Skip to main content

Levers for change: philanthropy in select South East Asian countries

April 29, 2016

This report by the Lien Centre for Social Innovation examines the role extrinsic factors such as public policies play in shaping the style and size of institutional philanthropy in Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. It assesses whether those policies are helping or hindering the growth of philanthropy.

Philanthropic giving through local civil society organizations has the potential to change the course of development by focusing on targeted social issues. In Southeast Asia, most philanthropic acts are based on religious beliefs or personal preferences rather than on “evidence of need or a desire to address systemic change.” (p.10) This can, in part,  be attributed to the low donor awareness of societal needs and the lack of donor education and skills development.

The policy environment in Southeast Asia generally hinders philanthropic giving as donors are not recognized, they enjoy very limited tax incentives, and they cannot bank on support services. It is thus not possible to assume that charity has grown at the same pace as economic development and wealth in the region. High net worth individuals are not as involved as their Western counterparts in development work.

The report concludes that philanthropy can only spur social changes “when donors understand the social problems they are addressing and are informed enough to move beyond short-term fixes to community-generated solutions.” (p.14)