Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has joined ‘The Giving Pledge’, an initiative set up by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett that benefits American charitable foundations. ‘The Giving Pledge’ is a pledge taken by wealthy individuals that commits them to donating the majority of their wealth either during their lifetime or after their death. To date, 57 billionaires have taken the pledge. There are many wealthy people around the world who have already or intend to donate their wealth. However, it isn’t just the rich of the world who are getting into the spirit of giving. Ordinary people in advanced nations including the US are also donating their money and property at the end of their lives. It is worthwhile to consider what the present condition of donation in Korea and those who participate in donating.
The present condition of donations in Korea
First of all, we should examine the present condition of donations around the world. The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) of Great Britain and Gallup Korea, a polling firm, conducted a joint investigation into the “2010 The World Giving Index.” According to this research, Australia and New Zealand tied for first, Canada was third, and America and Switzerland were fifth when it came to private charitable donations. Korea was 81st in the world which puts us lower than Kenya and Sudan. This research focused on the donations per capita, and not on actual amounts. Based on these numbers we can see that Korea is even less involved in charitable activities than nations that are much poorer. In America individuals contribute 83% of all charitable donations, foundations 14%, and businesses less than 4%. Americans are active in private contributions. This is in large part due to the fact that many wealthy Americans are motivated to make large donations because they are able to claim up to 50% tax breaks due to these donations. On the other hand, Korean enterprises account for 59% of all donations and private citizens 23%.
There are several reasons why the spirit of charitable giving is on the rise around the world. Bill Gates established the 'Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation' in 2000 with his wife and contributed 16,200,000,000 dollars over the past ten years. Warren Buffett also announced his intention to donate 99% of his property and contributed 36,000,000,000 dollars to 'Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.' One of the features of this charity is that donors can plan themselves how to use the donations.
In the UK, community leaders and citizens donate actively. Prince William and Prince Harry participated in charitable motorcycle races and raised about 300,000 pounds as they travel over 1,000 miles of unpaved roads along with about 80 people in 2008. They donated the proceeds to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and UNICEF. Oxfam, an international relief organization, is based work in the UK. Oxfam is the base organization for the 'Beautiful Store' chain in Korea. There about 6,000 of these charitable shops organized by Oxfam around the world. Approximately one hundred thousand people are active in doing volunteer in the UK.
Australia was first in 'The World Giving Index' and one of the nations where donations are institutionalized. Many Australians make small contributions to several organizations. ‘Movember’ is also a unique charitable drive that originated in Australia. The compound word ‘Movember’ is formed from the words ‘Moustache’ and ‘November’. It is a charitable event that is held during November each year where men grow moustaches to raise funds and awareness for men's health issues. Spontaneous and simple activities such as children selling chocolates to repair playgrounds in schools and people selling voter related items at polling stations to raise contributions are common in this country.
Korean charitable culture
Before 1990s, contributions from private citizens were for the most part insignificant. Korean government assistance dealing with social welfare and education was not strong, and depended in large part on foreign aid and support from private organizations. Foreign aid decreased rapidly because of rapid economic growth, and it has been replaced by donations from domestic private organizations.
Private contributions increased from 850,000,000,000 won in 1999 to 5,600,000,000,000 won in 2008. Businesses accounted for the highest percentage of donations in Korea. Religious groups also comprise a large proportion of donations that are made.
There is still a need to increase the culture of giving in Korea in order to catch up with other countries which have well constructed charitable culture. One of the most embarrassing problems is that some charitable foundations have to deal with corruption. Community Chest of Korea in 2010 misappropriated public funds and spent donated money on entertainment expenses. After that the foundation's private donations deceased by about 10,000,000,000 won. According to research, about 40% of office workers responded that they lost the desire to donate. The Finance Ministry made an announcement about this problem and stated that revising the law would be difficult because of the case that stock donation abuse by expedient give. In order for someone to collect contributions, they must receive government approval and the cost of fundraising activities is limited to 2% of contributions made. On the other hand, America and Japan allow for collection expenses to range from 20% to 35% of donations. After America and Japan loosened regulations regarding expenses, there were increases in collection activities and contributors. Another issue is that in Korea 80% of private donations are made to religious groups. In contrast, only 11% of donations are given to religious groups in the UK. The problem is that contributors are not exactly aware of how their contributions are used when they donate to religious groups.
On top of all of these problems is the fact that there seems to be a lack in the genuine spirit of giving in Korea. Wealthy Koreans use every trick in the book in order to leave their property to their children unlike other wealthy people around the world who give their property back to society. Leadership class in Korea including politicians makes donations, but it is too often just for show. The awareness of the general public about donations is beginning to spread, but many people are still not concerned. Corruption of charitable foundations and community leaders make people think pessimistically. However, new donation methods and activities are increasing in number and gaining attention.
