Charity Guide Makes Giving Easier in China

The number of charities, non-profits and NGOs with offices in China reaches in to the hundreds of thousands. Even after paring down the list to those that offer English language services or navigable websites, the sheer volume of organisations you could donate to is overwhelming. The Lasso Guide is designed as a map to guide potential philanthropists through the maze that is China’s charitable sector.

In December 2008, Fangfang ‘Clara’ Ma and Jennifer Thome launched The Lasso Guide to Charity in China, a catalogue of charitable organisations around the country that cater to English speakers. The concept was simple – create a website efficiently organised to list various charities according to cause – but The Lasso Guide achieved a larger goal by crossing cultural and language barriers, resulting in the type of union that inspired Ma and Thome to create the site in the first place.

Thome, who started working on the site after returning home from her time in China, says the initial idea came from her repatriation. “Half my energy [when I lived in China] was spent just trying to connect with people. After going home, I wanted to stay involved in China’s volunteer circles, and so I decided to build Lasso,” she explains.

As lifelong volunteers, Ma and Thome were encouraged by individuals they met to start the project. For Thome, Yang Yun, the director of a mental hospital outside in Beijing, stands out as an inspiration, as does Emy Matesan, who ran an organisation to prevent child abandonment in Romania. Ma’s motivation lies closer to home; she remembers a friend who donated 500 boxes of sanitary napkins after the Wenchuan earthquake in 2008. After being unable to find an NGO that could specify their intention for donations, Ma’s friend shipped the necessities herself – a lesson that taught them both about the reality of corruption that runs rampant in China’s charity system.

Since China’s 1978 economic reform, the rapid development of NGOs stands as one of the most important social consequences of China’s shift in economic attitude. The government found itself unable to handle the radically shifting social climate and thus necessitated the use of a third sector.

The proliferation of NGOs and NPOs however did not meet the level of influence and autonomy found in western cultures. As a relatively new concept in China, charitable organisations often run into several barriers, including corrupt influences and restrictive policies, as well as a general lack of trust from the community. Both obstacles were motivation enough to create Lasso, says Ma. “There are so many good NGOs that really need help and are struggling to compete with the fake ones. This is why we put our energy to creating a website that helps people find the right NGO.”

They seem to be making strides in the right direction. After the Yushu earthquake in 2010, Ma noticed immediate results as friends began looking to Lasso to find the right charities to donate to. “People knowing that they can trust us is a big motivating factor,” Ma says.


Syndicate content