Internet Philanthropy and a New Generation of Giving in China


In recent years, the concept of philanthropy has taken on a new meaning in China, largely due to the rise of the internet and major social media and e-commerce companies. The innovative approach to giving that has been developed has made it easier than ever for people to donate money and resources to charitable causes, helped transform the philanthropic landscape in the country, and revolutionized the way Chinese people think about giving and the impact they can have. have in the world.

I have been researching philanthropy and public welfare in both the West and China for over a decade, and have seen how philanthropy in the two regions has developed in different ways. These changes, amplified by giving demographics and user habits, have contributed to a new model of digital philanthropy in China, with unique features such as (a) mass engagement, (b) an integration of online and offline practices, and (c) a commitment to traditional cultural values.

Mass involvement evidenced by the inclusion and encouragement of a wide range of citizens to participate in China’s decentralized philanthropic sector. In total more than 120 million internet users donated through online fundraising platforms in 2021. Tencent’s 99th Giving Day alone sparked a massive fundraising campaign in China attracted 58 million donors, thousands of institutions and 10,000 companies. And as of February 28, 2023, public welfare platform Tencent has accumulated more than USD 3.25 billion (CNY 22.8 billion) in donations, and more than 717 million people have participated in total.

Other examples of public welfare platforms and activities initiated by internet companies include “Donate Together” launched by Ali Charity where 25 public welfare organizations raised money on Taobao, motivating 500 million netizens to donate; Sina Charity, who has supported more than 25,000 projects with donations from 40 million users over 10 years; And JD Foundation has received a total of CNY 85 million in donations in 2022.

Compared to global counterparts, philanthropy in China attracts younger givers. A report published by the United Nations Development Program in 2016 indicated that most online donors in China are young people living along the east coast. Donors in the West, on the other hand, are typically high net worth individuals, followed by foundations and then corporate endowments. In the UK, people aged 65 to 74 were the most likely age group to give to charity in England and Wales in 2022.

The integration of online and offline practice is the second feature of the emerging Chinese model. For example, Tencent hosts a China Internet Public Welfare Summit every year where online and offline efforts meet. And Alibaba’s 95 Philanthropic Week has also mobilized 220 million people to participate in rural education, childcare, elder care and women’s employment in 2021, in addition to online donations alone.

Last but not least is the commitment to and promotion of traditional Chinese cultural values that emphasize benevolence and sustainability. Philanthropic ideas have been around since ancient China thanks to the values ​​and beliefs of Confucianism (Rén “Benevolence”), Taoism, and Buddhism. Thus, the current growth of Internet philanthropy is both a continuation and renewal of old cultural values. The Chinese government also supports this trend. For example, the “National Plan for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” indicates that internet philanthropy will increasingly become available to the state to raise funds to achieve goals and also to increase citizen engagement in sustainable increase development projects.

The development of internet philanthropy in China demonstrates the benefits of using technology platforms to attract a new generation of givers, as the easy-to-navigate designs of online giving platforms lower the entry barrier and interactive and fun features keep users paste and give online close to people’s daily life. They also create new bridges between stakeholders and reduce the distance between donors and specific projects. Finally, these platforms can also provide more transparency and build more trust. For example, the increasing use of blockchain technology ensures proper use of each donation. Overall, there is much for the rest of the world to learn from this new philanthropic model.