Information and news about philanthropy

The Rise of Philanthropy in China
China has often been regarded as an “uncharitable” culture. Based on the numbers, there is a large gap between philanthropy in China and the U.S., with only
.17 percent of China’s total GDP in 2014 contributed to philanthropy compared to that of the U.S.’s 12 percent of its total GDP. However, the rise of philanthropy in China cannot be ignored as the country is going through a “Philanthropy Evolution.”

Through traditions like Confucianism, philanthropy is not a nonexistent concept in China. Throughout the text of Confucianism’s “The Analects,” the concept of philanthropy prevails, often enforcing the idea that man should give to people who are less fortunate. During Communist China, philanthropy soon became a concept for only the wealthy.

Why China is Regarded as Uncharitable

Corruption often strays many people away from donating. Prior to 2011, many organizations and charities in China functioned in a quasi-legal environment. Enforcement was often categorized as “unpredictable and inconsistent.”

An important and well-known case is the Red Cross Society incident in 2011 in which a woman who held a senior position soon began flashing new and luxurious items. According to the New York Times, “[the scandal] struck a serious blow to China’s nascent notions of philanthropy, especially efforts guided by the government.”

The rate of development of a country may, in fact, have a correlation to the country’s overall philanthropic activities. Western countries such as the U.S. were able to create and maintain wealth for a much longer period of time as they developed. This was not the same for China.

If one looks at philanthropy in regard to wealthy entrepreneurs and their contributions, “[China has only] sustained real economic power for just over 10 years; therefore, Chinese enterprises are still in the stage of creating wealth.” Not only are Chinese enterprises still in this stage of creating wealth, but before the last decade, charity remained “a state-controlled process focused almost solely on Communist party priorities.”

Change in Philanthropy

The rise of philanthropy in China can be credited to the efforts of the country. For example, the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China passed a New Charity Law that took effect on September 1, 2016. Key areas of interest comprised in this new charity law include registration as a charitable organization, new rules for fundraising platforms, new rules for fundraising organizations, the establishment of charitable trusts and law enforcement. The New Charity Law, in fact, makes it easier to raise funds from the general public.

With legal modifications, the internet has made donating funds and supporting charitable organizations much easier for the public. Philanthropy leaders in China understood quickly that social media had a huge impact and began using it to promote a nonprofit sector that was able to link news-related social issues to social media users across China.

With a couple taps on sites such as Tencent Online Donation platform, Sina Micro-Philanthropy Platform and Alipay E-Philanthropy Platform, ordinary people are able to donate money to different charities with ease. According to the China Online Donations Report, “the total online donations through third-party social network donation platforms surpassed $83 million in 2013.” Similarly, in 2013, the Jet Li foundation raised over $49 million in donations through social media for the victims of the Lushan Earthquake.

Continuing the Rise of Philanthropy in China

Many organizations are working to keep propelling philanthropic efforts forward. For instance, The Asia Foundation reports that “Give2Asia hosted a forum in Beijing, which brought together over 60 leaders from different sectors of philanthropy, government and business to discuss the current state of charitable giving in China, and new directions and opportunities for philanthropists in the future.” The forum discussed that funds had risen by ¥97 million after the earthquake and that there was an increase of about 100 million volunteers through China.

Furthermore, in order to change the philanthropic sector, and to fill the gap between China’s philanthropic activities and other countries, the government, charities and people must work together. Yet, with China’s legal modifications, a rise of philanthropists and a change in the general public’s mindset, the future of philanthropy is looking bright in China.

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

SheaMoisture's philanthropic efforts in Africa
As brands in the U.S. continue to see the importance of fair trade and ethically-conscious practices in business, many have also developed philanthropic initiatives. SheaMoisture’s philanthropic efforts in Africa have helped thousands of economically disadvantaged women and children gain resources to educational and entrepreneurial resources.

The hair and skin care brand was established under Sundial Brands, which was founded by Richelieu Dennis in 1991. Since then, SheaMoisture acquired an estimated $300 million in revenue before it was sold to Unilever in 2017.

