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Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances

 

 

 

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Success Story from China:
An Internet Giant Travels Beyond Its Borders

 

Founded by a group of IT-savvy Chinese entrepreneurs, Tencent, the largest private internet company in China, has been in business since 1998. Famous for the Chinese chat service called "QQ" and other online services, such as the Chinese Twitter, Tencent has been key to social media's rapid development in China.

 

But the Internet giant is not all about corporate profit. A leader in Chinese corporate philanthropy, Tencent clearly understands its role in tackling social problems and boosting the private sector's philanthropic engagement in China and beyond. Tencent Foundation, the company's philanthropic arm, was founded in 2007 in response to China's social problems. The foundation supports primarily higher education, environmental protection, and emergency relief. In 2012, Tencent Corporation ranked 7th in the 2013 Forbes China Philanthropy List for contributing $23 million to its foundation.

 

Unlike the majority of Chinese foundations that work only in China, the Tencent Foundation reaches out beyond Chinese borders. Partnering with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), China's largest public foundation, Tencent contributed some $163,000 to WFP's programs fighting hunger in Cambodia and Western China. The programs help elementary schools provide nutritious breakfasts to students, helping them finish school. They also distribute a 10 kilogram ration of rice to students from the most impoverished families. The food scholarship programs target students in fourth through sixth grades, who have the highest drop-out rates.

 

Although Tencent Foundation is not the implementing organization, its commitment to alleviating hunger and malnutrition does not stop with its corporate donations. The company is also active in raising money from the Chinese public so that they can increase philanthropic activity among Chinese citizens. Taking advantage of Tencent's online dominance, the Tencent Foundation established a fundraising campaign called "Weave Hope" to raise awareness of hunger and malnutrition in western China and Cambodia. Started in September 2011, the ongoing campaign encourages individuals to donate 10 yuan or $1.60 per month to buy nutritious meals for children in program-covered areas. Tencent's contributions, in addition to the money collected by the campaign, are then given to CFPA and WFP for use in two countries.

 

As of July 2013, the campaign has attracted over 196,000 individual donors from China, generating a total of $730,000 for programs in Cambodia and western China. As confirmed by the WFP project report, Tencent and the "Weave Hope" campaign have contributed about $351,961 to the Cambodian program. Concerned with notorious transparency problems in Chinese philanthropy, the Tencent Foundation produces monthly reports of all financial details and invites volunteers to visit the program in Cambodia. In 2012, two volunteers selected from 85,000 online donors, visited the Prolit Primary School in rural Cambodia with the Tencent Foundation, WFP, CFPA and the Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia.

 

Unfortunately, as a private foundation, Tencent Foundation's development activities are restrained by strict Chinese philanthropic laws on the management of foundations. These regulations do not allow private foundations and international organizations to fundraise from the Chinese public. Thus, technically speaking, Tencent and the WFP could not directly receive donations from China, unless they partnered with a Chinese public foundation like CFPA. Consequently, Tencent Foundation's donations received for the "Weave Hope" campaign were channeled through CFPA to WFP using a three-party partnership.

 

These policy restrictions have not greatly hindered Tencent Foundation's interest and ability to build international partnerships with multilateral organizations. Apart from the nutrition program with WFP in Cambodia, the foundation has participated in the UN's Environment Programme's World Environment Day Program and the Earth Hour program of World Wide Fund for Nature. Compared with corporate foundations in the West, Tencent Foundation is still in its infancy of international involvement. Nevertheless, it provides a positive role model for Chinese companies' international philanthropy.