Christian NGO looks to local fundraising as it turns 20
The Amity Foundation, established by the Chinese Christian leaders in 1985 as one of Communist China’s first independent NGOs, celebrated its 20th birthday with a meeting in Nanjing where supporters from around the world looked back over two decades of social investments in health, social welfare and rural development projects with a total value of CNY 800 million (USD 100 million).
Chinese Church leaders and government officials praised Amity's contribution to harmonious development. “Amity is the big brother of Chinese NGOs” said a representative of the China Charity Federation. The foundation's trailblazing status was also acknowledged by a Jiangsu government representative who expressed hopes that Amity's experience could be used to set high bench-marks for younger NGOs. “Amity should strengthen its capacity” said the official who also cautioned that work should be “within the framework of Chinese law and regulations.”
The foundation has been at the forefront of development trends over the years, moving west in 1993 – six years before the unveiling of the western development plan – and current work remains firmly embedded in China most impoverished provinces, such as Guizhou and Ningxia. Similarly, HIV/AIDS work dates back to 1996, when government still saw the virus as a ‘foreigners’ disease.’
A recent restructuring that resulted in the establishment of a research and development unit in late 2004 has opened up new possibilities for Amity to turn its attentions towards advocacy. “Research and development will act as the guide,” according to General Secretary Qiu Zhonghui (丘仲辉). But this does not signal a move away from Amity's bread and butter. “Projects will remain as the focus. Priorities include urban and rural poverty reduction, basic healthcare, HIV/AIDS, clean water, alternative energy and environment protection,” Qiu continued.
The General Secretary also acknowledged, however, the Foundation's relative weakness in domestic publicity and promotion. Amity has prospered with the support of international church groups, quadrupling annual income from 1995 to 2004, when it topped CNY 90 million (USD 11.1 million); but less than 1.5% of that came from mainland China (see table).
“The first step is to get Amity's name out to people here in Nanjing and Jiangsu,” said Zhang, who is wary of setting over-ambitious targets. “My dream is to raise 10% [of income from domestic sources] in the next couple of years. But this is a hard target to hit.” A fundraising strategy is in place, with plans to organise charity dinners, auctions and also to begin direct marketing.
One potentially lucrative source of income is a new printing press which, once complete, will have the capacity to print 12 million Bibles per year. Amity has already acquired a 287,000m2 plot of land, unveiled at a ceremony during the birthday celebration, where the press will be built. “The income generated will come to Amity to help more people in need. We see that there is a great potential,” confirmed Zhang who anticipates that this income will come on-stream by 2010.
Report by Matt Perrement