China’s Internet philanthropy has grown significantly in 2017, and online donations have caught more and more people’s attention. On October 30, the China Lingshan Council for the Promotion of Philanthropy held a salon series regarding the growth of online donations in China. The Council invited a number of professional practitioners and researchers in this field to share their perspectives and discuss future changes and innovations taking place within the framework of China’s philanthropy.
Lu Meihua, a representative of the China Association of Fundraising Professionals and the director of the O2O fundraising platform launched by the Shanghai United Foundation (联劝网), reviewed the history of Internet philanthropy in China based upon the report “Focusing on the participation of online charities” (聚焦网络公益参与). He explained that third-party charity platforms started off in 2004, and as time went by mainstream platforms gradually formed and expanded. In 2013 and 2014, more people started participating in online charity using mobile devices instead of computers. Then in 2016 the implementation of the Charity Law set clearer standards for fundraising by third-party platforms. As the methods of fundraising become more varied, frontline organizations may obtain more autonomy and better spread their voices. Meanwhile, charitable products sold on commercial platforms are becoming more diverse, motivating third-party organizations to provide project planning, text designing, and technical support to charitable projects.
The deputy secretary general of the China Charities Aid Foundation for Children, Jiang Ying, also took the stage and spoke about how the “9/9 Philanthropy Day” has helped her foundation to develop over the past three years. She agreed that the public is able to participate in fundraising more directly through online donations. Tencent Gongyi’s project manager, Wu Ting, pointed out that it is easier when charitable organizations look for celebrity endorsement through commercial platforms, compared with commercial companies looking for celebrities to endorse charities. Due to the “9/9 Philanthropy Day”, it has become much easier for charitable organizations to find celebrities who can help spread their cause. Also, the transparency of charitable organizations is crucial. The “9/9 Philanthropy Day” represents a check on organizations’ public transparency and will help supervise the use of funds. Since the Internet fundraising platforms create a competition between foundations and grassroots NGOs, this competition will encourage charitable organizations to enhance their transparency, executive powers and service awareness too.
During the salon, people also mentioned the problem of commercial capital conflicting with the ethics of charity. It is very important that social organizations face up to this moral hazard and maintain self-regulation strictly. An associate professor of the law school of Peking University, Jin Jinping, stressed that charitable organizations should properly use the advantages of online platforms in terms of spreading information, and be cautious with the possibility of disseminating misleading messages and rumours. What’s more, professor Jin said that charitable crowdfunding still remains in a grey zone and lacks a standardized auditing system.
Yang Tuan, a counselor of the Social Policy Research Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, made some concluding remarks at the end of the salon. As an active participant of the “9/9 Philanthropy Day” over the past few years, Yang stated that the characteristics of the activity totally match the definition of a “social movement”. The creation of the “9/9 Philanthropy Day” is a historic landmark, and Internet fundraising has changed the whole framework of fundraising. Yang pointed out that the development of a public product needs efforts from various sources, and it is urgent to encourage all related parties to formulate established rules for Internet fundraising.