On May 24, the People’s Daily published an editorial by an expert from the China Social Management Institute of Beijing Normal University entitled “Look rationally at the development of our country’s internet charity industry”. It argues that online charity platforms have not only altered the conditions of the practice of charity, but also enriched its development patterns, requiring people to have a deep understanding of their current advantages and challenges.
The editorial claims that the advantages of online charity platforms can mainly be attributed to the perfect combination between charity and four important features of the internet: transparency, innovation, sharing culture and connectivity.
Transparency allows charity organizations and programs to be accessible, actionable and assessable, with the whole public donation process efficient and transparent. Innovation manifests itself in technologies like blockchain, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, which will further promote the matching between supply and demand for charitable resources. The openness of online data and information helps to create a sharing culture, facilitating the expansion of online charity. As for connectivity, various forms of online charity including “Micro Charity” (微公益), “Everyone Charity”(人人公益), and “Community Charity” (社群公益) are continuously developing thanks to social connections, while the collaboration between government, charity organizations, enterprises, media, and the public is also intensified.
At the same time, the author also emphasizes several challenges faced by Chinese online charity platforms, as they are still in the early stages of development. Firstly, the current institutional management system is unable to keep pace with the rapidly developing online charity. Current system construction focuses too much on technical standards and data protection, and apart from the several large charity platforms, other platforms should also take an active part in setting rules for the sector.
Secondly, an imbalance exists between internal systems. Online charity is made of four important internal systems: information, donations, evaluation, and management. Currently, people focus too much on the donation system while ignoring the evaluation system, which is now inclined to be donor-oriented.
Thirdly, the cooperation between online charity platforms and traditional charity organizations is still at a low level. Although online platforms are playing a dominant role in online charity, the long-accumulated resources from traditional charity organizations should not be neglected. Without effective cooperation, these two forms of charity will compete and hurt each other.
Fourthly, the conflicts between online charity and online philanthropic finance are becoming more and more intense. Online philanthropic finance helps to deal with organizations’ shortage of funds and increase charity programs’ sustainability. However, the financial model’s nature of profit-earning inevitably contradicts charity organizations’ non-profit nature.
The editorial concludes that in order to better develop Chinese online charity, both advantages and challenges should be taken seriously. It’s now important for online charity platforms to provide system guarantees, improve their evaluation system, strengthen cooperation and reconcile conflicts. Only in this way can charity undertakings be better developed with the help of information technologies.