Digital for Good: China

Country Overview

Online giving and crowdfunding have been on the rise in China, which can be partly attributed to technological innovations and China’s economic development. China has become one of the world’s largest digital economies, with a vast digital consumer base and an innovative ecosystem. The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated digitalization in various fields, including charitable giving. In 2020, the total amount donated through the 20 approved internet fundraising platforms went up by 52 percent from 2019. In 2018, the two most successful charitable crowdfunding platforms in China together received over 90 percent of all donations in the first half of that year.

Giving online was the most frequently used way of donating by individuals in 2018, according to a survey of more than 4,000 respondents aged 15-69 living in Beijing and five provinces. Social media (e.g. WeChat and weibo) was the top channel where donors received information on fundraising campaigns. Health, particularly assistance for critical diseases, was the predominant cause area of online donations.

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In this study, an online survey experiment was conducted in October 2021 to examine the effects of three factors—social information, message framing, and nonprofit overhead ratio—on individual donations to an online crowdfunding campaign. Eight hypothetical fundraising scenarios were developed based upon a 2x2x2 factorial research design, where donations were solicited to help patients of critical illness receive surgeries.

The survey asked participants how much they would donate if they were awarded CNY 100, from zero to the full amount of this award. Around one-third of participants indicated that they would donate the full amount of the award. Another one-fifth shared that they would donate more than CNY 60 out of the CNY 100. When being asked about their perceptions of charitable giving, a majority (86 percent) of the participants reported that their concern for people who are less fortunate than themselves is why they donate.

Social information

Social information refers to the awareness of the donations made by other donors previously. Information on others’ giving may increase someone else’s donation for several reasons. For example, social information may imply a descriptive social norm: because others are donating, it is a socially acceptable behavior. Social information may increase the awareness of need, or the perceived trustworthiness and performance of a nonprofit.

However, social information sometimes may in fact decrease donation. For instance, some people may feel that their donation will not make a big difference and is less needed when they see large amounts of donations from others. That leads to a lower amount of donation or no giving at all.

The findings from this study suggest a crowding-out effect of social information on individual giving. Participants who were presented with a list of prior donations indicated a lower amount of donation, on average, than those who were not aware of this information.