NGO workers find good deeds unrewarded

Updated: 2011-11-15 07:25

By Shi Yingying (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

Supporting voices

NGO workers find good deeds unrewarded

Top: New shoes call for freshly washed feet. Children in Sichuan province try on some of the 5,000 pairs of shoes provided by Dishui Public Welfare Association. The donation is one example of work provided by grassroots nongovernmental organizations. Left: Volunteers from Dishui association help a woman walk to the courtyard at an old people's home in Anji, Zhejiang. Above: Xu Zhengjun's message is, "I want more attention for charity people from society." Xu runs an NGO in Kunming that helps other NGOs with professional training. He took the grassroots job (and a 40 percent pay cut) at the start of this year, after having worked at a Hong Kong foundation. [Photo/China Daily]

Those NGOs are not fighting alone.

Nonprofits should pay their people as much as their for-profit peers, said Dan Pallotta, a US expert in innovation for nonprofits and author of Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential.

"They should be able to spend what they need to (for) administration and fundraising. And donors need to stop measuring nonprofits on a simplistic formula that wrongly places success on low overhead instead of impact," he said in a US speech.

That philosophy won't catch on in China anytime soon, judging from response to Xu's call for NGO salary increases. Within a few days of posting his plea, Xu received 102 comments online, about half "unfriendly". A common theme was, "Get out of the nonprofit profession if you're after fame and fortune."

Li Xinzhao of Beijing, who writes social commentary for newspapers, told China Daily, "Our society insists that charity is supported by moral conduct, rather than a full-time job that requires human resources and requests certain payback. Philanthropy in China is kidnapped by this ethic ... We think it's wrong for nonprofit professionals to earn good money."

Only changing people's mindset on this issue can improve the situation, she said.


Wu Chong is secretary-general of Cherished Dream Foundation, which helps children in remote villages where the schools are poor. When he heard that some grassroots NGOs were calling for a minimum wage, he shook his head.

"It makes no sense to ask government bodies to get involved in a nongovernment organization's business," he said.

"The truth is, nonprofit associations are just like for-profit enterprises - there are well-managed NGOs and poorly run ones. The better ones survive according to the natural law."

The key word, he said, is "sustainable". He knew that from his years in real estate and investment banking.

"I had Cherished Dream's five-year-plan in my head when I decided to build it," he said. "How to raise funds, how many people do I need, how big the office should be and the plan of expansion - I got all of these questions figured out" ahead of time."

Liu Yonglong confessed that when he started Grassroots Community 11 years ago, he had no idea it would turn into an actual NGO, much less "still exist after all these years. Some later-established NGOs have advantages in terms of sustainability" because they have seen good models and bad, he said.

It might be true for Zhang Yichao, 34, who founded Jiuqian, a center that provides free extracurricular education for migrant students in Shanghai.

"At the current stage, I'm trying to convince some of our company donors to take our students as interns," Zhang said. "If they're able to impress their bosses and stay there, I believe in the near future, they will return to Jiuqian as volunteers and may bring in more funds."

   Previous Page 1 2 Next Page