There was a time not so long ago when the words China and non-profit sector could never have been uttered in the same sentence. The country was totally Communist and there was no such thing as free enterprise. Today however, this Asian nation is a powerhouse in the industrial sector. With its vast human resources, cheap and educated labor, and land mass, China is the world’s manufacturing hub. Almost every multinational company and conglomerate has units in China where they do all their manufacturing at low costs. This reversal of fortunes has come about largely as a result of the economic reforms that took place in the 1980s.
Today, China has a thriving non-profit sector too – initially started to improve education and help alleviate poverty, this sector has grown to providing emergency medical help for those who need it and loans through microfinance facilities for people to set up their own small businesses. But even with the significant amount of growth that this sector has seen over the past few decades, there are a few things that are lacking for it to really thrive as non-profit sectors in other countries do:
- Management skills: Most startup non-profits struggle to move forward because they don’t have the right persons at the helm. People who manage non-profits must not only be dynamic and really be passionate about the venture they run; they also need to have good management skills like those needed to run a corporate business. It may be non-profit, but it still takes good business acumen to manage.
- Resources: Although China’s corporations are slowly opening their coffers to contribute to charities, philanthropic causes and non-profit organizations, the money is still not enough to develop these organizations and help them grow. The non-profit sector needs adequate funding from venture capitalists, businessmen and philanthropists, and money will come in only when those involved with the projects know how to lobby for and secure funding. This skill is still lacking in people who manage non-profits in China.
- Infrastructure: The non-profits have the right intention, but without the infrastructure to back their efforts, they’re not going to get very far. To provide education and basic medical care, they need hospitals and schools and other resources like staff, medicines, textbooks, and so on. To take their services to the people who really need them, they need vehicles and quality roads to reach villages that are almost entirely cut off from the rest of the country. Without the backing of the government and money from venture capitalists, non-profits will find it hard to survive and thrive in China.
- Government support and vision: While the government has acknowledged the existence of the non-profit sector and even extended support for a few, the consensus by and large is that China’s high command views these companies with a jaundiced eye. They’re worried about the people who run non-profits (especially groups that have religious or political affiliations) being rebels or renegades who could bring about political revolutions. Also, there is no real development vision for the non-profit sector, so it tends to flounder without anyone to steer it in the right manner and the right direction.