Over the last few years, the ancient Chinese tradition of giving red envelopes filled with cash to friends and family during the Spring Festival has been taken up by the mobile phone app WeChat. The app now allows users to send each other virtual “Red Envelopes” containing money. During last year’s Spring Festival, over 8 billion such “Red Envelopes” were delivered by WeChat users.
During this year’s Spring Festival, many charity organizations called on the public to donate a portion of the money they received in “Red Envelopes” over the Spring Festival, hoping to use the money to fund the organizations’ budgets or projects.
According to the Yangtze Evening News, the initiator of Zhenjiang’s “One Minute of Public Welfare” and the “I Love Andy Lau” women’s association partnered with the Zhenjiang Municipal Party Committee to launch an event that invited WeChat users to donate 5 RMB each, which was then used to buy masks for sanitation workers. In just a few days the activity raised nearly 2000 rmb.
While this method attracted a lot of investment from WeChat users, it also raised skepticism. Some Internet users believe that the donation event was merely a show and that there is no proof the money was actually used to provide masks for sanitation workers. It is however undeniable that donating red envelopes has become a trend in philanthropy and a new way for charitable organizations to fundraise.
According to media outlets, during last year’s Spring Festival Tencent Charity initiated a New Year red envelope activity called “Meet a Better Future”, with over a dozen projects including “Donating New Clothes to Mountain Children”, “Giving to the Elderly” and “Assistance for Impoverished Orphans”. WeChat users made countless contributions to these projects by using the “send red envelope” feature and in only a month, over three million donations were sent amounting to nearly 32 million RMB.
Two years ago, free-lunch sponsor Deng Fei used WeChat Moments to invite people to follow the “Qing Luo Camp”. Three days later, Deng Fei announced an event called “Snatch Red Envelopes and Give a Free Lunch,” which called on followers of the group to donate their red envelope money to give free lunches to those in need. Over three thousand “Qing Luo Camp” followers from all over the country contributed nearly 2 million RMB towards the cause.
As participants, WeChat users can also send donation links, spreading the concept of donating and increasing support for public welfare. A coordinator for the “Snatch Red Envelopes and Give a Free Lunch” program told journalists that red envelope donations are not just a way to spur people’s interest in public welfare, but that the ultimate goal is to attract large-scale public welfare donations and to spread the word about public welfare projects.
Since the rise in popularity of red envelope donations, many people question who is actually responsible for supervising the use of such donations. Regarding this topic, the Philanthropy Times and Phoenix Charity jointly surveyed their readers with a question: “Would you be willing to use your red envelope money to make a contribution to charity?”