Asian philanthropy has grown dramatically during the past decade, attracting considerable attention both within Asia and globally. Previously of interest primarily to a small number of advocates and researchers, the growing scale and the promise of Asian philanthropy have recently drawn the attention of major banks, private wealth advisers and business journals. Within just the past three months, for example, excellent reports on the state of philanthropy in Asia have been published by the Economist Intelligence Unit and UBS, while an invitation-only conference was organized for major philanthropists in the US by Credit Suisse.
Reflecting these trends, the Asia Pacific Philanthropy Consortium (APPC), a regional philanthropy research and advocacy organization based in Hong Kong, and Give2Asia, a San Francisco-based facilitator of charitable donations from the United States to non-profit causes and organizations in Asia, announced their merger earlier this week. Both organizations have long shared the goal of increasing the flow and effectiveness of philanthropic giving within and to Asia. APPC focused its efforts on developing philanthropic infrastructure within Asia, while Give2Asia has worked for the past decade to make charitable giving from the US easier, safer and more effective.
Established in December 1994 after a series of regional research conferences, APPC focused its research, conferencing and training on four core challenges facing the growth of philanthropy and the non-profit sector in Asia: improving the legal and regulatory environment; increasing public awareness and support for philanthropy and the non-profit sector; facilitating financial resource mobilization within and for Asia; and strengthening human resources for the development of philanthropic organizations. Its major accomplishments include the first comparative studies of the legal and regulatory framework governing the non-profit sector in 15 Asian countries, the first systematic survey of fundraising and charitable giving at the household level in seven Asian countries, organizing and supporting numerous study tours for Asian government and non-profit leaders, philanthropists and scholars; and sponsoring international conferences and dialogues on topics such as corporate community engagement, post-tsunami disaster relief and preparedness; and improving governance in the non-profit sector. APPC also sponsored fundraising and financial sustainability training in cooperation with Philippine Business for Social Responsibility (PBSP) and Venture for Fund Raising, a Manila-based non-profit consulting firm spun off from APPC.
Give2Asia is a philanthropic service organization that facilitates charitable giving to Asia by individuals, foundations and corporations in the US. Give2Asia offers donors unparalleled country-specific expertise on local needs and non-profit organizations (including community organizations, NGOs, universities, museums, health and medical facilities) throughout Asia, conducts in-depth due diligence, manages funds, and provides regular reports to donors. Since its creation in 2001, Give2Asia has distributed $177 million in grants to qualified Asian non-profit organizations and charitable causes. About 36% has been granted to organizations in China, 29% in India, 20% in Southeast Asia, 6% elsewhere in South Asia, and the balance in Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand. In terms of subject areas, 34% has gone to education, 27% to health care, 14% to disaster response, 10% to social welfare services, and 5% to environmental causes.
The merger of APPC and Give2Asia creates a new resource for donors in Asia and the US. APPC’s research and conference reports have been digitized and are available for free download at Give2Asia’s new website, http://www.asianphilanthropy.org. APPC was led by a board of directors consisting of some of Asia’s most expert and committed practitioners and advocates for philanthropy. Most of them will be part of Give2Asia’s new Asian Philanthropy Advisory Network (APAN), which will enable Give2Asia to offer even more in-depth advisory services, including understanding country contexts, legal frameworks, strategic planning and impact assessment to philanthropic donors whether they live in Asia or the US. Give2Asia will also be publishing regular reports on the state of philanthropy in specific Asian countries in the months and years ahead, with many of those reports written by members of APAN.
The growth and spread of philanthropy in Asia is amazing to behold, with so many philanthropists and innovative and effective non-profit organizations emerging across the region. Yet much work remains to be done to sustain these happy trends. Among the greatest needs are improving the legal and regulatory frameworks in some countries to make it easier for non-profits to obtain approved legal status; improving transparency and accountability among new Asian donor foundations and non-profit recipients; creating or increasing tax incentives for charitable giving by donors large and small; professionalizing the philanthropic field through training for CEOs, program officers, accountants, and even trustees; providing opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and to observe best practices elsewhere; and educating the media and the public to better understand the role of philanthropy in societies in which government has traditionally been expected to provide public goods and services. Unfortunately, the philanthropic sector still receives most attention only when spectacular acts occur, either in the form of unusual donor generosity or the scandalous behavior of a few non-profit organizations.
Give2Asia is a service organization focused primarily on assisting donors to realize their philanthropic agendas. We will continue to have that as our top priority, but in the years ahead, based in part on the pioneering work of APPC, we will also work with partners in Asia to build the capacity and effectiveness of the philanthropic sector itself. Over time, contributing to building strong, effective, well-managed and transparent non-profit organizations in Asia is the greatest service we can provide for our donors.
Barnett Baron is currently president and CEO of Give2Asia. He was founding chairman of APPC from 1994 to 2005; he was also a member of The Asia Foundation team that created Give2Asia in 2001.