For many people in Asia-Pacific, the word “philanthropy” conjures up images of billionaire-funded foundations bestowing financial largesse around the world, or celebrity-driven projects.
But nowadays the practice of philanthropy is increasingly being democratized, and the potential to create impact is tilting towards ordinary citizens. Thanks to digital technology, it has never been easier for more people to help their communities.
Everyone can make a difference thanks to digital tools
We have never been so well served by electronic networks. According to Statistica, as of January 2019, the Asia Pacific region had the largest number of internet users worldwide, reaching nearly 2.1 billion in 2018.
With connectivity and 5G developing fast, 62% of the regional population will be online by 2025, with a further 850 million people across the region using the mobile internet for the first time.
Greater access to the internet means that even people in the farthest corners of Asia-Pacific are more aware of global problems and opportunities, and are able to engage more with the social and environmental challenges framed by the UN as the Sustainable Development Goals.
To cite 2 examples among many, WeChat, the Chinese social media platform, allows people to donate with ease to Tencent Charity, one of the biggest charities in China. Thanks to the ease of use of its digital payment system, We Chat Pay, more and more people are able and willing to donate directly through an app.
Likewise, the “Uyolo” app from Italy allows people from all over the world to donate with a simple “like”, an easy and fun way to raise funds on the go as well as follow up your favorite nonprofit organizations on a daily basis.
With these initiatives millions of individuals, no matter their background or location, can now make a difference, helping the practice of philanthropy evolve into a mobile-centric, youth-driven and inclusive phenomenon.
Apps have streamlined payment transfers and made charity donations instantaneous.
The next generation of philanthropists: Millennials
“Millennials” is the generation that best embodies the mindset of impact and purpose-first. It also happens to be the generation most engaged with using technology, especially smartphones.
Committed youth, personified by active voices such as Greta Thunberg, shows that priorities have shifted towards more purpose driven initiatives. Given the current crisis, these priorities resonate even more today. Covid-19 has forced us to stay home and think differently, questioning our roles not just in regard to Covid-19 but also the next crises, as climate and migration threats rise.
Even major corporations are now more actively addressing their attitudes towards corporate responsibility and their role in society. Some were active before this crisis. Unilever has long been the prime exemplar of a company with purpose, and Blackrock CEO Larry Fink has highlighted the inextricable link between profit and purpose. For many more companies, too, ‘’Impact’’, and ‘’Purpose’’ are no longer just trendy words, they are effective tools used by employers to lure and hire the next generation of talented changemakers.
In Asia, the philanthropy mindset is still lagging
Asia now has more high-net-worth individuals than any other continent. But even though the wealth keeps growing in Asia, philanthropic giving lags behind. According to Statistica, between 2015 – 2017, the average share of donors in the Asia Pacific region was just 37 percent.
So why the discrepancy? The answer lies, in part, in the lack of trust in nonprofit organizations, and the underdeveloped state of infrastructure that can channel philanthropic services.
Millennials have spent much of their lives online, and many of them understand how to leverage digital innovation for social change.
The future of philanthropy: mobile-centric and youth-driven
The digitalization of philanthropy in the form of fun and collaborative platforms accessible to everyone, could be the bridge that links wealth with actions such as donations and volunteering with NGOs.
The trust deficit in the social sector could be improved with transparent due diligence conducted on the beneficiaries, which would allow people to see directly how their donations or volunteering create impact in communities.
Many of the ingredients for a scalable philanthropy are already out there, in the form of youthful populations, rising wealth, and growing awareness about the urgency of global and local challenges.
In the hands of this younger generation, digital technology and innovation can be the spur that revolutionises the practice of philanthropy, both at a local and global level.