Online donations

Things are quite exciting at Zhicheng. My colleague left for her Criminal Law conference in South Africa today. I hope that my analysis of indigent criminal defense proves useful. It was so exciting to finally learn more about the infamous Gideon v. Wainwright, a case I came across last year while conducting research for Professor Roberts.

My main work this week was the ongoing civil society project. I had the opportunity to investigate online fundraising in a variety of different countries. From what I found, donations through websites or through an online intermediary are not subject to any more regulation that non-digital donations. This makes sense if you think about it. Governments want to encourage charitable donations, and therefore, do not want to discourage donations through needlessly complicated rules.

I also wonder whether the size of the average online donation explains the lack of extra oversight. Think about it, if the average donation consists of a few dollars, then the government probably doesn't have to worry about the embezzlement of funds through charities. Although charities always require regulation, it appears one major justification for regulation is to prevent wealthy donors from hiding their money in a tax-exempt entity.

One thing I love about my internship at Zhicheng is that through my research I found a number of really great online sources for information about civil society. Since these sites have been so invaluable to me, I felt obliged to share them with you. Probably the best source for broad international comparisons of civil society is Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Civil Society Studies. I really love how much information they provide on government spending. Their site also includes a number of really informative graphs that compare the funding structure of non-profts in dozens of countries.

In addition to the Hopkins site, I have also enjoyed Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy. Although it focuses exclusively on the United States, this site’s data is so illuminating. Who knew that income level was such a strong predictor of the kinds of things individuals chose to support through charitable donations. This information will certainly provide invaluable as I continue working on the civil society project at Zhicheng.

As you already know, my life in Beijing is about more than just work. I have also been exploring the city. On Saturday I visited the National Museum in Tiananmen Square. It was free to the public and gigantic and they had a really great collection of Chinese porcelain. For whatever reason, I was really digging those bowls. I think because they reminded me of just how old Chinese civilization really is. Living in Beijing, which is modern and constantly developing, I feel firmly planted in the 21st century. Looking at those bowls, I found myself in the Ming Dynasty, then the Song, and then the Tang. It was quite disorienting!