SheaMoisture’s Philanthropic Efforts in Africa

Nations that have benefitted from SheaMoisture’s philanthropic efforts in Africa include Ghana and Liberia. In these two countries, women face cultural oppression in the areas of education and entrepreneurship.

In a report published by the U.N., it was stated that women in Ghana are more vulnerable to poverty than men due to gender discrimination and increasingly difficult access to productive resources. This has also led to women facing greater challenges with obtaining a post-primary education.

Women in Liberia face economic challenges due to a poor governance structure and low private sector capacity that has resulted in a weak business environment within the nation. Furthermore, Liberia’s labor force lacks many skilled and literate people, which has resulted in lingering business corruption.

Over the years, SheaMoisture’s philanthropic efforts in Africa have included initiatives such as Community Commerce, the Girls Entrepreneurship and Technology (GET) Program and the Sofi Tucker Foundation.

Community Commerce

SheaMoisture established a special line of products under their Community Commerce initiative, where 10 percent of sales support women in Ghana, among other nations. This venture has been a success because it has brought economic opportunities to women threatened by poverty and educational disadvantages.

Over time, Community Commerce has invested an estimated $2.1 million in its programs, which have brought needed resources to an estimated 14,500 Ghanaian women. The company, in turn, has been able to meet its product demand, with an estimated 420,000 kilos of shea butter having been produced by women who are beneficiaries of Community Commerce.

The GET Program for Students

Another initiative SheaMoisture has established is the GET Program, which was established in partnership with SMART Liberia. The program provides women between the ages of 18 to 35 the opportunities to start their own businesses by giving them resources like training and business investments.

In its inaugural year in 2016, the program selected 50 young women in Liberia to participate, several of whom have gone on to start and manage their own businesses.

The Sofi Tucker Foundation

Another philanthropic initiative established by the company is the Sofi Tucker Foundation, which was named after the woman who inspired the SheaMoisture brand.

The organization has awarded other non-profits with grants up to $25,000 to continue philanthropy work. One organization that has benefitted from these efforts is Todee Mission School in Liberia, which provides quality educational resources to children from first grade to ninth grade from 140 villages in rural Liberia.

As of now, thousands of people initially threatened by poverty have been able to establish stronger financial and educational platforms for their futures. This is due to SheaMoisture’s philanthropic efforts in Africa and the ongoing efforts brands have made over the years to combat poverty in nations with fragile economies.

– Lois Charm

Photo: Flickr

gamification of philanthropy While the internet has brought dramatic change to the ways people live their daily lives, it has also opened many doors for businesses to fulfill their corporate social responsibility. Alipay’s in-app game program “Ant Farm” is an excellent example of successful gamification of philanthropy by businesses.

Alipay, China’s largest third-party online payment platform, has reshaped the landscape of payment services in China for the last decade. At present, Alipay has a user base of 520 million people, handles more than 170 million transactions per day and accounts for more than two-thirds of mobile payments in China.

Credit card use only has about 400 million patrons. Alipay rules China’s mobile payment market with absolute authority. A Forbes article claims that “cash really is becoming a thing of the past” because a “smartphone (with Alipay) will do nicely”.

Such immense popularity of the platform opened the door to the utilization of its unprecedented user-engagement for social good. Ant Farm came into being, representing the balance between marketing strategy and fulfillment of social responsibility.

Ant Farm is a pre-installed online game program inside the Alipay mobile phone application, in which users keep a virtual chicken as a pet. Through daily payments via Alipay users can feed their chicken and collect hearts to be donated to charity projects.

The parent company of Alipay and Ant Farm, Ant Financial, is working closely with governmental offices like Jiangsu Sihong Poverty Alleviation Office and more than 1,200 charity organizations. According its 2016 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, Ant Financial’s philanthropy platform has raised more than $140 million for the services provided to its partner nonprofits.

