Friday felicitations once again, and since I was off last week, it’s another bumper fortnight’s worth of philanthropy and social investment news this week.
1) A clear number one this week is the bizarre story of chinese millionaire Chen Guangbiao’s foray into US philanthropy. You may remember Mr Chen from a previous “and finally” section where I highlighted his incredible business card, which listed numerous titles including “Most Charismatic Philanthropist of China“. Well, that charisma was in full flow again this week, when it emerged that Mr Chen had taken out a double page advertisement in the New York Times offering a free lunch for 1,000 homeless people at a fancy restaurant in the City, as well as $300 each.
The event went ahead as planned: in addition to a three-course meal, the homeless people attending were serenaded by Mr Chen, accompanied by a host of volunteers dressed in Chinese military uniforms. Things took a turn for the less amusing, however, when it transpired that despite bringing a wheelbarrow of dollar bills onto the stage with him, Mr Chen would not be giving the attendees their promised cash as there were concerns that it would just be spent on drugs, and was instead giving it to the nonprofit he had been partnering with to fund their activities. Needless to say this did not go down well with many of the attendees.
I’m torn by this story: on the one hand Chen Guangbiao is clearly a terrible thing for Chines philanthropy and for the reputation of philanthropy in general. But on the other hand, his bizarre antics are really entertaining…
2) At number two is some far more positive news about Asian philanthropy. Forbes has published its annual list of “48 Heroes of Philanthropy for Asia-Pacific“. Why “heroes” I hear you ask? Well, it seems to be a way of allowing them to avoid picking people based simply on the amounts they gave, and instead highlight new philanthropists with interesting causes and projects. That certainly makes it a bit more interesting, and neatly sidesteps the usual problem with philanthropy lists, which is that you can usually guess about 90% of their members before you even look at them.
3) At number three is an in-depth look at this year’s Giving USA report in the Nonprofit Quarterly. The numbers in this year’s report show that while charitable giving overall has shown a significant recovery in the US, the effects have been unevenly distributed across the non-profit sector so that while some organisations are doing much better, others are still finding times very tough.
4) At number four is an article from Inside Philanthropy examining “Nine Reasons Rich People Don’t Give Away More Money”. Not only is this an interesting piece, but I found myself part of it for slightly odd reasons (as you’ll see from the addendum, unless they have corrected it now). I tweeted about it, and in response someone else made a good point about an extra reason, mentioning my name. Slight confusion followed, and they amended the article to include the extra point, but attributed it to me! Before you accuse me of intellectual theft, I have tweeted them to highlight the confusion!
5) And finally… An “and finally” story this week with a reasonable dose of seriousness, with the news that the Pope has given his blessing to social investment. The Vatican co-sponsored a recent three-day conference on impact investing held in Rome, and the Pope gave a speech in which he praised the approach as one that could overcome the disconnect between profit and ethics that we have seen in recent times.
Hopefully we’ll soon hear what the pontiff thinks about the exact definition of “social enterprise”. Now that he has dipped a toe in the sector, it’s only a matter of time…