Working Together to Fight Poverty

China, May 10, 2005

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    Mercy Corps is helping CFPA, a partner organization, assist families left behind by the country’s explosive economic expansion. Photo: Jeremy Barnicle/Mercy Corps Photo:

Two hours into Matthew De Galan’s presentation on non-profit fundraising, his audience is surprisingly lively and attentive.

“How do you demonstrate value to donors?” one wants to know. “How often should you report back to supporters on your progress?” asks another.

De Galan, chief development officer at Mercy Corps, is sharing the agency’s donor relations approach with a roomful of eager staff from the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), one of China’s oldest and best-known charity groups.

As the Chinese middle class grows, CFPA is doing its best to create a culture of philanthropy and public service, trying to channel the newfound wealth of many urban Chinese into programs that help those left behind by the country’s explosive economic expansion.

Thus far, the organization’s track record is impressive.

Its New Great Wall program – so named to represent the massive generational challenge of expanding access to higher education – allows businesses and private citizens to sponsor the university education of poor but promising individual high school students. Since its inception in 2002, New Great Wall has helped almost 13,000 students attend 451 colleges and universities.

Dealing with rural poverty in China is a tall order, but ask anyone at CFPA and they’ll tell you their greatest ambition: to become China’s first international relief and development agency.

And as the audience’s attentiveness demonstrates, a little bit of international expertise will go a long way in advancing CFPA’s global aspirations.

A strong, proven relationship

Mercy Corps first established a relationship with CFPA in 2001, working with the organization’s staff to implement microfinance projects around China.

“Initially, our partnership with CFPA enabled us to get a much better understanding of many local issues and needs,” says Diana Tsui, who oversees Mercy Corps’ China program from the agency’s Asia headquarters in Hong Kong. “For us, the best way to expand our impact in China was to engage a good local partner who shares our vision and mission.”

But what started as a strictly programmatic relationship has evolved into a broader strategic partnership that also includes skills training, joint fundraising and staff exchanges – and that’s where De Galan’s presentation fits in.

“Beyond our immediate work on addressing poverty, Mercy Corps and CFPA share the greater mutual goal of building strong local Chinese leadership on emergency relief and sustainable community development,” Tsui says. “We would see it as a sign of success that Mercy Corps isn’t needed in China a decade from now.”

CFPA’s leadership sees great value in its strategic partnership with Mercy Corps.

“We are amazed by Mercy Corps’ willingness to share their knowledge and expertise with us,” says Wang Xingzui, deputy executive director of CFPA. “We’re confident that through our strategic partnership with Mercy Corps, CFPA can truly transform into an international humanitarian agency.”