On top of the basic construct, developers have added many interactive mechanisms to boost Ant Farm’s participation. For example, playing with the pet chicken can also generate hearts and users can interact with their friends’ farms. Eventually, more and more users are engaged, funding more and more philanthropic projects.

Ant Farm is a successful model of the gamification of philanthropy, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to take part in charity projects, which is much more efficient and larger in scale than traditional models of philanthropic fundraising like donation boxes. In addition, by implementing the basic elements of an online game, Ant Farm has more charm than other heavy-hearted fundraising strategies.

Other companies have also engaged in social projects through gamification of philanthropy. Tencent, one of China’s internet and technology giants, has also cooperated with nonprofits working to provide education for left-behind children in impoverished regions by creating donation venues in its online games. In certain Tencent games, users can donate their equipment in exchange for reward or recognition.

Tencent Foundation chairman Guo Kaitian believes that with the help of online platforms like Ant Farm, “charity is now everywhere around us, and it is now the life attitude with innovation and participation”.

– Chaorong Wang
Photo: Flickr

AT&T philanthropy
In 1876, AT&T founder Alexander Graham Bell developed one of the most significant devices ever invented, the telephone. In 1947, AT&T created the concept of cellular telephony, and in 1948 they built the first network service that allowed television broadcasters to connect between cities. In 1971, AT&T produced Unix, the underlying language of the internet.

In addition to its technical advancements, for AT&T philanthropy has become one of its core missions, beginning in the early days with the goal to provide telephone access to every household in the United States. Eventually, that core focus evolved as AT&T transitioned from a telephone company to a wireless technology company firmly committed to the potential for technological advances that connected the world.

In its drive for global interconnectivity, AT&T has donated $139.3 million to philanthropic efforts around the globe. Their programs are divided into several focus areas, including art and culture, civic and community, health and welfare, as well as education.

In Malaysia, AT&T partnered with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to host an annual developers’ day in Kuala Lumpur. The event opened opportunities for young entrepreneurs in Asia to compete by producing mobile applications.

AT&T philanthropy efforts provided the networking infrastructure and educational resources that made the event a success. The winners of the competition received $10,000. Additionally, AT&T provided five scholarships to Udacity for an online degree in the technology field.

In Mexico, AT&T funds a project called “Laboratoria”. This organization discovers talented women and helps them learn the skills they need to be successful in the business world, including teaching them web development and programming. The curriculum is comprehensive and connects graduates with companies that will likely hire them, including AT&T.

Other charities that AT&T is involved with include TECHO, a youth-led nonprofit focused on poverty-stricken areas in Latin America and the Carribean. AT&T’s funding of TECHO supports the building of pre-manufactured modular homes, made in two days with the participation of youth volunteers and families in the community. The collaborative aspects of TECHO’s approach help to further build trust amongst the volunteers and the communities they serve.

In 2016, AT&T philanthropy efforts granted $1.35 million to Télécoms Sans Frontières. Headquartered in Europe with sister stations in Bangkok and Nicaragua, they provide emergency telco service and support to first responders, victims and volunteers who are affected by natural disasters.

AT&T also supports Junior Achievement worldwide in Europe and Latin America, which awards students access to work experience program,s granting scholars the ability to join entrepreneurial programs that empower them to learn how to create their enterprise.

Uniquely, AT&T’s philanthropy efforts do not merely fund free giveaways. They have curated their philanthropy to focus on significant long-term solutions offering education and job readiness courses.

AT&T’s mission statement says, “Today, our mission is to connect people with their world, everywhere they live and work, and do it better than anyone else.” The firm belief of connecting everyone everywhere has enabled AT&T to support causes that cover every continent on the globe.

– Hector Cruz

Photo: Flickr

Philanthropists in American Professional SportsThere are many American athletes who are not only known for their athletic abilities but also their philanthropic efforts. Here are four of the most impactful:

Roger Federer
Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017, Roger Federer has seen a career in professional tennis filled with success. His remarkable performance on the court was closely rivaled by his humanitarian efforts over the years. The Roger Federer Foundation works in six countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in Switzerland, to improve struggling educational systems. In 2016, the foundation spent over $6 million to improve access to and quality of early education for impoverished children. Federer serves as a shining example of how charity and sports can successfully go hand-in-hand.

