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Key Findings and Recommendations

This section summarizes major findings and offers recommendations for philanthropists, organizations, and policymakers.

Key Findings

Dramatic Growth in Organized Philanthropy

Among both Chinese and Chinese Americans, philanthropy is growing dramatically. According to the China Foundation Center, the number of foundations in China grew 430% between 2006 and 2016 and stood at 5,545 in 2016. Giving neared USD 16.7 billion (RMB 101.9 billion)* in 2014. In the United States, there were nearly 1,300 Chinese American foundations in 2014, a figure that has grown 418% since 2000.

Major Contributions Having an Impact

Over the past decade, major contributions by Chinese philanthropists have focused on disaster relief and improving access to education. For example, the 2008 Sichuan earthquake inspired numerous Chinese philanthropists to organize rapidly in an effort to bring attention to and aid victims of disaster. In the United States, large gifts (USD 1 million or RMB 6.1 million or more) by Chinese American donors reached USD 492 million (RMB 3 billion) in 2014. Major contributions from Chinese Americans have widened access to higher education, advanced innovations in health research and science, and supported arts and culture.

Alignment of Interests

Chinese and Chinese Americans give to similar causes, including higher education, health, and the environment. Education ranks as the most popular cause among both Chinese and Chinese American philanthropists, and some of the most notable gifts have been to colleges and universities. Efforts to promote greater bilateral collaboration can build on alignment of interests.

Growing Bilateral Communication and Exchange

As philanthropic institutions in China and the United States evolve, philanthropists in both countries are beginning to seek ways to connect and share lessons. Some Chinese and Chinese American donors have begun exchanges, highlighting opportunities for philanthropists to develop organizational structures and practices to sustain their giving and maximize impact. Regional and interest area networks such as the Committee of 100, Center for Asian Philanthropy and Society, and The Nature Conservancy can facilitate giving and further sector development. Strategies to engage donors preferring to remain anonymous are needed.

Varied Level of Engagement With Government

There are differences in how philanthropists engage government agencies that both sides should understand. Among Chinese philanthropists, collaborative efforts with government agencies are common, especially to provide disaster relief, alleviate poverty, and advance education. In the United States, partnerships with government entities are highlighted less frequently, with only a few philanthropists engaging in policy education activities.

Policy Changes to Stimulate Philanthropy in China

Tax policies and other regulations that govern philanthropy in China are evolving and have the potential to significantly increase giving. The new 2016 Charity Law eases the registration of foundations, incentivizes giving, and facilitates the establishment of charitable trusts. Implementation and local interpretation of the law will determine its impact.

Potential for Further Growth and Greater Impact

Despite considerable growth in both Chinese and Chinese American philanthropy, there is potential for greater and more strategic giving. Among Chinese philanthropists, impact was hindered by the lack of professional staff, policies, and structures to facilitate giving, and the limited capacity of recipients. The growth of Chinese American foundations and giving amounts are likely to continue, outpacing overall U.S. trends.


For Philanthropists

Engage in thoughtful consideration about the factors that motivate their giving, such as sector interests, affiliation, pragmatism, and impact. Religious and familial reasons should also be considered. Clarifying values can assist in identifying appropriate giving strategies, organizational structures, and partnerships.

Consider social impact as a lens through which partnerships with other philanthropists, including Chinese and Chinese Americans, can be formed. Sharing common goals in key sectors, such as higher education or environment and conservation, can drive prioritization of partnerships as well as creation of opportunities to learn.

For Sector Professionals

Understand that philanthropists embrace various motivations for giving and that appropriate organizational structures and funding strategies may vary depending on philanthropists’ purposes for giving. Philanthropists who prioritize social impact may need assistance with strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation, and strategic communications.

Facilitate the development of learning communities and professional networks, where funding strategies are considered in their country, policy, and cultural context. Identify and use resources that reflect best practices or that encourage transparent sharing and learning. Partner with and enhance emerging U.S.-China donor exchanges.

For Community-Based Organizations

Develop more effective communication with philanthropists aimed at better conveying the urgency of supporting community-based organizations, including those serving Chinese American communities. Understand the motivations and desired impact of donors and ensure alignment between donor interests and partner mission and capacities.

Recognize the potential growth of Chinese and Chinese American donors and explore opportunities to develop projects that are of mutual interest among Chinese and Chinese Americans, especially in higher education, health, and the environment.

For Policy Makers

Continue to develop policies that facilitate giving and that encourage accountability. In China, ensure that new laws ease registration, incentivize the establishment of foundations using noncash instruments, allow for administrative costs, and streamline reporting for accountability.

Government agencies and philanthropic partners should seek mutually beneficial and constructive ways to work together while honoring the distinct roles each plays in society. Highlight effective models of collaboration and encourage a focus on social impact.

Support data collection and reporting that advances transparency, accountability, and confidence in the sector.

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