“If I Ran Philanthropy:” Dawning Philanthropy in China Poses Interesting Question for U.S.

April 30, 2012; Source: Philadelphia Inquirer

Sometimes the biggest questions come in small packages. So it was with this tidbit from the “Jobbing” blog of Philadelphia Inquirer business writer Jane M. Von Bergen, who recently spoke about philanthropy in China with Richard Gelles, the dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Policy and Practice. Von Bergen reports that Gelles considers China something of a “clean palette,” noting that the nation’s economy is still new to experiencing individuals with enough wealth to participate in philanthropy. “So China now has the opportunity to create its own philanthropic structure,” Von Bergen writes, “perhaps modeled after the United State’s structure, which has been successful, and perhaps not.”

How a system and culture of philanthropy might develop in China is intriguing enough on its own, but Gelles goes on to ask whether, if the U.S. had that same “clean palette,” it would build the same infrastructure of philanthropy that it has today. “If we look at the American experiment, would we build it in 2012?” Gelles asks. It’s a great question. If the whole concept and possibility of philanthropy were just dawning in the U.S., what would you want to see done differently? What should China look to adopt—or eschew—as it looks at other nations’ approach to philanthropy? We’d love to hear your thoughts below. –Mike Keefe-Feldman