Research from the Shanghai United Foundation, released last month, examines the status of giving circles in China and its impact on citizen philanthropy. The report is the first piece of research that seeks to understand the status of giving circles in China and its impact on citizen philanthropy.
Entitled ‘Research on how Giving Circle can be activated to promote citizen philanthropy in China’, the report is based on interviews and surveys of over 300 members from 20 giving circles. According to the report, giving circles emerged in China in 2013. The total amount of funds raised by the interviewed giving circles is over 13 million RMB (US$1.8 million).
Founded in 2009, the Shanghai United Foundation is the first independent public grant-making foundation in Shanghai. Inspired by the model of the United Way in the US, Shanghai United Foundation is also one of the few foundations in China that hosts donor-advised funds.
According to the report, giving circles in China all have these three things in common:
- Giving circles in China are built upon existing social groups or communities, instead of being built up from zero.
- Members of giving circles are not satisfied with just giving money, but are instead ‘seeking to have real social impact’.
- Members of giving circles prefer to donate to nonprofit organizations with strong expertise in the field.
The report also found that the group most engaged with giving circles in China is urban-based women between 32 to 52 years old. Most of them have received higher education and over half are entrepreneurs or senior leaders of corporations. And most members of giving circles contribute annually an amount between 1,000 and 4,999 RMB ($140-$700).
When it comes to motivation for establishing giving circles, the research found that more than half of founders said there was no specific topic or field at the beginning other than a desire to give back to society in a broad way. Related to this, the top reason for members joining giving circles is not a particular social issue, but that ‘they can trust the founder and the community’.
Over half of the interviewees have been actively involved in giving circles for over three years and show an intention to stay longer. They have also become more knowledgeable on social issues during their involvement.
Areas giving circles are focused on include education (65 per cent), health (30 per cent), poverty alleviation (25 per cent) and disaster relief (25 per cent).
The report concludes that the rise of giving circles in China can help nurture a giving culture by providing easier and more fun paths for citizens to give back to society. Giving circles are also a useful platform for donor education that can help attract new donors to join the movement.
The report is currently only available in Chinese.