Madieu Williams
Madieu Williams is a former NFL safety who played for multiple teams, including the Cincinnati Bengals and the Minnesota Vikings. Williams grew up in Sierra Leone in West Africa and moved to the U.S. when he was nine years old. He created the Madieu Williams Foundation in 2006 and returns to Sierra Leone every year to help improve education and build schools. The Madieu Williams Foundation also focuses on improving the health of children living in poverty in both Sierra Leone and in the U.S. Williams has also donated $2 million to build the Madieu Williams Center for Global Health Initiatives at the University of Maryland.

Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-scoring foreign-born basketball player in NBA history. Born in Germany, Nowitzki came to America to play professional basketball as a young adult and has since been named an all-star 13 times. Nowitzki was the first European player to play in an NBA all-star game in 2007, and as his career took off, so did his philanthropic efforts. In 2013, Nowitzki was named the German ambassador for UNICEF, with a focus on eliminating child hunger and malnutrition around the world. He also started the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, which works to fight poverty and hunger in Africa.

David Ortiz
Born in the Dominican Republic, David Ortiz came to America and saw a long, prosperous baseball career, winning two World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox. One of the greatest to play the game of baseball, Ortiz is also one of the most dedicated philanthropists in American professional sports. Ortiz has always prioritized improving the quality of – and the ease of access to – healthcare for children. The David Ortiz Children’s Fund works in the Dominican Republic and in the U.S. and has a focus on providing adequate healthcare to impoverished children with congenital heart defects.

Regardless of team affiliation, these athletes are using their fame and their platforms to make a real and tangible difference in the fight against global poverty. In addition to these efforts, the awareness they raise surrounding these issues has surely inspired – and will continue to inspire – others to contribute to the fight against poverty and make a difference.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

Forever 21 gives back to those in need, having carried products over the years in aid of a number of organizations. Purchases from the popular retailer have contributed to the donation of $11.5 million worth of merchandise throughout 2016 to global charities such as Soles4Souls, On Your Feet and the Feed Project.

Soles4Souls is a nonprofit that collects and distributes shoes and clothing to disadvantaged communities in 127 countries around the world and throughout the U.S. As a part of its partnership with Forever 21, Soles4Souls has donated more than 800,000 units of clothing. Initially founded as a disaster relief organization, Soles4Souls provided footwear to those affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

In many developing nations where walking is the primary mode of transportation, millions of people lack proper footwear to get around, and as a result, are exposed to unsanitary conditions that can lead to disease. These conditions contribute to the ongoing cycle of poverty, and the vision of Soles4Souls is to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, and its efforts to provide a new pair of shoes to each child in need help work toward that goal.

Forever 21 gives back through its collaboration with the On Your Feet Family Resource Center, which provides assistance to low-income or homeless families and individuals, shelters, missions, board and care facilities and other organizations. Forever 21 has provided nearly 700,000 units worth of clothing donations, which have reached victims of natural disasters in Nepal, Chile, Bohol and Haiti.

FEED was founded by Lauren Bush in 2007 and has transformed into a movement fighting against hunger in a tangible way. FEED creates handcrafted products, such as bags, pouches and bracelets, using eco-friendly materials and fair labor. Giving these products raises aid that is ultimately delivered in the form of school meals, micronutrients, mother-child nutrition, Vitamin A and emergency relief. Together, Forever 21 and FEED have provided more than 71,000 meals.

While designing and keeping up with the latest trends for consumers, it is also evident that Forever 21 gives back to vulnerable communities. By establishing alliances with such charitable organizations, great numbers of people in underprivileged areas have received the assistance needed to ease their poverty and hunger and move toward prosperity.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Howard Buffet

Farmer and philanthropist, Howard Buffet, made it his mission in life to help end global hunger. He was recently interviewed by PBS on his current work in Africa helping farmers to generate sustainable agricultural solutions.