New methods of donation
The most typical example of the new type of charity is social donations. Social donations can be performed through social media and has become popular quickly. Ticketmonster is a social commerce shopping mall that provides social enterprises with marketing and investment services for public relations. Because production costs of social enterprises are higher than general enterprises, it is difficult for them to invest in marketing and promotion. Wemakeprice also donates by way of netizen’s participation through Twitter.
Corporations are participating in social donation through these social networking sites. Samsung started the “Day after Day Nanumbook Campaign” through SNS (Social Networking Site). Netizens post where they want to donate and the background story on various SNS, and other netizens approve by marking 'Like this' on Facebook or by 'Retweeting' on Twitter. KTB Investment Security donated to impoverished children around the world by receiving 1,000 won per follower on their Twitter account.
The public participation in social donations has also started to increase. The 'Happiness of 1 won Twitter Nanum' campaign collected 1 won per post and managed to collect 28,000,000 won from people in September 2010. Goodneighbors linked their account to Hanatour and started a 'Retweet of Hope' campaign. This campaign allowed followers of Hanatour’s Twitter account to write messages of hope to impoverished children, and retweets the messages. They collected 100 won for each retweet. This was a 129% increase in donations from 2009 to 2010. These results show that making use of social networking is a good way to raise public awareness of worthy causes of donations.
Entertainers have also taken a leading role in charitable activities. Singer Jang-Hun Kim has been one of the most generous entertainers. His cumulative donations total more than 8,000,000,000 won. His donations have gone mainly to Dokdo researching fund, to help unfortunate children, and supporting teenagers. Sean and Hye-Young Jung are a married couple that he is a singer and she is an actress. They made donations relating to their books and advertisement to charity and the treatment costs to Seoul National University Children's Hospital instead of their children's first-birthday party. Entertainers making active contributions present a model for the general public. Celebrities’ activities affect their fans, and many of them take part in their causes actively.
Charities we can easily participate in
We can easily donate through NGOs (Non-Governmental Organization). Let's join in make 'Awoo doll' managed by Unicef. 'Awoo doll' means children. If a person make an Awoo doll and sends it to Unicef, another person can buy the doll for 30,000 won. The money is used to protect African children from six diseases (measles, polio, whooping cough, tuberculosis, tetanus, and diphtheria) and it also works to distribute mosquito nets to prevent malaria. World Vision also sponsors 'Famine Experience' every year. The goal of 'Famine Experience' is to experience and realize the life of our global neighbors, suffering from poverty and disease in a roundabout way. We can participate in various ways such as a hunger experience, saving water, a marathon, and others.
We can also contribute used articles that we do not use. The 'Beautiful Store' receives donated items, repairs them, and sells the refurbished goods to people who need them. Proceeds from the sales are used to help the needy, and is a model for new contribution methods that reduces waste at the same time.
Another new charitable form is “talent donation” whereby people can donate their talents instead of money. Talent donation allows people with real skills to share their abilities and talents which others don’t have. Different types of talent donations include knowledge, skills, cooking, and mentoring. Knowledge donation is especially popular. This type of donation allows donors to share their professional knowledge in welfare centers. Let's find out more about talent donation through an interview with a talent donator.
Talent donator interview
Tae-Hun Lee, former IT engineer
Q) How did you donate your talent?
A) I taught elementary Japanese conversation in Gwangjin District Public Library from September to December 2010. The class was once a week for an hour and the students were elementary school students, a family that was planning to go to Japan and one elderly gentleman, for a total of eight.
Q) How did you feel when you donated your talent?
A) I was happy and felt the time was worthwhile through the communication from person to person. In spite of having difficulty with Japanese, the children attended the class to the end and the elderly gentleman developed some ability in the largely unknown hiragana. They thanked me. The simple word 'Thank you' makes me happier than any other word.
Q) What do you think of talent donation?
A) I think talent is not special and visible. If someone has knowledge that others don't have, it could be considered a talent. For example, it could be baking bread, cutting hair, or knowing about many constellations. The skills that seem small can be talents and abilities of their own. I don't want people to think that talent donation requires really specialized skills. I also hope this activity becomes more common and provides a synergistic effect in society.
Korea is experiencing a new wave of charitable activity. Many people are making donations based on their life experiences. The internet and the development of social media have given charitable causes a boost. Many new donation methods and opportunities have emerged. In order for Korea to become a better country, many things have to change from systems to social contradictions. If everyone is able to start making small donations, the recipient's lives will change dramatically.