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China Builds Charitable Sector

In my recent tour (Odysseys International) of China October, 2011, I had the good fortune to meet Dr. Lu Dezhi, chairman of the Huamin Charity Foundation. I was his guest at his hutong office in Beijing on October 17. I learned that Dr Lu seeks to build a foundation that, among other things, assists young college graduates in getting established in China which is experiencing high housing costs and some inflationary trends in cost of living. Dr Lu has a working partnership with a program at Rutgers University.  Articles he has written appear in Harvard University’s Hauser Center newsletter. This past spring, Dr Lu had an article published focusing on challenges to establishment of philanthropic initiatives in China.  He notes cultural impediments as well as lack of clearly articulated and implemented regulation to build a solid sector that will make Chinese people proud. A recent controversy over a person inside Red Cross mis-using donated funds (article in China People’s Daily published on Hauser Center website tells the story and the backlash). It’s reminiscent if controversies we have experienced in the USA with Red Cross (allocation of Katrina funds) and with United Way (a former CEO’s personal use of donated funds). We know that there is potential for illegal and unethical behavior around donated funds in the charitable sector. And we know that these pitfalls deter some from giving at all. But we also know that there is a drive and determination among people to take care of those who are needy, as long is we can prevent mis-use and abuse of funds.  And now China, the nation of 1.3 billion people halfway around the globe from us (“us” meaning USA) is carving out its charitable niche as its economy grows at an extraordinary rate. It seems to me that exchange of thinking about charity and philanthropy among the people of our two great nations will be very useful to all of us.  It’s good for us in the USA, as we work to strengthen our nonprofit sector, to seek to teach what we can from our experience while at the same time learn from the Chinese in their approach.  The needs are great and the capacity to help those in need is great, too.

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