Investing in the future of China’s emerging foundations


Birger Stamperdahl


Barnett Baron

With the implementation of the 2005 Regulations on Foundation Management, the Chinese government established regulations that enabled corporations and private individuals to create philanthropic foundations. As a result, China is now home to about 2,600 registered foundations – a number that grows by nearly 20 per cent each year, according to the China Foundation Center (CFC). While this growth is encouraging, it also comes with growing pains, as evidenced by widely reported scandals and questionable philanthropic practices that have led Chinese citizens to question the motives and lack of transparency of both government-sponsored and ‘private’ foundations.

The China Foundation Center, launched in January 2010 with funding from the Ford Foundation and several major Chinese foundations, seeks to address both the lack of transparency and the need for professionalization of Chinese foundations. Its mission is to establish an online information hub for China’s foundation sector; provide capacity-building services that advance development of the sector; promote the formation of a sector-wide mechanism for self-regulation to enhance accountability; and cultivate a healthy and transparent philanthropic culture. CFC continues to work closely with the Foundation Center in New York, although in the view of Foundation Center president Brad Smith, the CFC’s interactive online technology is now far ahead of the Foundation Center itself.

To enhance transparency in the foundation community, CFC recently launched a Foundation Transparency Index, which provides a weekly ranking of Chinese foundations on 60 indicators derived from publicly disclosed information about the foundation’s programmes, finances, and governance.

In support of CFC’s goal to strength professional capacity in China’s foundation sector, Give2Asia announced last week a grant to CFC of RMB 900,000 (about US$143,000) to launch a training programme for senior executives of Chinese foundations. Give2Asia’s grant is an initial investment towards addressing the gap in leadership and management that will continue to affect Chinese foundations for years to come. It will enable CFC to assemble a training team; develop a modular training curriculum on foundation missions, management, finances, and governance; and pilot test an 8-day training course for an initial 30-50 Chinese foundation leaders starting in mid-2013.

‘We have seen an ever-increasing gap between the supply and demand for qualified leaders and staff to manage China’s foundations,’ said Xu Yongguang, founding Chairman of the China Foundation Center. ‘For every 300 foundations that are newly established each year, perhaps three qualified individuals are available to take leadership positions.’ To help close this gap, CFC has proposed an ambitious plan to become an ‘incubator’ of professional leaders of Chinese foundations, proposing to train up to 1,500 individuals at the board, executive and staff levels over a five-year period. The plan is to develop MBA-like training modules built around case studies, group discussions, eLearning technologies, site visits and mentoring. The eventual outputs of the proposed programme will also include published course materials; an ongoing network of alumni to provide peer support; and a network of relevant government agencies, foundations, sponsors, NGOs and experts who are engaged in the training plan.
Give2Asia’s grant ‘is an initial investment to help ensure the long-term sustainability and professional management of these emerging institutions’, said Ta-lin Hsu, Give2Asia’s Board chairman.

Give2Asia celebrated its 10th anniversary on 2 October and was honoured to host Xu Yongguang of CFC as well as 14 other partners from countries across Asia. Over the past decade, Give2Asia has facilitated more than $200 million in donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations in the United States for charitable causes in Asia in the fields of education, health, livelihood, and disaster response. About a third of the total has gone to non-profit organizations in China.

Barnett F Baron is president and CEO, Give2Asia

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Tagged in: China Foundations Transparency

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