Buffet told PBS that his foundation, The Howard G. Buffet Foundation, invests in global food security while currently working on a few different projects. Primarily, they are building three hydro plants in the Eastern Congo. Hydro plants produce impressive amounts of electricity for communities.

Harvard University professor, Juma Calestous, told PBS news how the willingness Buffet shows to go hands-on and visit the Democratic Republic of Congo has brought him respect across the continent.

“The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an area where not many donors are interested in operating,” Calestous said in a PBS news video. “He’s taking very high risks in going to those areas.”

Howard Buffet said in the video that areas of conflict, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, are where impoverished people need the most help because they have devastated infrastructure and no governance. However, his other project is taking place in the peaceful nation of Rwanda, focused on training young Rwandan farmers.

“I also think we [the U.S.] have a huge responsibility internationally, because we are a leader,” Buffet said in a PBS news video. “And we need to maintain that leadership.”

Buffet’s work in Africa is critical because although the continent has vast agricultural potential, its per capita food production has drastically declined. The Howard G. Buffet Foundation seeks to invest where others have not and it fills critical gaps that lead to sustainable change.

“We’re not going to end world hunger,” Howard Buffet said in the PBS video. “But, you know, I think every step we can take in that direction is something positive.”

Kerri Whelan

Photo: Flickr

Malaria Research

According to the Gates Foundation, malaria continues to be a major health concern in almost 100 countries, infecting 207 million people and killing 627,000 individuals in 2012 alone. Despite an increase in malaria funding over the past several years, challenges remain in completely eradicating this disease.

However, fighting malaria is one of the Foundation’s main missions and the organization has contributed $2 billion to the cause to date. Notably, the Gates Foundation launched a multi-year strategy known as Accelerate to Zero in 2013 that focuses on making new partnerships for more efficient, affordable drugs.

In addition, this past April, the organization offered the biotechnology innovations firm Amyris an additional $5 million, in the form of a stock buyback, for its malaria research project.

Amyris is a biotechnology innovation firm whose partnership with the Gates Foundation spans roughly ten years. Replacing the relatively expensive and time-consuming method of directly extracting artemisinin from the Chinese Sweet Wormwood plant, Amyris created a new strain of Baker’s yeast microbes that produce artemisinic acid. According to the firm, the result is a “precursor of artemisinin, an effective anti-malarial drug.”

With malaria research grants from the Gates Foundation and partnership with the Institute for OneWorld Health and the University of California, Berkley, the organization has since distributed the microbes to Sanofi for mass manufacture.

In 2015, the company was awarded the United Nations Global Citizen Award for this continued effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

Amyris is also expected to develop faster, cheaper methods of manufacturing pharmaceuticals that otherwise require elaborate processes for extraction.

This year’s renewed grant will ensure the application of this technology and the actual reduced cost of malaria medicine.

According to John Melo, the CEO of Amyris, the firm’s goal is the complete eradication of malaria through low-cost and sustainable cures. He further stressed the importance of future cooperation between private and public sectors in battling other epidemics.

Haena Chu

Photo: Flickr

Silicon Valley Community Foundation

SVCF’s mission is to channel the excess wealth flooding Silicon Valley into worthy, charitable causes around the world. One of the systems SVCF uses as a means of helping nonprofits all around the world is Donor Circles.

Each circle has its own focus or philanthropic cause. Currently, the Donor Circles include Donor Circle for the Environment, Donor Circle of the Arts, Donor Circle for Africa and Donor Circle for Safety Net.

Each Donor Circle consists of individuals interested specifically in the circle’s cause who wish to fund nonprofits in the given field that are in need of support.

For example, the Donor Circle for Africa “works with nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs in Africa whose projects demonstrate sustainable and affordable solutions for essential needs.” Since 2012, this Donor Circle has given out over $50,000-worth of grants.

