Jet Li One Foundation: Chinese NGO spreading the “disease of love”

One Foundation: 1 Yuan to Spread the Disease of LOVE (壹基金:一元钱启动爱的传染病)

The blogger behind One Bao(一报)- One Person’s Newspaper (一个人的报纸) is a former Southern Weekend (南方周末) jounalist Zhai Minglei (翟明磊). I got to know him in CnbloggerCon 07. I am a long time reader of Southern Weekend since middle school, and was very exciting to meet a real person behind this paper. Besides One Bao, Minglei also self-funds a monthly magazine called Minjian <民间> with a few good friends. Personally, I especially enjoyed our conversation about Longjin tea leaf as Minglei shared his secret on how to find a good tea seller in Hangzhou.

A few days ago, I read Minglei’s blog about this conversation with Jet Li (李连杰), the Chinese Kungfu icon. Just as Minglei expressed in his preface of the following report, I too was very curious about how the One Foundation works with China Red Cross in Sichuan earthquake relief. I was also interested in the “sustainable charity” idea of Jet Li and want to help to spread the word.

The following article is translated from Minglei’s blog <壹基金:一元钱启动爱的传染病>. I will break it into two parts. I skipped a few paragraphs but tried to keep the most essential messages in the original post. – Min Guo
Seven days’ ago, Jet Li contacted me and wanted to talk with the blogger behind One Bao. He read my reports of Xintuofeng Volunteer Journal which mentioned the China Red Cross problems and sees One Bao as an independent thinking media. He wants to get my opinions on the One Foundation model from the perspective of the benefits it offers toward society. And I was very curious about Jet Li’s points of view in the Sichuan earthquake relief. Thus, we had a long talk in a hotel room, the two of us and his assistant.

To be honest, I was a bit surprised at what Jet Li has achieved. I have a stereotyped impression about celebrity charity foundations. But meeting Jet Li was an eye opening experience for me. Jet Li wanted to know if One Foundation could be accepted from NGOs’ perspective. I believed Jet Li and One Foundation is really exploring a Chinese NGO model. He has a very clear and original idea. So I wanted to publish Jet Li’s idea and get your feedback.

Talking about Jet Li’s attitude to China Red Cross, I agreed on him. Because he has the right attitude: no rants, no proposal, no criticism, but only action. As an grassroots independent media, One Bao and other bloggers want to reserve the right to criticize Red Cross and make suggestions. But One Bao should not be a one-person’s blog with one voice. So I prefer to publish various kinds of opinions. I hope Jet Li’s idea can stimulate a deeper discussion on China’s NGOs problems and opportunities for improvement.

In writing up the post, I removed my questions in our conversation but kept the original words from Jet Li which can help you to understand him without interruption. – Zhai Minglei May 31 2008

Rebecca, Zhai Minglei, Guo daxia… Zala in CnbloggerCon 2007

Minglei in CnbloggerCon 2007 (left 2)


One Foundation: 1 Yuan to Spread the Disease of LOVE

Jet Li:

I am a survivor of the Indonesian Tsunami. My family was on vacation in the Maldives the day when Tsunami came. The Maldives are composed of islands that are less than 1.8 meters high. During the 30 seconds of the Tsunami, sea water flooded the whole island we stayed. My little daughter was washed away; I was holding the hand of my elder daughter standing in the water with water above my ears. I felt the despair of death… Afterwards, I thought with introspection: in face of disaster, money and names are meaningless; lives are all equal. What should we – the lives that survived, do to live a meaningful life?

“Public Charity” (公业)

With the idea to set up a charity foundation, I visited and researched the NGOs and charity operations in Taiwan, India, Thailand and America. Then a special idea came to me: I wanted to set up a sustainable foundation. Why?

Perhaps you’ve noticed, the most popular response in the world to a disaster is a business/economic model, or a fashionable model. Mainstream media and newspapers start to report, people express their emotion and love in a very short time intensively. Emotions explode with intensity and foundations start to raise funds for relief. But after two weeks’, people are become more ignorant to issues relating to the disaster. In two months, people are no longer talking about the disaster. For example, we don’t know what happened to the people suffered in the snow disaster in early 2008. We don’t know if those people really get any help today.

