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China looks to US for charity

By Judy Martel · Bankrate.com
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Posted: 4 pm ET

As China's economy booms (the number of millionaires increased 31 percent to 1.1 million in 2010, according to Boston Consulting Group), its leaders are looking to the U.S. for guidance on both corporate and individual philanthropy.

University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice hosted a meeting of 22 Chinese government officials to help them understand the best practices for charitable giving in the U.S.

"They were interested in everything," says Eileen Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust in Philadelphia, who spoke about best practices in the nonprofit sector. "They wanted to figure out how to be supportive at the local level, at the federal level; they were interested in how laws for charitable deductions work."

The emergence of private wealth in China has increased the curiosity in private foundations, donor-advised funds and charitable trusts that provide income to the donor while pledging the remainder to charity.

Over the past few decades, China has been opening its economy to more capitalism, leading to explosive economic growth and the acquisition of private wealth. Heisman says that development, plus the outpouring of public giving in the wake of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province that killed an estimated 68,000 people, has helped fuel China's interest in charity.

Heisman says she hasn’t seen this level of interest in how the U.S. administers corporate and private philanthropy from other countries but points out that our charitable system is sophisticated in part because our taxes are so much lower than they are in other developed countries. "A lot of other countries have higher tax rates, and the government takes care of the needs of individuals that private philanthropy takes care of here."

What do you think of China's interest in philanthropy?

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