Chinese & Chinese-Americans Ascend in the Philanthropy Scene

In the past years fundraising has been focusing more attention on international donors. Analyzing data from the U.S. Department of Education has revealed the top sources for international gifts to U.S. colleges and universities.

Amongst the top countries – China.

A study done by The Global Chinese Philanthropy Initiative also showed that Chinese, as well as Chinese-Americans, are a growing presence in the philanthropy scene. The study showed an astounding increase of over 400% in both Chinese and Chinese-American foundations since the year 2000. And best yet, colleges and universities have been reaping the benefits of many of the major gifts. 

Notable Major Gifts 

Major gifts from Chinese-American donors alone between 2008 and 2014 totaled nearly $500 million – about 66% of which went towards higher education. Here are just a few of many Chinese and Chinese-American donations worthy of mention:

  • Ming Hsieh – a University of Southern California alumni – has donated more than $80 million since 2006 to establish an institute in nanomedicine.
  • A $115 million donation was given from Chen Tianqiao and wife, Chrissy Luo to Caltech in 2016 to fund and create the Institute for Neuroscience.
  • $30 million was given to Yale from the Tsai family in 2016 to honor late Paul Tsai, a Yale Law School alumnus
  • In 2000, Anthony and Lulu Wang gave $25 million to Wellesley University – the biggest donation to an all-female college.
  • Pan Shiyi and Zhang Xinxin, founders of Soho China, gave a $15 million gift to Harvard

Hong Kong in #1

China made it to the top 10 in a Wall Street Journal analysis, but Hong Kong was ranked #1, donating nearly three times as much as China to higher education institutions in the United States.

Amongst the largest donations – a $350 million donation to Harvard School of Public Health by brothers, Ronnie and Gerald Chan. Gerald, an alumnus of Harvard, shared in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that since there are many students from Hong Kong in the U.S. there is quite a lot of affinity for its colleges and universities. International students from Hong Kong and China put together made up about 25% of the entire foreign-student population in U.S. universities between 2008 and 2012.

Where are the Donations Going?

Many of these international donors tend to give to top private schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford according to the Wall Street Journal – and not necessarily because they are alumni. Many of the donations have gone to research. Take, for example, the aforementioned donation from Chinese power couple, Chen Tianqiao and Chrissy Luo, who apart from their Caltech donation, said they were going to be donating $1 billion to brain discovery, research and development.

Chinese-Americans’ donations in 2017 gave more than $50 million to four California universities: UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, UCLA and UC Irvine alone. These numbers make sense considering that California has a booming Chinese population. Between 2016 and 2017 the Chinese student population grew 10.5%!

The Census Bureau’s study from 2016 showed the Asian minority is the fastest-growing population in the U.S. As American demographics continue to change and international donations surge, look for new leads in Chinese and Hong-Kongese alumni and philanthropists both nationally and internationally.


Sources & Additional Reading

[1] Key Findings and Recommendations,

[2] A Growing Wave: The Startling Rise of Chinese-American Alumni Giving,

[3] Donors of Chinese descent vastly increase philanthropy, mostly to higher education,

[4] Couple Gives Wellesley a Record $25 Million,

[5] Chinese Donors Step Up Giving to American Universities,

[6] Chinese donations to US universities lag behind,

[7] Hong Kong Tops List of Foreign Donors to U.S. Schools,

[8] School of Public Health Renamed with $350 Million Gift, Largest in Harvard History,

[9] These Are the Fastest-Growing Racial Groups in America,

[10] California Colleges with Largest Chinese Student Population,



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