong Kong government is facing criticism for the recently launched administrative measure to include financials of charities on a government website: that these measures are voluntary in nature and not mandatory. Reports state many charities exploited the loopholes to claim tax exemption status, with tax forgone amounting to HK$1.5 billion between 2005 and 2016.

THE NONPROFITS

Chinese charities donate stationery and sports items to Nepali school. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and Beijing Ciai Charity Foundation distributed school bags, stationery items, and sports accessories to students of the Mahendra Adarsha Vidyashram school, a public school in Nepal. “The Chinese support is very instrumental for the bright future of our students. It will not just boost the quality education of the country, but also strengthen the people-to-people ties between the two countries,” Pampha Bhusal, who is chairman of the school committee, said.

THE BUSINESSES

Samsung donates ₩50 billion (US$44.7 million) to support small business factories. Samsung Electronics will donate ₩50 billion to the Korea Smart Factory Foundation, which will help small businesses set up smart-factory infrastructure in their production centers. The donation will be made in ₩10 billion per year over the next five years. Samsung will also allocate a separate ₩10 billion to help these small businesses educate their staff and find new markets for the next five years.

CapitaLand launches SG$2 million (approximately US$1.46 million) fund to empower vulnerable elderly in Singapore. In response to the issue of an aging population, CapitaLand Hope Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, has set up a SG$2 million fund with the aim of improving the quality of life for the vulnerable elderly in Singapore through deeper social integration, better healthcare, and better living conditions. The CapitaLand Silver Empowerment Fund marks the first time the foundation has expanded its mandate from helping underprivileged children to the elderly. In addition to the fund, the foundation will also partner with Community Chest Singapore to identify, fund, and volunteer in projects to support vulnerable seniors of 60 years or above. Lim Ming Yan, CapitaLand’s chief executive, said, “As we expand the foundation’s mandate to support the healthcare and well-being of the vulnerable elderly, CapitaLand is looking forward to working together with long-time partners like President’s Challenge and Community Chest to improve the quality of aged care in Singapore.”

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) donates SG$350,000 (approximately US$256,000)to 20 social service organizations. SPH and its philanthropic arm, SPH Foundation, donated SG$350,000 to 20 social service organizations via Community Chest Singapore. The donation is part of SPH and SPH Foundation’s yearly efforts to support charities serving disadvantaged families, senior citizens, and special-needs students.

A big number of corporations come forward to clear up the Ganga. Companies like Shipping Corporation of India, Indusland Bank, Bajaj Electricals, Reliance Industries, and others have undertaken ghatcleaning and development, afforestation, and provision of amenities as part of their CSR projects under the Namami Gange Programme. Rs 255.02 crore (approximately US$37.13 million) have been received as a contribution to the fund from public sector units, private companies, individuals, the India Development Foundation, and others.

A tribute and “thank you” to Khazanah Nasional. Via this article, social workers pay a special tribute to Khazanah Nasional for their donations during the 2014 floods in Malaysia. Khazanah supported many nonprofits with their flood relief efforts by donating RM250,000 (approximately US$62,000). The company was able to support outreach programmes to help marginalized communities. These included the Orang Asli, refugees, and immigrant communities.

THE INNOVATORS

Asia tackles its plastic problem with a mix of tradition and technology. Plastic is considered one of the most useful products, yet the most environmentally harmful. Many are taking the initiative to tap into Asia’s cultures and crafts in order to invent a better and safer alternative. Poramet Sai-Uparach of Leaf Creation created a wide range of products—bags, lampshades, wallpaper, and furniture—made from teak tree leaves that are widely available in northern Thailand. Indian entrepreneurs are coming up with edible cutlery and bags made of tapioca and vegetable starch. Big multinational corporations like KFC are also starting to ban straws, while IKEA plans to phase out oil-based plastics from its 363 furniture stores and restaurants around the world by 2020.

THE VOLUNTEERS

10-day commitment likely to be a hurdle for Tokyo Olympic Games volunteers. The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has initiated a drive to encourage university students and others to work as volunteers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The officials urge them to volunteer for at least 10 days, in a bid to enable them to best take advantage of the skills they will acquire during the training sessions prior to the sporting event. Many universities in Tokyo have supported the committee by changing schedules for classes and exams.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Indian government shuts down charity as women go missing and girls claim rape. Seva Sanklap Ewam Vikas Samiti, a nonprofit organization that runs shelters for destitute women, has been closed down by the local police amid reports that 11 of the women are missing. The charity’s director and nine staffers have been arrested on rape charges. Another shelter under the organization was closed in June after dozens of girls said they had been raped there. Earlier this year, the Mumbai-based Tata Institute of Social Sciences found evidence of trouble during an audit of the charity, leading state investigators to interview girls at the shelter and learn of the rape incidents.

