Faced with a lackluster economy and soaring prices, both businesses and individuals have shown less inclination to donate to charity, according to social welfare organizations, with the number of people requesting refunds of their contributions on the rise.
Taiwan Alliance for Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare secretary-general Yeh Ta-hua (葉大華) said a decline had also been seen in “small-change donations,” which is what happened to a project jointly launched by the alliance and Taiwan FamilyMart Co in 2009 to fund education and job training for young people from disadvantaged households.
Since September, fund-raising for the project has continuously declined by between NT$200,000 and NT$300,000 (US$6,050 and US$9,995) a month from the same period the year before, Yeh said, projecting a drop of up to 30 percent in the organization’s total donations this year.
Alliance for the Disabled secretary-general Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲) said that of all the invitations to donate the organization sent out last year to corporations and individuals that had been long-time donors, only 30 percent responded with donations, a decline of 35 percent from the previous year.
With charitable donations down, “the association could only request members of staff who work overtime to take compensatory leave in lieu of overtime pay,” Wang said.
Some young children have also fallen victim to the nation’s economic dilemma.
Child Welfare League Foundation resource development director Chen Ya-hui (陳雅惠) said the number of calls to the foundation by parents who could not afford to raise their children and hoped to put them up for adoption increased by 30 percent in the second half of last year alone.
“The foundation requires NT$15 million in funding to support its ‘No Abandonment’ program (棄兒不捨) this year, yet we have only reached 60 percent of that fund-raising goal thus far,” Chen said, adding that its 28-year joint charity program with the Chinatrust Charity Foundation, which runs every year from December to March, recorded a noticeable decline in donations only a week after its launch last year.
The end of the year is usually the peak season for businesses to make charitable donations to receive tax breaks, but the year-end donation rush was not seen last month, Chen said, attributing the situation to the government’s plan to raise the monthly premiums for National Health Insurance on Tuesday.
Chen also said that the foundation received requests from about 50 long-term donors to refund their donations in December due to sudden unemployment or financial difficulties.
“In an effort to boost donations and people’s willingness to chip in for charity, the foundation is planning to lower the monthly contribution threshold for aiding impoverished children from the current NT$600 to between NT$200 and NT$300,” Chen said.
Garden of Hope Foundation executive director Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容) said that amid the dismal economy, the number of unwed mothers and women suffering domestic violence who approached the foundation for support had increased by about 30 percent.
At the same time, Chi said that a substantial number of long-term small-scale donors had applied for a suspension of their donations with the foundation.
“With the number of people seeking help on the rise and the number of contributors on the decline, the amount of help social welfare groups can provide to those in need could be severely restricted,” Chi said.
Eden Social Welfare Foundation chief executive officer Huang Cho-sung (黃琢嵩) said that increased overhead expenses due to increases in fuel prices and electricity rates last year and surging retail prices had added to an already heavy burden on the foundation.
“The total annual operating costs for the foundation’s six around-the-clock shelters that accommodate a total of 500 physically challenged people and one daycare center that administers to about 1,300 people ballooned by NT$6 million last year,” Huang said.
Huang added that the second-generation health insurance system that came into effect on Tuesday could further drive up its operating expenses.