Japan’s “Giving December” Hopes to Build a Culture of Giving

With charitable donations less common in the country than other established nations, Japan’s Giving December, launched by private-sector groups in 2015, is focused less on driving donations to specific organizations and more on the idea of giving in general.

Giving Tuesday has been a groundbreaking annual fundraising event in the nonprofit space in recent years.

And the spirit behind the event is picking up steam globally—particularly in Japan, where they dedicate the whole month of December to giving.

Giving December, launched in 2015 by the Japan Fundraising Association and other groups, hopes to draw awareness to the value and importance of giving, which has less of a legacy in the country. The event, as a result, takes more of an informational approach compared to Giving Tuesday.

“Making a donation is a voluntary action. There are, therefore, no mandatory initiatives regarding ‘Giving December,’” the English version of the initiative’s website states. “It is important that people do what they can, in a way that they are able to.”

In its third year, the initiative is working to improve a culture of giving, which has seen growth as a result of some of the country’s recent disasters, but lags behind other first-world countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

Despite Japan having a population that’s twice the size of the U.K., Britons donated $12.8 billion last year, nearly twice as much as Japan’s $6.8 billion, according to The Japan Times.

“The amount of donations in Japan is small among the advanced countries,” noted Hiroshi Komiyama, who is heading the committee for this year’s campaign, in comments to the newspaper.

On the other hand, there are some signs that the situation could eventually change. The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami led to an increase in charitable donations that year, and donations since haven’t fallen to pre-earthquake levels.

The campaign has at times borrowed from Western giving strategies—particularly in 2015, when Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, a leading signatory of the Giving Pledge and the namesake of one of the world’s largest charitable foundations, took part in a Giving December event.

The Japan Fundraising Association has been working on these types of issues since its founding in 2009, launching campaigns such as “Learning to Give,” targeted at young children, as well as a certification program for fundraisers.

“We find ourselves in the position of a ‘developed’ country in terms of seriousness and degree of social problems which other countries will one day face,” the group’s president, Masataka Uo, said in comments on the association’s English website. “It means that if we find solutions to these pressing issues with innovative way, we may help other countries solve similar problems in the future.”

(visualspace/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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