For example, the Donor Circle for Africa “works with nonprofit groups and entrepreneurs in Africa whose projects demonstrate sustainable and affordable solutions for essential needs.” Since 2012, this Donor Circle has given out over $50,000-worth of grants.

Aside from these Donor Circles, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation also gives grants and scholarships to individuals.

On an individual level, two of the issues SVCF specializes in are immigration and education.

In a brief describing the work they do for immigrants in Silicon Valley, SVCF acknowledges a pervasive obstacle in immigrants’ successful assimilation: lack of access to educational resources and aid. The organization attributes immigrants’ difficulties in finding work to an “insufficient number of effective English-language learning, job training and legal services.”

In a San Francisco Chronicle article about SVCF, two recipients of Silicon Valley Community Foundation grants recount some of the challenges they faced as new immigrants. Ramon Alvarez, a 28-year-old Mexican-born immigrant, says that he used to fear interactions with native English speakers, but with the help of SVCF, now he will “talk to anyone.”

In a community with booming affluence, an organization like the Silicon Valley Community Foundation stands as a crucial mobilizer for the many causes that truly deserve the world’s attention.

Liz Pudel

Sources: SVCF 1, SVCF 2, SVCF 3, SVCF 4, San Francisco Chronicles

Photo: Wikimedia Commons,

Global Innovation Fund
A new investment firm called the Global Innovation Fund recently announced its first round of grants and equity investments, reports Devex, a media platform for the global development community.

In the evaluation of potential investments, says Devex, the London-based Fund focuses primarily on the projected impact on the world’s poorest. It professes a strong adherence to evidence-based programming, valuing concrete plans and results over the implausible.

The inception of the Fund, launched in December 2014, marks an increasingly popular trend of private sector firms experimenting with new business models geared toward development and poverty alleviation in underprivileged places around the world.

USAID describes the Fund’s business strategy as “a venture capital-like approach to investing in a wide range of social innovations, drawing on the success of the industry to discover and support innovative ventures that have the potential to scale across the developing world.”

This strategy bears similarities to a number of new experimental business models, such as social entrepreneurship and impact investment, which are reshaping the way the private sector and development communities think about the developing world.

According to USAID, the Fund is currently seeking innovative ideas that will both spur development and turn a profit “from a wide range of potential partners, including social enterprises for-profit firms, researchers, government agencies, non-profit organizations and others.”

Collaboration, in other words, is the new name of the game.

The Fund’s website lists numerous examples of the work they have done and the kinds of ideas they are interested in.

PoaPower, for instance, is a social enterprise designed to supply low-income consumers in off-grid Kenya with clean and affordable electricity using a pay-as-you-go system. PoaPower’s £150,000 loan from the Global Innovation Fund will support the development of this unique model, with which it aims to serve 100 to 200 households in the Mount Kenya area.

The Fund seems to show a preference for ideas that have not only positive effects for economics or finance, but also health and safety. Large-scale health problems and poverty often correlate.

On its website, the Fund announced it provided a £160,000 grant to SafeBoda, a Ugandan company that aims to curb an epidemic of road accidents by instituting an Uber-like system of safe motorbike taxis and encouraging the use of helmets.

If successful, such a venture would not only save lives, but save money for the country. According to the Global Innovation Fund’s website, over “60 percent of the surgical budget at the main Kampala hospital is spent on treating motorbike crash injuries.”

Among the Fund’s investments in medical and food security programs is Valid Nutrition, which aims to distribute a paste based on locally grown ingredients that could reduce widespread acute malnutrition. The Newborn Foundation is another organization which aims to supply poor areas with low-cost pulse oximeters that can improve the detection of neonatal infection and reduce infant mortality by an estimated 25 to 30 percent.

All of these ideas are said to be cost-effective and scalable. Most importantly, the Global Innovation Fund affirms they will “improve the lives and opportunities of millions of people around the world.”

Joe D’Amore

Sources: Devex, Global Innovation Fund, USAID
Photo: Flickr