Running a Religious Philanthropic Enterprise

Tzu Chi’s Waste Sorting and Recycling Program in Taiwan and Its Reference Significance for Religious Groups in Mainland

in The China Nonprofit Review
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Abstract

Religious philanthropy is now in a new age. In 2012, the State Bureau of Religious Affairs and other 5 state agencies published a document to encourage and regulate religious philanthropic activities. It means that the central government’s new religious policy is to cultivate religious philanthropy. However, many religious groups, since their engagement in philanthropy, have encountered a series of problems, such as the immaturity of theory, the inefficiency of resource use and search, the shortage of organizations and staff with experience, and the unclear division between serving and preaching. Even if the religious environment in Taiwan is different from that in Mainland, the success of the waste sorting and recycling program of Tzu Chi, the largest Humanistic Buddhist group in Taiwan, still brings some valuable experience to religious groups doing philanthropy in Mainland. First, Tzu Chi’s leader, Cheng Yen, was good at linking Buddha’s teachings with recognized environmental issues. Her style of speech might be learned by other religious leaders who intend to generate philanthropic discourses. Second, Tzu Chi’s waste sorting and recycling program always made use of contingent opportunities and resources outside it to develop itself. This way of expansion should be noted by religious groups that want to establish philanthropic organizations. Third, the division of labor among Tzu Chi’s leader, volunteers, and professionals and their high level of autonomy could be taken by other religious philanthropic organizations. Finally, Tzu Chi’s religious philanthropic practices prioritize public interests and set an example for the separation between serving and preaching.

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