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Donations to charity plummeted to 49.5 billion yuan ($7.86 billion) in 2011, a decline of 17.7 percent year-on-year, according to an annual report released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Thursday.
The report mainly reflected donations in terms of money and materials to non-governmental organizations and civil affairs departments.
The report did not clarify the percentage of donations from the public and corporations.
The previous annual report showed that charitable donations in 2010 stood at 60.1 billion yuan.
Song Zonghe, head of the information office of the China Charity and Donation Information Center, an organization affiliated to the ministry, said the decline was partly due to the publicity of recent scandals concerning charity organizations.
Management flaws and lack of transparency at some well-known organizations, including the Red Cross Society of China, have dented the public's enthusiasm for charity, he said.
That no major disasters happened in 2011 is another reason for the decline in donations, he added.
Some NGOs harvested a dramatic increase in donations if they were seen to be transparent, said Wang Yiou, founder and director of China-Dolls, a Beijing-based NGO that aims to help those who suffer rare diseases.
"We received about 3 million yuan in donations in 2011. That's almost double from 2010," said Wang, who attributed the successful fundraising to fully accounting for all donations.
Donations to charity in the in the United States increased to $298.42 billion in 2011, a rise of 4 percent compared to 2010, said a report jointly released by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University on Tuesday.
The report said that donations by individuals rose to about $217.8 billion in 2011 and these contributions accounted for 73 percent of total donations.
"Donations in China and the US have different characteristics," said Deng Guosheng, a professor specializing in philanthropic studies at the School of Public Policy and Management with Beijing-based Tsinghua University.
"In China, people's willingness to give is 'disaster-driven' while in the US, donating is a habit."
He added that the Chinese philanthropic sector's over dependency on corporations could be another possible explanation to understand the dramatic changes in donations.
"Our research shows that companies, especially private companies, are dominant contributors. Last year, many export companies suffered from the global economic downturn, so they didn't have much money to donate," said Deng.
(China Daily 06/22/2012 page2)