The state of Asian philanthropy

Mark Sidel

Despite the title of this article, can there be said to be a ‘state’ of Asian philanthropy? One of the sector’s most obvious traits is its diversity but some trends and issues seem discernibly common.

In an article in Alliance last year, Andrew Milner found a European philanthropy sector which was dynamic and quoted from a study by the Observatoire de la Fondation de France that ‘new ways of giving…are changing the philanthropic landscape’. Can the same be said about a region as diverse as Asia? Is the landscape for philanthropy dynamic and vibrant? Are new ways of giving changing it? What are the trends in philanthropy, and the obstacles to its growth? And, if change is happening, how is government reacting to it, through policy and regulation?

Even attempting to discuss such questions in a short article is a daunting task, especially in a region as large and diverse as the more than forty countries of Asia and the Pacific. Milner noted in his article the impossibility of doing justice to all the variants and issues in philanthropy in Europe, and of course that’s even more the case for Asia. And there are many other obstacles as well: any such attempt to summarise the state of philanthropy runs across problems in finding reliable data; difficulties in comparing across countries, sub-regions and philanthropic cultures; and a host of other data and research issues that are perhaps even more difficult in Asia than in Europe.

Charitable giving in Asia

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