TOKYO >> Donate more. Invest in the future of society.
This is the call being made by a network of nonprofit groups, local governments, companies, universities and other entities across Japan as they join hands to organize projects nationwide mainly in December to foster the “culture of giving.”
Under an awareness campaign dubbed “Giving December,” organizers want to inspire the public to give in a country where the spirit of donating may not be as deeply rooted as in the United States and Europe.
While the 2011 earthquake- tsunami and nuclear disasters did boost individual donations and helped heighten people’s resolve to reach out and help one another, a survey indicated such contributions still fall short.
“The amount of donations in Japan is small among the advanced countries,” said Hiroshi Komiyama, head of the promotion committee for this year’s “Giving December” drive, adding that compared with the United States and countries in Europe, Japan “lags behind” in terms of individual contributions.
Marking its third year, the private sector-led initiative will see for the first time the involvement of partner organizations from all 47 prefectures.
For next month, about 500 entities, up from 397 in 2016, will participate, and a total of 125 projects will be carried out, according to Masataka Uo, head of the committee’s secretariat. Last year, there were 71 projects.
Uo, president and CEO of the Japan Fundraising Association, one of the key drivers of the initiative, introduced the findings of a survey, conducted biennially by his group, on the state of donations in Japan. The survey was conducted on a random sample of 5,000 men and women ranging in age from 20 to 79.
It found that the total amount of individual donations in Japan for 2016 stood at $6.8 billion, equivalent to 0.14 percent of Japan’s nominal gross domestic product.
Donations include those given to emergency disaster relief, religious- related activities and the Japanese Red Cross Society. By gender, male donors accounted for 42 percent, while their female counterparts were slightly higher at 48.7 percent.
The survey found that individual donations in 2009 and 2010 were at around the 30 percent level but jumped to 68.6 percent in 2011, reflecting a surge in donations after the 2011 catastrophes.
While the figure fell to 46.7 percent in 2012, the amount of individual donations thereafter stayed at the 40 percent level.
That the figure did not revert to pre-2011 levels indicates a change in the people’s mentality of giving, said Komiyama, chairman of the Mitsubishi Research Institute. But he added that officials are still “not satisfied” with where Japan stands.
The association cited data from different sources, including the Giving USA Foundation and Charities Aid Foundation in Britain, showing that individual donations in the United States came to $282 billion.
To close the gap, organizers hope that projects under the “Giving December” initiative will instill in the people, including youth, the joy of giving and the benefits of charity translated into positive changes in society.
At a time when the Japanese government is focused on tackling its ballooning debt and issues such as social security, Komiyama underlined the pivotal role of donations in helping projects for public interest and called for the need for the nation to tap into the potential of donations.
“It is necessary to foster a culture of giving” in Japan, Komiyama said.