Who’s Doing Good?

9 July 2018 - 15 July 2018

THE GIVERS

The late HNA chairman’s stake in the conglomerate is to go to a China-based charity. Wang Jian, who has a 14.98% stake in HNA, died in an accidental fall while traveling in France earlier in the month. The China-based charity, Hainan Province Cihang Charity Foundation, already controls 22.75% of the conglomerate. The charity and another New York-based foundation already jointly hold a majority stake in the conglomerate. Shareholders had allegedly previously promised to pass their stakes to the charity fund in the event of their exit from the company or death.

Livemint interviews Rakesh Mittal, who recently pledged INR 7000 crore (over USD $1 billion) to education. The Bharti Mittal Family pledged the sum towards the creation of Satya Bharti University, a new higher education institution with a focus on Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and artificial and virtual reality. “This is the DNA of my family,” he says, referring to his family’s philanthropic tradition. “When we started out our businesses, even when we were small, we were doing a few small things or initiating or institutionalizing scholarships and higher education for engineering and management students. I personally believe that giving back to society is an obligation.”

Top Korean financier says his dream is “to become Korea’s largest donator, not the country’s richest man.” Mirae Asset Daewoo, Korea’s top securities firm, and its chairman, Park Hyeon-Joo, are providing thousands of scholarships to nurture young talented individuals. The company said the Mirae Asset Park Hyeon-Joo Foundation has supported about 230,000 students as of April 2018 since the foundation’s establishment in March 2000. Of these, the company stated that it particularly focuses on supporting study abroad programs. A company official said, “To help more Korean university students have different kinds of cultural experiences, we have been providing scholarships to 500 students every year. The number of students will be expanded to 600 in the second semester of this year.” Alongside his foundation’s charitable work, Park is known for donating his dividends every year.

Hong Kong mourns the death of great educator Tin Ka Ping. From humble beginnings on the mainland, businessman became a philanthropist who donated billions of dollars in support of education, culture and social welfare. Despite his great successes as an awardee of the MBE in 1996 by Queen Elizabeth and a Grand Bauhinia Medal in 2010, by the Hong Kong government, he was a modest man and lived a simple life. During the Asian financial crisis in 1997, Tin and his businesses suffered a massive blow making it difficult for his foundation to complete some of the donations. In 2001, Tin made the incredible decision to sell his for HK$56 million (US$ 7.13 million). He donated all the proceeds to more than 20 secondary schools.

THE THINKERS

Singaporean businesses “fail to give back to society,” says the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). The centre found that 31% of Singaporean companies are “keen to start” giving, but have yet to do so. Many are holding back out of concern about the staff and resource availability, as well as time limitations. Companies that have been successful in giving back were those that adopted a “purpose for-profit model,” using volunteer activities for purposes such as staff development and skill cultivation. Going forward, NVPC director Jeffrey Tan says that cultural change needs to start at the top: “Many of these barriers identified, and the low utilisation of paid volunteer leave, suggest a need for leaders to drive shifts in perception and organisational cultures.”

THE NONPROFITS

Five nonprofit websites that will inspire you. According to the author, “the most effective nonprofit websites provide mobile-friendly accessibility, streamlined donation pages, straightforward navigation and a growth-driven design that allows for continuous testing and improvement—all while showcasing the organization in a captivating way.” The author selected notable websites of five nonprofit organizations such as Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley, Greenpeace, Movember Foundation, World Bicycle Relief, and Sharing America’s Marrow, elaborating on the specific reasons for their effectiveness and uniqueness.

THE BUSINESS

Traveloka harnesses its customers for charitable giving. In preparation for Meraka Day and Malaysia Day, the travel booking site will donate 1 yuan from every booking to Tabung Harapan Malaysia, the national debt-relief fund set up by the Malaysian government in June of this year. To date, the fund has collected 144.6 million yuan (USD $36 million). “We are sure that many Malaysians wish to show their love for the country, which was why we set up the campaign,” Traveloka’s country manager Halif Hamzah said. Titled “Share Your Love for Malaysia,” the campaign will run until the end of September.

THE INNOVATORS

A debut development-impact bond performs beyond expectations. UBS Group’s Optimus Foundation launched the Educate Girls Development Impact Bond in 2015 to fund a program in rural India to improve educational opportunities for girls. The program outperformed expectations, generating a 15% rate of return for the foundation. The bonds are one example of innovative ways that foundations are raising money for charitable causes. Over 108 social-impact bonds have raised $392 million since 2010. “When people make philanthropic investments, especially international ones, there’s a lot of risk with that, but in a development-impact bond the investor is the one taking the risk,” says Phyllis Costanza, CEO of the UBS Optimus Foundation. “This could potentially be a really powerful financing tool.”

