Leo Zhang's friends
Interview with igenius
posted on Thursday, July 01, 2010 08:15 AM
How does a chartered accounted start a Social Venture Group to help charities in China?
The seeds for the idea of Social Venture Group (SVG) began very early in my life. When I was a child, my family and my neighbors planted the ideal that members of a community support each other in my mind. When volunteering with several charities, I interacted with orphans, homeless people, migrant workers, and disabled people. The nonprofits I worked with faced a chronic shortage in funding and domestic support, which hindered them from making a much needed impact on the community. After an incident in 2007, in which my cousin was left paralyzed for life at the age of 19, I realized that my desire to bring change to the Chinese nonprofit sector was no longer a peripheral interest for me. I was actively involved in fundraising events for a US-based orphan foundation called Love Without Boundaries (LWB), and personally experienced the difficulty of tracking funds used by Chinese orphanages. This lack of transparency consequently restrained contributions to LWB and other organizations with which I volunteered. All these confirmed to me that there needed to be a vital bridge between donors and needy causes in China. When I learned more about the business model of donor advisory firms, I was convinced that I could use my skills and experiences in stock evaluation to assess nonprofit projects for donors and serve as that bridge heretofore absent in China. Since no such organization existed in China at that time, I began discussing the possibility of starting one with several friends of mine, which was then established as SVG. Later on, I quit my job as a stock analyst and became the first Chinese member of the start-up team.
What is the Social Venture Group working on right now?
The main services we at SVG provide is high quality donor advisory services to foundations, corporations and individuals who wish to give to the Chinese charity sector. Furthermore we are promoting philanthropy in China by setting up China’s first online gift catalogue (www.charitygift.cn). Last month, we launched our first bi-monthly Drinks for a Cause event, in which we platform a local cause in the community and provide a meeting point for networking and volunteering.
You are a young team working in a very challenging and immature sector in China. What keeps you motivated and how do you define success for your organization?
It is a great fortune to have a team that is dedicated and all hold onto the same vision and values. Also, as we are working in the challenging nonprofit sector in China, we keep hearing and witnessing the moving stories of nonprofits, their great work and their heart for disadvantaged people in China. Being able to be a part of their work and to help them grow is also a big incentive for our team.
With SVG we want to build a sustainable donor support base for the grassroots nonprofit sector in China and to change the overall mindset of Chinese citizens who place a low priority on charitable giving and volunteerism. We want SVG to be a self-sustainable model that can positively impact and foster the Chinese charity sector in the long term. When nonprofit organizations in China no longer lack financial resources for fulfilling their mission and everyday Chinese are giving to charitable causes, then SVG will have fulfilled its purpose and be considered as a success.
What’s next in store for you and the SVG?
For SVG, the next focus is to expand the client base of corporations, especially those MNCs who have active CSR in China. We started the partnership with two corporations this year and saw the great potential in this area.