On September 20-21, Philanthropy for Better Cities Forum was held in Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center.
Lei Yongsheng, Director General of our Foundation, attended the forum upon invitation and conducted round table dialogue centering “China’s Philanthropy: Will a new paradigm for philanthropy emerge?” with industry leaders including Xu Yongguang, Director General of Narada Foundation, Wang Ming, Dean of the Institute for Philanthropy Tsinghua University, and Jin Jinping, Associate Professor of Peking University.
Director General Lei first introduced Lao Niu Foundation with one sentence: Mr. Niu Gensheng established “Mengniu” in 1999; after the listing of Mengniu in 2004, he and his family donated all of the shares and most of the dividends of Mengniu Dairy to establish Lao Niu Foundation.
Later, Director General Lei elaborated his understanding for the fundamentals of philanthropy at present: as a “physical/specific” foundation, we care more about the overall industrial environment for the survival and development of institutions and pay more attention to three issues.
1．The “polarization” in terms of the perception of philanthropy: (1) the cutting-edge innovation of the industry is developing too fast with too many new modes and new terms such as social enterprise, social impact investment, venture philanthropy, social finance and crowd funding, making it difficult for the general public to keep up; (2) there are too many activities like informal discussion, forum, workshop, communication, selection, ranking list and prize presentation, which have brought down the enthusiasm of grassroots organizations.
2．Weak foundation of the industry: whether it’s the number of institutions and personnel, or the total amount of social donation and per capita donation, we don’t have any advantage over those in the developed countries. Ordinary philanthropic organizations are having difficulty in surviving.
3．The atmosphere of philanthropic culture is not strong enough: (1) the philanthropic culture in China “has a long history”; however, there is certain extent of “fault” for a while and we need to “string together” the broken philanthropic culture. (2) various kinds of publicity should objectively highlight the function of philanthropy in social life; (3) we should start with children and put philanthropy into classroom; (4) we should establish examples, work from point to area and promote full participation in philanthropy.
When answering the issue regarding “charity law and industry supervision” raised by the presenter, Director General Lei proposed: in the primary stage of the development of philanthropy in China, we might as well “attach equal importance to supervision and cultivation” and focus on seeking industry development first, just like the transients modes of “release more water to nourish the fish in the pond, go around when seeing the red light” implemented for the economic development in the initial stages for reform and opening-up.
For example, some start-up institutions have insufficient fund raising ability and use the registered capital to implement philanthropic activities. For these institutions, we can provide them with preferential policies in terms of annual inspection and set up mechanism for “protection newcomers” and “suspend the execution”.
For another example, Lao Niu Foundation has no external fundraising channels, or donation from enterprises; we do not encourage investment with high return and our income is also not tax free. If things go on like this, how can we continue the foundation? In 2016, we paid 253 Million Yuan tax for income from the sales of shares.
When answering the question regarding “Chinese and American enterprises and individual donation” raised by the audience, Director General Lei mentioned: in 2017, the total charitable donations in the United States exceeded USD 410 Billion, 5% of which came from enterprises and 70% of which came from individual donation; however, in the nearly 150 Billion Yuan charitable donations in China, enterprise donation accounted for 64% and individual donation accounted for about 23%. Through these figures, it is clear that there is major difference in the “social donation structure and participation” of philanthropy.
On this issue, Director General Lei again elaborated the viewpoint he once published on the magazine Chinese Philanthropist: let those who get rich first participate in philanthropy first; start with one “individual”, mobilize the entire “family”, influence the entire “community” and promote the entire “society”.
The masters having dialogue on the site were expressing their own opinions. There were wonderful viewpoints, as well as some debates, which were welcomed by all the attendees.
Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Founder of Grameen Bank, and Director General Lei
Starting from the left: Director General Lei, James Heckman, winner of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, and Zhang Liang, Executive Director of Charity and Community Affairs of the Hong Kong Jockey Club