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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

How Social Media Can Help Beat China’s Altruism Crisis

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

According to government reports there are over half a million-registered local nonprofits and around 1,000 non-government organizations in China. Starting and maintaining nonprofit organizations remains difficult, especially for foreigners. Regulations prevent foreign organizations from registering as nonprofits or hiring people in China. This led to a large number of organizations either registering as for-profit companies or failing to register at all.

Along with the government restrictions, nonprofit organizations have long faced criticism from Chinese citizens. People distrust large philanthropic organizations due to a history of scandals that exposed faulty allocation of funds. This is shown in the recent debate over Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to sell the majority of his facebook shares to start a charity fund. Social media showed the Chinese community split over whether Zuckerberg truly did this as a good deed or if he was simply trying to get a tax break.

The transparency that social media gives people is one way that non-profit organizations are working to gain back the trust of individual donors. Traditionally these organizations raised donations mainly from corporations both foreign and local, but recently there has been a rise in individual donations. With the rise in social media and mobile usage, nonprofit organization’s outreach to these donors is greater than ever. In the past year the number of mobile social users has increased 15%, a total of 574 million users.

Knowing the opportunity that lay ahead many of these social media companies created platforms specifically for philanthropic efforts. Some examples of this are Tencent Online Donation Platform, Sina Micro-Philanthropy Platform, Alipay E-Philanthropy Platform, and the WeChat donation function. These platforms have had great success as is seen through Sina Micro-Philanthropy Platform. In less than two years they gained more than 2 million donors and 9,500 charities.  However, nonprofits need to do more than be included in a list on one of these platforms. They have turned to social media outlets such as WeChat, Weibo, and Youku to advertise their causes to the masses. These platforms allow organizations to reach vast amounts of users. Utilizing their payment functions users can donate easily and immediately after seeing the nonprofit’s campaign. The reach to users can be further increased through the use of KOLs or key opinion leaders who have a large number of followers.

A prime example of social media utilization in fundraising is the “Free Lunch for Children” project founded by the Chinese journalist Deng Fei. Deng asked for support for his project from his followers on Weibo and was amazed by the response. In 8 months, he raised a total of 4 million dollars to feed the children. With this money he was able to give free lunches to 25,000 children in 162 different schools. After seeing the response to his project Deng began to reach out to authorities, asking for government aid to help these schools. The Chinese government responded, stated that it would now fund nutritional support for 26 million children in the poorest rural areas.

Through social media outlets, Deng was able to gain support. Through this support, he was able to pressure towards change. And through this change, he was able to help millions of children live a better quality of life.  Reaching out to the community through social media outlets was the key to Deng’s successful campaign. Not only can it be extremely effective, it can save money on marketing that should be going towards the cause. There are thousands of NGOs throughout China, it is up to them to take of Deng’s efforts and follow his example to find their own success.

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