Taiwan's skill at fundraising is outstanding among Asia-Pacific nations, and at various international conferences this ability has often earned the admiration of delegates.
But, underlying this enormous ability to mobilize resources is a relatively immature legal environment. Most politicians and the public in Taiwan have a narrow definition of philanthropy, which is equated with charity. People lack the concept of philanthropic investment.
This situation is aggravated by the media, who have focused on the bickering surrounding the issue, and have not exercised effective supervision or contributed to social progress in this regard.
The US provides some good example of leadership in public welfare. The director of the US Girl Scouts was a former navy admiral. Elizabeth Dole, wife of Senator Bob Dole was a former president of the American Red Cross. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has served as Peace Corps director, deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation and chief executive officer (CEO) of the United Way of America -- which she helped recover from a major scandal in 1993.
A charity report published by the US-based Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org) revealed that the annual compensation for the CEO of the United Way of America is US$500,000, the president of World Vision is US$360,000, the president of the World Wildlife Fund is US$280,000, and the CEO of the American Cancer Society is US$760,000. Are these amounts excessive? As opposed to the tens of millions earned by CEOs in business, such remuneration seems reasonable for leaders of major national organizations.
This report informs people about the size, services, scope and use of funds, so that they can make their own decision before making a donation.
Full-time CEOs of public welfare groups in Taiwan have usually worked their way up within the organization. Few of them have transferred from business. An exception is World Vision Taiwan director Hank Du (
There are very few concerned and talented people who have taken up senior positions in welfare organizations after serving an important role in government. One such person is former Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) minister Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who was invited to take over as secretary-general of the Red Cross.
Such an arrangement is commonly seen in other countries. In fact, from several post-disaster recovery experiences, Hau has brought his skills acquired from the government fully into play and showed his charisma and daring in coordinating all relevant bodies.
With the support of the Earthquake Post-Disaster Recovery Commission, he effectively communicated with the central government, business, charity organizations and disaster areas, allowing the Sungho Village to migrate to its current location after the July 2 flooding last year and complete reconstruction before the rainy season this year.
Given Hou's talents and his knowledge and ability to effectively manage a huge organization, the aforementioned amount of annual compensation can even be regarded as disproportionately small. Where does the media accusation that such people are squandering donors' contributions come from?
A mature society requires the same standard of leadership talent in government, business and non-profit organizations to have a positive impact on society.
I once participated in a symposium about interdisciplinary leadership. The discussion was aimed at leadership styles in politics, business and philanthropy. The keynote speakers were well-known figures, but the public welfare-related discussion could only call upon a mid-level bureaucrat, a clear indication that for most people, involvement in charity events is just an additional way of increasing their exposure. Very few are truly dedicated to philanthropic tasks.
If this reflects the value that Taiwanese society puts on volunteer sector participation, then it is worrisome as to where to find our future non-profit organization professionals.
When Hilary Clinton was the first lady of the US, she initiated a campaign for children with the slogan "it takes a village." This slogan can be adapted to Taiwan's needs.
We need politicians to take the development of public welfare groups seriously and examine and supervise legislation related to public welfare-related fund-raising which have languished in the legislature.
The premier, in particular, must conduct discussions regarding non-profit organization development on the policy level. He should not make lower-ranking officials bear the responsibility, for otherwise these matters will never get on the legislative agenda, let alone becoming policy.
It is also necessary for the media to supervise the efficiency and honesty of charity groups, keeping track of how they deal with their funds. In this way, the public can exercise their compassion and invest in this society. And in this way, by giving human services professionals the dignity they deserve, will more young people be attracted to this field.
Chen Wen-liang is deputy secretary-general of the United Way of Taiwan.
TRANSLATED BY LIN YA-TI
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