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East-West Exchange Promotes Nonprofit Development in China

“The spirit of love” is what one Chinese official noted as key to the success of charity endeavors while visiting a number of nonprofit organizations in the United States. During the fall of 2000 a delegation of six national and provincial officials from the China Charity Federation (CCF—see below) spent 17 days interacting with leaders of nonprofit organizations in four U.S. cities. The trip provided a window through which these leaders of China’s emerging “third sector” could learn about the development and see the fruit of a variety of charities in the United States. Hosted by the Maclellan Foundation, the delegation toured organizations serving a wide range of constituencies, including persons with disabilities, the elderly, urban youth, prison inmates, and new immigrants. Their itinerary also included meetings with business and education leaders and the media. Viewing the work of one agency in Atlanta, the head of the delegation remarked on the amazing transformation of a poor, rundown area into a very healthy, clean, safe and valuable environment. This example made concrete for the delegation one of the key themes of the trip—cooperation of the three major sectors: government, business and NGOs.  At “People’s House,” in SE Washington, DC, the delegation was struck by the Christian commitment to help through mentoring inner-city youth.

High on the delegation’s agenda was learning more about the management of nonprofit organizations. How to ensure accountability in the use of funds and other resources, as well as issues related to public-private partnerships, were of particular interest. Meetings with executives of foundations, including First Fruit, Inc., in Los Angeles, as well as scholars, several management consultants, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability provided a variety of viewpoints on these topics. They also attended the annual conference of Washington-based Independent Sector.

Rob Martin, executive director of First Fruit, Inc., said he found the group “intensely curious, genuinely interested in learning about how the American nonprofit sector works and in doing what is best for the people in China whom they serve.”

The group learned much about internal organization, discipline and management of NGOs, along with government policy and regulations toward NGOs and how government and nongovernment relate to each other. Delegation members felt these issues were especially relevant to China and asked whether a future visit by US nonprofit leaders to China could be arranged to provide further training. Having observed the importance of the independent sector in the United States, the delegation came to see it as potentially equal to government and business in influence.

The delegation also noted that the motivation for charity—the spirit of love, a heart of compassion—is central. Delegation members commented on the clear connection between the Christian faith and effective nonprofit endeavors and were touched personally by the devotion they witnessed. Said one provincial CCF official, “I was most impressed by the spirit of love.”  The leader of the delegation said,  “We can get rules and laws; the most difficult thing is lack of love.  We cannot put this in people’s hearts.”

On the personal side, the delegation members had time to share informally with their hosts in various cities.  They also visited a variety of cultural sites, attended a Chinese church service and spent an evening in the home of an American family—something they said they would have enjoyed doing more of during their visit.

As a result of the dialogue launched during this visit, the Chinese government has begun granting tax-exempt status to charitable organizations in China. During a recent followup visit to China, US foundation executives discussed with leaders of CCF and the NPO Network (an association of nonprofit organizations in China) the establishment of new nationwide standards to help ensure accountability among charities. This most recent visit also laid the groundwork for a training program for leaders of charities and foundations in China, with some of the courses to be taught by nonprofit leaders from North America and elsewhere.

Commenting on the progress to date, Tom McCallie, executive director of the Maclellan Foundation, said, “The long-term effectiveness of the church will depend on its ability to be involved in meeting social needs. I think the work we’ve done with CCF and the NPO Network will lead toward greater clarity in laws and regulations and increased stability for charities to operate.”

China Charity Federation

China Charity Federation (CCF) is “a nongovernmental charity institution that sets its purpose to help needy individuals and groups, and serves to enhance the humanitarianism and traditional Chinese virtues of aiding those in distress and poverty.” Located in the capital of Beijing, CCF is the largest nationallevel charitable organization in Mainland China. CCF was established by the government as the umbrella organization for local charitable agencies and has 79 local affiliates located in over 20 provinces throughout China. The President of CCF is always a retired executive of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, which in 1998 devolved the following key tasks to the China Charity Federation:

  • Raising funds for charity
  • eveloping public welfare programs for the poor and needy
  • Assisting the government in emergency relief work including collection and allocation of both domestic and overseas donations
  • Establishing and supporting social welfare agencies
  • Developing regular donation programs and managing such donations, both cash and in kind, and executing aid projects

China Charity Federation collects funds through a variety of sources including corporate donors, throughout China and abroad. The CCF constitution specifies that all donated funds be used for charity programs, and administrative costs are covered by the interest proceeds generated by the founding fund. In 1995, forty-eight percent of the donated funds were used for charity activities, such as providing food and clothing, training of disabled orphans and rehabilitation education exhibition; twenty-nine percent of donated funds were used for disaster relief; twelve percent for other projects and eleven percent for rehabilitation of disabled orphans.

China Charity Federation has primarily focused on orphans and the elderly due to the immense social need in China. CCF is also providing funding in extremely poor areas in China to improve the people’s production and living conditions. In response to the 1998 flood disaster, CCF initiated an emergency fund-raising campaign and, through a telethon and other means, succeeded in raising a total of US$ 70 million.

Image credit: Simone Operates, Local Doctors Observe by ReSurge International via Flickr. 
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Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton

Brent Fulton is the founder of ChinaSource. Dr. Fulton served as the first president of ChinaSource until 2019. Prior to his service with ChinaSource, he served from 1995 to 2000 as the managing director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Wheaton College. From 1987 to 1995 he served as founding …View Full Bio