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Q and A: The Differences Between Philanthropy in the West and the East
Source: The New York Times  ·  November 23, 2010  ·  Excerpt

Q. Are there differences in the ways that Asian family offices approach philanthropy compared to Western counterparts?

A. In the West, family offices tend to approach it as part of their corporate social responsibility. Giving back to society tends to be treated like a business. It’s also sometimes done for estate planning purposes.

In Asia, the concept of institutionalizing charity giving is still very new. That’s why you find there are a lot of wealthy families in the region, but very few foundations. It’s only now that the third generation, the postwar babies that have studied in Europe and the United States and have seen what’s happening there with giving, are starting to formalize their giving to charity.

Then it’s a question of to whom do you give and for what purpose. In the West, there is an emphasis on giving towards the arts, education and health, like cancer research, but in Asia, there tends to be “quiet giving” with still a lot of focus on poverty alleviation, though education and health-related causes are fast gaining interest.

Q. Is there a difference between the old and new generations of donors?

A. The new generation is more willing to lead the charitable organization and be actively involved. It’s not that the older generation didn’t want to do it, but they maybe didn’t have the time as they were building the wealth, and they felt that writing a check for a cause was enough. But with the new generation, you find that they are prepared to sit on the board and provide leadership and support to a foundation or trust, or maybe even a charitable foundation that is not even related to the family, but where they can use their influence and their family’s wealth to help such organizations achieve their objectives.

Our take
The countless aspects and nuances of culture—age, geography, ethnicity and many others—can provide clear lessons to your organization, no matter where it resides or whom it serves. Often, being merely aware of broad philanthropic trends isn't enough; to reap rewards, you must be able to act on that awareness in ways that are meaningful to potential donors, clients and others.

Compass Pointe monitors these trends so you don't have to. Contact us now for help answering these questions and more:

  • What is happening in philanthropy among other cultures, and what might these trends mean for my organization?
  • How can I take meaningful action based on the demographics of those my organization serves?


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