Should a charity organization pay its volunteers for the good deeds they do?
Judging by the reaction to the news that Shilehui, a Web-based charity gives its workers a 15 percent commission on money they raise, it would suggest many would say "no".
Experts have said giving fundraisers commissions is a risky move, largely due to the lack of regulations preventing fraud and other abuses.
Fang Lu, founder of Shilehui, which supports disadvantaged individuals through online fundraising, dismissed the controversy about his group's methods on Tuesday. Fang said the "rewards" merely cover the volunteers' expenses. He blamed the reaction on a lack of public understanding of the industry.
Based in East China's Zhejiang province, Shilehui has been operating since 2009 and is registered with Jinhua city's civil affairs bureau.
"We support poor students, people with disabilities, the elderly and those struggling to pay medical fees for severe diseases," Fang said. "From our previous experience, we realized most people in tough economic circumstances can't afford to, or don't know how to, access the Internet, so we need volunteers to look for the needy, check their identities and then raise funds for them."
With only 11 permanent staff members, the group began recruiting volunteers — at first unpaid — to handle fundraising and other operations in March last year.
Relying on unpaid volunteers, however, resulted in low efficiency and poor quality projects, Fang said.
"Some volunteers collected incomplete information from people who needed urgent help. Sometimes those people passed away before enough money was collected to help them."
More than half of the 30 people initially recruited nationwide quit due to a lack of financial support.
This was largely due to the way Shilehui operates. It works like an e-commerce charity, with registered donors playing the part of "buyer" and having accounts they can top up, while the fundraisers are "sellers" who promote their campaigns to attract attention.
However, it means volunteers have to hand over their own money to intended beneficiaries before a campaign begins, and then raising the funds to recoup their loss.
"So, in April, we decided to explore recruiting fundraisers by offering a financial reward for every campaign completed," Fang said.
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