My model is different–it is a kind of “Public Charity.” My ideal foundation is a fundamental charity facility much like the water and electricity utilities to a city. It can support a relief of a disaster for two or three years. The “public charity” is not driven by the influence of trends, but is driven by a custom of giving.

Eggs without Chicken 没有鸡也生蛋

I didn’t find the right model even after research into the current foundation models in the world. I would like to talk about my preliminary impression on global foundations. I grouped them into two types. One is “big foundation.” It uses the interest (investment income) of the fund’s endowment to provide for annual program funding. These foundations are more popular in US and usually have over hundred years’ history. They are like chicken that can lay eggs each year. The other type is regional foundations, such as Tzu Chi Foundation (慈济) from Taiwan and Christian foundations in the world. People’s religion believes are the basis of these foundations.

But both models are not going to work in China. I don’t want to complain about the regulations. Maybe the Chinese government is also considering if people will accept public foundations. I am willing to think in the shoes of the government. Anyway, the reality is: there are very few public foundations. And according to regulation, 70% of the funds must be used for relief annually, only 10% is allowed to use for profitable investment; otherwise, the legal person (法人) must pay back the loss himself/herself. As a result, the rate of growth of foundations in China is highly constrained. The regional foundations have very limited coverage in China.

My question is: can I have eggs without chicken?

One Yuan starts to spread the disease of LOVE 壹元钱启动爱的传染病

I have found this model: all from ONE.

One, is a mysterious number in China. “The Tao begot one. One begot two.”(道生一,一生二)

One Foundation is oriental.

One Foundation, One Family. The Earth is a family, the Earth is one

One foundation is beyond religion, politics, culture and language. If an alien visited the Earth, he/she would not see a specific person, but Humanity as One. So the Earth is one family. We are one, not two. We are global.

One means “from zero to one”. If “zero” is doing nothing, “one” is doing something. It is a fundamental difference. So, we are advocating each person to donate one yuan every month:

One Person + One Yuan/Month = One Family

Assume that we have 500 million cell phone users among 1.3 billion population in China. If everyone gives away 1 yuan per month, we will have 6 billion a year. If each Chinese gives away one yuan a month, we will have 15 billion a year. One yuan is not an economic liability to anyone, but it reflects the liability as a citizen to the sociality.

We don’t need money from big corporations. For example, when I visited Microsoft, they felt very relieved when I told them, “we don’t need your money.” But then I would ask them to give away 1 yuan from each employee’s monthly salary, or donate 1 percentage, or .1 percentage of the profit of selling one product.

That’s right; we are starting a movement to spread the disease of love, as a Harvard economic Professor said.

This is not an easy step in China. We want to change “do a good deed a day”(日行一善) in Chinese traditional culture into “do a good deed a month”. Of course, we won’t disagree if you want to donate 1,000 Yuan at once, but we don’t encourage it. We hope you can do it every month.

Why 1 Yuan? It is the easiest step from psychological research. Once a donor makes the first movement, he/she will be rewarded psychologically. Thus, it can cultivate our own Chinese charity culture and our citizen consciousness. We don’t want enterprises to donate too much cash each time there is a disaster. It is not sustainable.

Root in China, Help the World 立足中国, 救助全球

One foundation’s model is 1 person + 1 dollar/yuan + 1 month = 1 big family. We have invested 2 million in two years to research the right model.

During the research, we found four problems:

1. There are no NGOs with high credibility in China.
2. There is not a very transparent system in operation.
3. There is no a clear and long term vision for most NGOs.
4. There is too much hassle for a Chinese to donate.

Every step in our operation is designed to address the above problems. We have Deloitte as our global auditor. We enable donation via cellphone. We set our goal to help the global one family thus to build our credibility in public.

You are the best judge on this model. According to our research: the potential donation capability is 34 RMB/year for high school graduates, 400 RMB/year for college graduates. In the past one year, we accepted donations from 710,000 individuals of total amount 47.6 million RMB, i.e. average 65 RMB/person.

We have partners around the world. BBDO, Ogilvy, Disney…are all our partners. Our consulting firm suggested that it is acceptable for business to donate 0.1 percentages of profits psychologically. Since One Foundation was founded on April 17, 2007,there were five major disaster in the world, and we have helped them all. Root in China but help the globe, One Foundation is the only one.

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