THE VOLUNTEERS

Thailand honors foreign volunteers in cave rescue. The Thai government has honoured over 100 foreign volunteers who took part in the dramatic rescue mission to free 13 Mu Pa Academy football club members from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai. The Royal Household Bureau, Foreign Affairs Ministry, and Tourism Authority of Thailand will also host sightseeing trips in Chiang Rai and Bangkok for those who wished to stay in Thailand after their volunteer work. For those returning back home, Thai authorities will sponsor a single trip back to Thailand within the next five years.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Maharashtra state charity commission asks NGOs, trusts to remove ‘human rights’ or ‘corruption’ from their registered names. Around 400 non-profits and trusts established with the words ‘human rights’ or ‘corruption’ in their names and are risking suspension under the Maharashtra Public Trusts Act 1950. The charity commissioner states that the government has the machinery to eradicate corruption and protect human right and that many organizations were misusing the words and deceiving people. Several NGOs have objected to the State’s move, arguing that the Charity Commissioner’s office should have raised objections while registering their organizations. Many propose to challenge the order in court.

Who’s Doing Good?

25 June 2018 - 1 July 2018

THE GIVERS

The PepsiCo Foundation announces a US$4.2 million grant for WaterAid to provide clean water access to communities in southern India. The grant came as the foundation announced that its safe water access initiative had reached nearly 16 million people, achieving more than 60% of the company’s CSR goal. On top of this, the foundation announced last week an additional US$2 million donation to the China Women’s Development Foundation’s “Water Cellars for Mothers” initiative, which provides solutions to improve water access in areas presently lacking water infrastructure.

Bloomberg Philanthropies donates US$2.4 million to prevent drowning deaths in Vietnam. Bloomberg Philanthropies has donated US$2.4 million to fund the first two years of a five-year program to prevent drowning deaths among children in Vietnam. The program will hold swimming lessons for children in eight drowning-prone provinces, with a particular on those below five years of age. The donation was announced at a seminar held in Hanoi on June 26, 2018.

The Walmart Foundation invests nearly US$2 million in a farmer market readiness program in India. The foundation has partnered with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropic (ICRISAT) to further the goals of doubling farmers’ incomes and addressing malnutrition in rural areas. An international research institution with United Nations status in India, ICRISAT aims to support small farmers in harnessing markets as a means of poverty alleviation.

THE THINKERS

Half of Singaporean firms practice corporate giving, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) finds. According to its recently released Corporate Giving Survey 2017, about half of the 707 firms surveyed engage in corporate giving. Nearly two-thirds of them have integrated the giving process into their core operations. With the overwhelming majority of giving coming from philanthropy (90%), NVPC encouraged companies to engage in other forms of giving: “beyond cash donations, there (are) a lot of different ways companies can give, and a lot of times we miss the obvious ways–the giving of skills, services or products that companies can provide to communities in need.”

THE NONPROFITS

Charity’s food donation platform serves 2.6 million meals. Food-Co, an online platform run by the charity St. James Settlement and funded by the Hong Kong government’s Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund, has helped distribute about 200 tons of food to thousands of needy people in Hong Kong over the past year. The platform connects the food industry, both restaurants and companies, with charities that help channel surplus food to those in need.

THE BUSINESSES

The Business Times interviews Singaporean impact investor Declan Ee. The partner and founding investor of TLG Capital, Ee was an early advocate of socially responsible investing at a time when others in Asia were still skeptical of its effectiveness. One of TLG’s first investments was in a medical manufacturing plant in Uganda, which produces affordable anti-retroviral drugs that help treat HIV. With access to generic drugs, HIV patients in Africa “can now have a normal life because the anti-retroviral treatment is so effective. The average lifespan of someone who is on it could be 60-80 years.”

THE INNOVATORS

Technology to help modernize donation marketplace in the Philippines. The founders of Charity Byes and Albert, two mobile applications that focus on creating an online donation marketplace between those who have (such as companies) and those who are in need (such as nonprofits), were inspired by the need to forward excess company resources like food, which would otherwise be wasted, to the causes that most need them.

THE VOLUNTEERS

A Singaporean pair raises over US$42,000 USD for migrant workers in need. Shirin Chua and Ameera Begum started a crowdfunding campaign to raise US$7,300 for Muslim migrant workers in Singapore and were surprised to find that the campaign generated vastly more money than they had expected. Funds raised will go to the Transient Workers Count Too’s meal program, which feeds up to 800 destitute workers every month.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Nonprofits in Malaysia call for regulations on political donations and gifts. The acting chairman of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (better known as BERSIH) stressed the importance of transparency in the political donations process. “Any donation received cannot go into a personal account, and there must be documentation or receipts for all contributions.” The calls for greater oversight over donations comes as Malaysia’s new Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, imposed a no-gif tpolicy for cabinet officials: gifts from now on should only be limited to flowers, food, and fruits.

