Fundraising project for poor children goes viral on WeChat, attracts criticism

“Find a child who shares the same birthday as you, and wish him/her to grow up happily and healthily”. On the 23rd of December, a fundraising project called “you with the same birthday” (同一天生日的你) went viral on WeChat Moments. The project allows members of the public to choose a child who shares the same birthday with them, and donate one yuan for the child.

The project was launched by the Aiyou Future Foundation and a fundraising platform named Fenbei Chou. As the initiator of Fenbei Chou Wang Li announced, by the morning of the 24th of December the fund’s cumulative total had reached over 2.55 million yuan. The beneficiaries of the project all come from Zhenxiong County in Yunnan Province, with 366 children included (one for every day of the year, including leap years). All the beneficiaries come from low-income households that have been authenticated by the local government. The information posted on the website is collected by local officials. The standard of the subsidisation is 100 yuan a month per person during the compulsory education phase, and 200 yuan a month per person during the high school phase.

While the project attracted much attention and was a great success, it also provoked criticism. First of all, some basic mistakes were made with the pictures and the captions. Under the same picture of one particular child, different names and birthdays were given; the birthday of another child was given as the 29th of February 2009, a date that never existed; yet another child is shown wearing an electronic watch worth several hundred yuan. These mistakes led to distrust and to the public beginning to question the authenticity of the project.

Fenbei Chou’s official response regarding these mistakes was that the project was meant to be launched on Christmas Day, but it was accidentally publicised on WeChat Moments during the test period. However this claim appears to be unreliable, since the project had already been publicised by the Aiyou Future Fund on its official account on the 22th of December (although the post was later deleted).

Secondly, the project did not follow the Regulations on Charitable Fundraising《慈善组织公开募捐管理办法》 issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs in 2016. The information was not posted on the twelve Internet fundraising platforms appointed by the Ministry of Civil Affairs. Rather, as Fenbei Chou is an application created by the Aiyou Future Foundation and Ling Fenbei, a company established in 2016, it used a platform belonging to the company to issue the information. The fundraising effort can therefore be seen as breaking the regulations.

Furthermore there are 2130 poor students in Zhenxiong County, and it is unclear how the 366 children in question were selected. Others criticised the choice to spread the children’s pictures on the Internet. The China Philanthropy Times report concludes by saying that while these novel forms of communication can be of great use to charity projects, they also require the organizations involved to ensure the authenticity of the content and uphold their own professionalism.

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