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Philanthropic Foundations In Asia: Insights from Singapore, Myanmar and China

by Pauline Tan; Swee-Sum Lam

Feb 1, 2018

This study looks at an emerging trend in which wealthy families, individuals, and corporations in Asia set up foundations to institutionalise their giving. This giving is motivated by a myriad of factors beyond prestige and status, including the desire to give back to society, religion, family and personal values, the desire to drive change, personal experience, and/or affiliations.

This study finds that philanthropic foundations in Asia can be characterised by their operational model, governance structure, and philanthropic focus. In emerging economies in Asia like Myanmar and China, these foundations tend to give nationally and operate their own programmes. On the other hand, foundations in developed economies like Singapore and Hong Kong tend to give both regionally and nationally via grants to civil society organisations that operate programmes, as opposed to running programmes themselves. Further, families tend to retain significant control of foundations in Singapore and Hong Kong, while programme funding serves as the preferred funding mode.

This study also discusses the various challenges and opportunities faced by the nascent philanthropic sector in Asia that can address some of the developmental and structural gaps left by the public, private, and people sectors.