Webinar Recap - Philanthropy in Hong Kong



Give2Asia Webinar Hosts: Jason Raby (Program Associate) and Aqeela Jogee (Director of Advisory Services)

This event was a one-hour webinar on June 13th in which listeners signed in from various parts of the world to discuss the shifting nature of Hong Kong's social sector. An overview of the panelists and their panel discussion follows. Be sure to follow links to the organizations of each respective panelist to learn more about their overseas efforts.

Here are some additional highlights that we gathered from the webinar.

  • While Hong Kong is a wealthy nation, it has the highest Gini coefficient in all of Asia. Philanthropy is an essential tool for addressing the needs of communities who fall between the cracks of government support, such as the elderly and ethnic minorities.
  • There is room for improved communication between donor interests and on-the-ground needs, which Give2Asia is key in facilitating, as well as a shift to more mid- and long-term projects that will enable organizations the timeframe necessary to deliver measurable project outcomes. 
  • Employees of corporate donors are becoming more personally engaged in local philanthropy, especially by making use of their professional skills, and the Hong Kong social sector features nonprofits with a wealth of experience with these opportunities.
  • The NGO sector in Hong Kong is using new methods to affect social change, particularly through the use of social enterprises.

For a recording or any of the documents that were available for download during the webinar, click here


Sarena Chan, Give2Asia, Hong Kong Field Advisor
Sarena offered a summary of the Hong Kong social sector to contextualize the webinar discussion. She described the strengths of the social sector in Hong Kong, such as it having the top social giving culture in all of East Asia (70% of residents donate to charities), as well as its needs and challenges. Among its biggest needs are assistance for its growing elderly population and the high dropout rates of ethnic minorities (8% of the population) in secondary schools. Current trends in the sector to address these needs include an increase in social entrepreneurship, start-ups, and higher employee engagement within corporate philanthropy.

Dan Liu, HOPE Worldwide (Hong Kong), Country Director
Dan introduced the network-based organization HOPE Worldwide, which is an international Christian charity with non-sectarian programming. In Hong Kong, they focus on providing practical health education to the elderly as well as character building and career exploration programs for underprivileged youth.

Sky Siu, KELY Support Group, Executive Director
Sky discussed KELY Support Group, a domestically grown NGO founded in 1991. KELY helps the youth build foundational skills that will empower them to reach their fullest potential rather than succumb to the hidden dangers of drug and alcohol addiction, which are growing issues in Hong Kong. It runs 10-12 programs per year which are not focused on any particular district, allowing them to reach a wide range of at-risk youth-- approximately 40,000 young people annually.

Doris Leung, Social Ventures Hong Kong, Director of Social Innovation
Social Ventures Hong Kong (SVHK) utilizes social enterprise to address community needs in a creative multi-sector format. Social enterprise refers to an organization that is driven towards achieving a mission, typically focused on improving aspects of social or environmental wellbeing. SVHK provides a platform for innovators to launch pilot projects, testing strategies to fix big social problems which can then be implemented on a larger scale.

Panel Discussion

Explain to donors the advantages of giving to an organization in Hong Kong versus elsewhere in Asia.
Dan: Hong Kong is very international, thus it can leverage a lot of human capital in the city such as educated volunteers who want to engage in social service. For this reason, Hong Kong is recognized as an ideal testing ground to pilot new ideas.

What tools does your organization use to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your programs?
Sky: KELY conducts pre- and post- program interviews to get a sense of what the project's expectations were and if they were met. We get input not only from direct stakeholders, but also from peripheral teachers, social workers, school representatives, and friends of the youth involved, giving KELY holistic insight into how each project fares. This outcome-driven data is compiled into a final report and shared with donors.

What are your thoughts on SROI (Social Return On Investment)?
Doris: SROI is getting more popular in Hong Kong, although it is not fully mature yet. SROI is getting more serious because there is an interest in finding more common ground to persuade donors and beneficiaries that they are both simultaneously benefiting from the program's impact.

Hong Kong has the highest Gini coefficient in Asia, meaning that it has the biggest inequality. ... [U]nderrepresented communities have a great need for philanthropy.

Are there any special laws social startups should be aware of?
Doris: Actually, Hong Kong has no laws to define social enterprise; we refer to limited by shares or limited guarantees for a company. We say "social start-up" to capitalize on language as a tool to connect with the community, but it just describes an organization with a moral purpose.

On 28 April, the Chinese government placed a law limiting which foreign NGOs can operate in China. To this end, foreign NGOs will need to be registered appropriately. How will this law impact the nonprofit landscape in Hong Kong?
Dan: While China's new law does categorize Hong Kong NGOs as "foreign", we do not see it impacting our operations within Hong Kong and we are also optimistic that our projects in China will continue to run smoothly. Many details of this law have yet to be sorted out, so time will tell.

... the future is leaning towards a more collaborative approach in which different people, including those disadvantaged groups, work together to find creative ways to problem-solve

Hong Kong is often viewed as a wealthy nation. How is it best to advise donors to fund opportunities there?
Sarena: Hong Kong is indeed seen as an international, developed area. But it also has the highest Gini coefficient in Asia, meaning that it has the largest income inequality. While the government does provide social services, the NGO sector focuses on those communities who are not actually benefiting from the government's assistance. Those underrepresented communities have a great need for philanthropy. Give2Asia is a great tool for donor awareness in this regard, as it helps direct funds towards those needs.

What has your experience been with engaging employees of corporate donors?
Sky: Employee engagement is a great method of improving trust-building between the corporation and the organization. We have seen employees engage in various ways such as volunteering at the project themselves or offering aspects of their skills such as leadership, development, accounting, legal aid, etc. – and often they continue to participate even after the project itself has ended.
Dan: This is a great way to make the time with those employees more meaningful. In the past we have had employees engage in many project-based learning activities. We have had professionals in various careers come speak to students about their career paths, offering guidance from personal experience, and we have even had organizations invite students into their venue to gain practical insight about how different professions operate.

What are challenges that your organization faces in programming? For example, the balance between donor interest and needs on the ground.
Dan: That disconnect is always present, and communication is key to resolving it. Give2Asia provides a great platform for people to communicate local needs on one side and donor capacities on the other. One of our greatest challenges is measuring outcomes long-term, because often donors will fund short projects (one year or under) while more extended projects enable us to refine indicators more successfully. 

What are the current needs of your organization to get it where it needs to be?
Sky: It would be good to invest more in Research and Development, to better evaluate trends in how our impact fares in the city as well as in the wider region. Partnering more with both local and international universities could help with this research. It would also help to improve relationships with donors and foster better communication about how funding is used.
Dan: I agree about the need to have stronger communication with donors about how funds are used. Better communication would also help us find like-minded individuals to fund community efforts; we are constantly striving to broaden our resource and fundraising base, and to find people both locally and overseas who would want to join in the same causes.

Hong Kong is recognized as an ideal testing ground to pilot new ideas.

What do you feel is the future of NGOs in Hong Kong?
Sky: This is a big question. Currently, many organizations are built on social welfare-- people who go out and help support disadvantaged communities. But the future is leaning towards a more collaborative approach in which different people, including those disadvantaged groups, work together to find creative ways to problem-solve. This multi-sector, multi-stakeholder tone seems to be taking off.
Sarena: Yes, and collaboration also involves a lot of civic engagement. There are demographics which often fall between the cracks, especially from donor awareness outside of Hong Kong (consider the elderly and the underprivileged youth, which are being supported by our panelists’ organizations). Civic engagement gives a voice to those cracks in the social sector and enables smaller demographics to be able to speak out and help cultivate their own aid.

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