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New Study on Family Philanthropy in Asia

October 13, 2011

I was excited to read Crystal Haling’s blog in Alliance Magazine about the UBS-INSEAD  Study on Family Philanthropy in Asia, which sheds new light on the state of family philanthropy in Asia; the motivations for giving; factors affecting why, how and where families give; and generational differences including “new” vs “old” money.

The report authors conducted more than two hundred surveys of individuals, philanthropic foundations and trusts and family businesses involved in philanthropy that are based in China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand.  They also interviewed over one hundred academics, entrepreneurs, government servants, philanthropists, professionals and social entrepreneurs in these countries.

There are profiles by country and several giving families/family foundations are featured.  The report is one of the most comprehensive and detail-oriented I’ve seen, addressing a multitude of issues and challenges, as well as trends for the future. 

Even through all the economic shifts and social challenges, “what has endured all change is the family as the prime building block of Asian societies and, consequently an exceptionally strong sense of responsibility towards enabling future generations’ well-being through sharing and engaging for social good.”

As a staffer at a family foundation myself (here in the US), I was not surprised to see many similar traits noted.  As Hayling describes, “The image that emerges is a charitable sector led by closely held family businesses with a strong entrepreneurial ethos, complex intergenerational relationships, delicate succession and legacy challenges, and a deep awareness (particularly on the part of the patriarchs and older generations) of the power of education to change the course of lives in a single generation.”  [Education causes by far were the leading recipients of charitable donations in Asia, while the arts, civil rights and environment received the least support.]

And further, as I just re-read last night the Four Traditions of Philanthropy by Elizabeth Lynn and Susan Wisely for the Council on Foundation’s Career Pathways fellowship program that I’m participating in, I was struck by the universal conversations happening around how best to achieve our goals in philanthropy – here or anywhere… is it relief? improvement? reform? community/civic participation?  Some combination of all?  At the heart, is a human connectedness, isn’t it?

In her post, Hayling shares her thoughts while listening to some of the panelists and mingling with attendees at the report’s launch event:

“The challenge ahead for philanthropists in Asia, indeed philanthropists everywhere, is to engage with communities in developing solutions. Charity is usually top-down, highly transactional and rarely transformative.  Transformational impact can be achieved by moving beyond charity with strategic analysis, community engagement and emphasis on our shared vision and common destiny….”

How can we be better givers and what can help us become generous givers as well as good citizens, behaving responsibly, bringing diverse voices into our discussions, promoting new ways of seeing things, and discovering multiple opportunities to build community and address long-term change instead of solely immediate need?


Read more in the full report.

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