This article talks about the controversy that has sparkled around the case of a Nanjing public interest organization, Aizhiyuan (爱之源).
Despite being registered with civil affairs since 2013 and receiving funding from the district government, Aizhiyuan has started to carry out for profit activities. Dai Zhilong, the founder of the public interest group, explains that since government support is limited, Aizhiyuan has to develop its own funding sources to ensure its existence and further development. Therefore, Aizhiyuan has started selling everyday items to university students.
Aizhiyuan’s case has sparkled a controversy in the third sector. Beijing JunziJun law firm’s Deng Jianhe says that what Aizhiyuan does is perfectly legal and that the Chinese law does not prohibit public interest organizations from carrying out for profit activities. A leader of another Nanjing public interest organization says that it is a problem of values and that non profit organizations have to carry out not-for-profit activities. Lack of funding is a common problem for Nanjing’s grassroots organizations and will not be solved by becoming businesses.
Finally, the head of the Nanjing Youth Public Interest Promotion Association, Cao Yang stresses that without clear legislation regulating the public interest sector and creating incentives such as tax exemptions and a framework defining what kind of for-profit activities is acceptable for non-profits to carry out, public interest organizations have to be innovative in finding ways to survive and strive.