Who’s Doing Good?

18 June 2018 - 24 June 2018

THE GIVERS

Malaysia finance minister defends collecting public donations to help settle national debt. Amidst a public movement among companies and individuals to donate to the state, Minister Lim Guan Eng has defended this collection of public donations through the “Fund of Hope,” which he said will go towards settling the nation’s debt. The fund was created after Malaysians started crowdsourcing donations themselves. As of June 21, 2018, the fund had reached more than RM90 million in contributions.

THE THINKERS

Centre for Asian Philanthropy and Society presents the Doing Good Index in Singapore. CAPS visited Singapore to present the Doing Good Index to nonprofit and foundation professionals, CSR executives, academics, journalists, and philanthropists in the country. In particular, CAPS highlighted the challenge in recruiting high-quality talent into the sector. 94% of organizations surveyed agreed that there was a public perception that nonprofit employees should earn less than their private sector counterparts, while 84% indicated that they had difficulty recruiting skilled staff. The below cartoon by the India Development Review well represents this talent dilemma and challenge faced by many nonprofits.

Source: India Development Review

The Asian Venture Philanthropy Network hosted its annual conference in Singapore. Investors seem to agree that there remains a persistent early-stage capital gap problem, leading to insufficient support for early-stage social enterprises. Other challenges include a need for more expertise on business building, more persistence on developing standardized impact measurements, and a reframing of sector’s approach to gender equality.

Hong Kong is underestimating its altruism, according to a recent poll by The University of Hong Kong. While scoring just above average in The University of Hong Kong’s altruism poll, the study nonetheless found that 83.5% of respondents had donated money to charity, while nearly half said that they did volunteer work. Paul Yip Siu-far, the poll’s research director, says that while Hongkongers are doing more than they think, there is still room to do more: “The government should do more to encourage people to donate blood, such as extending the hours of blood donation services since most people work from nine to six.”

THE NONPROFITS

Nonprofit brings aid and hope to Penan settlements. Hope Place, a Malaysian nonprofit, has been providing the Penan community in Ulu Baram with health checks, haircuts, and solar panels. After conducting a survey to identify the needs of the people, Hope Place realized that the villagers needed more than just food supplies. Hence, Hope Place has gathered a team of volunteers to provide services such as health checks, haircuts, and installing solar panels.

THE BUSINESSES

Vietnamese companies begin to embrace the environment and community. The article aptly summarizes an increasing trend among Vietnamese companies to embrace environmental protection and community contributions. For example, Traphaco, a leading Vietnamese pharmaceutical company, devised a sustainable development strategy to attach its business growth to environmental protection and CSR. A notable project by Traphaco includes the “Green Plan” whose goal is to produce materials made from herbs, as well as helping local farmers eradicate hunger and reduce poverty. With this emphasis on sustainable business practices, Traphaco is now spending approximately 1-3% of its total revenue on CSR. The article cites many other noteworthy examples from the private sector.

THE INNOVATORS

“From Malaysia to Myanmar, social ventures build homes and safe spaces.” Touching upon the rise of social enterprises in Asia, the Thomson Reuters Foundation highlights two social ventures in Malaysia and Myanmar. While Epic Homes builds houses for mainland Malaysia’s indigenous Orang Asli people, Myanmar’s Doh Eain is helping residents conserve older homes, as well as open up public spaces for women and girls.

A new startup is bringing financial inclusion to unbanked Filipinos. TraXion, a Filipino blockchain enterprise, is aiming to provide savings accounts and payment and remittance services to the 82.6% of the country’s population that is currently unbanked or underbanked. By providing a low-cost and user-friendly service to its clients, the platform wants to succeed where traditional financial institutions have thus far failed. TraXion’s public initial coin offering will begin running this August.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Cristiano Ronaldo helps Singapore Red Cross in promoting blood donation drive and youth giving. Singapore Red Cross launched its “Be The 1” campaign with world-renowned football star Cristiano Ronaldo. The campaign’s aim is to encourage more youths to donate blood. The campaign will run all the way until the end of July, and those wanting to participate or show their support can take a photo and post it on their social media pages with the hashtag #BeThe1DonorSG.

THE TRUSTBREAKERS

Social delivery organizations in Singapore need to build up public trust. Presenting the DGI to the Singaporean audience, CAPS spoke of the “trust deficit” that plagues the nonprofit sector. 94% of organizations surveyed in the DGI indicated that there was a public perception that nonprofit employees should earn less, while 60% also felt that the level of individual giving was low. “People don’t want to give because they don’t trust the organizations to use their money,” said Ruth Shapiro, Chief Executive of CAPS.

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.