Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Charity in search of elusive glasnost

By Lisa Carducci (China Daily) Updated: 2011-07-05 07:53

At the end of last year, American billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett invited some Chinese tycoons to dinner to promote philanthropy in China. But in recent months, a series of scandals involving charity organizations have undermined public confidence in philanthropy.

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When I arrived in China in 1991, I heard of Project Hope, a branch of China Youth Development Foundation, which was one of the rare non-government organizations (NGOs) in the country then. Through Project Hope, I helped 14 children complete their primary school education. Most of the children were in the Inner Mongolia and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions, and the others in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

It is officially known that Project Hope takes 10 percent of the donations as administration fees. Later, that made me think: If I contact the families directly and enquire personally about their financial conditions, the entire amount I donate can be used fruitfully. That was how I started practicing charity independently.

Of late, the media and netizens have been criticizing a young wealthy girl named Guo Meimei for her blog, which discredited the Red Cross Society of China. Though she denied her claim later but found to be the girlfriend of a director of a commercial organization closely linked with the Red Cross, many people decided against donating money to the Red Cross again.

Guo's case reminds us of the a scandal in April in which members of a Shanghai branch of Red Cross ran up a dinner bill of more than 10,000 yuan.

During my long association with charity, I have seen that people, who for some reason don't donate to charity, often use such scandals as an excuse. No wonder, raising people's confidence in charity remains a serious problem.

In my country, Canada, about 80,000 charity organizations are registered with the revenue agency, and the largest part of donations goes to religious organizations, welfare, education, community service and health. The charities employ about 2 million people, discounting the volunteers. And registered charities account for 56 percent of incorporated nonprofit organizations and 63 percent of all revenues reported.

Why is that? The answer is: because they are authorized to issue receipts allowing donors to get tax exemptions on their income.

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