Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Transparency of Grassroots Human Service Organizations in China: Does Transparency Affect Donation and Grants?

Friday, November 13, 2015 : 1:30 PM
Pearson II (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Shuang Lu, Rutgers University
Grassroots human service organizations in China are experiencing fast development yet facing inadequate public trust. This highlights the importance of improving organizational transparency and credibility. In this study, we analyze Chinese grassroots organizations’ level of transparency with respect to four aspects: basic information, governance, finance, and activity transparency. We examine factors that may influence transparency and test the effects of transparency on organizations’ donation and grant income.

A series of literature state that transparency has become an essential approach for grassroots organizations to attract donations, achieve market differentiation, and boost public trust. Grassroots organizations’ transparency can be influenced by multiple factors: first, organizational characteristics, such as organizational age, or time since establishment, organizational size, and legitimacy of the organization; second, organization’s capacity; and third, the external political and social environment. Transparency is also found to positively influence an organization’s income.



Our data came from the 2013 Survey of Transparency on Grassroots Organizations in China. Among the surveyed organizations, 1,048 were private-operated, bottom-up NGOs that were working for the public benefit. After excluding organizations that were already terminated (48) and organizations that work for animal rights (179), our final sample size is 821 grassroots human service organizations that actively operated in mainland China in 2011.


We employ the Grassroots Organizations’ Transparency Index (GTI) to assess level of transparency. The GTI measures the degree to which the organization discloses its key information to the public. Ranging from 0 to 100, higher scores indicate higher levels of transparency. The index is composed of four sub-indices, which include disclosure of the organization’s basic information, governance, finance, and activities.

Program area of grassroots organizations was divided into the following nine categories: people with disabilities, children and elderly, poverty and disaster relief, environment protection, health, education, community service, support and research, and other. Type of registration included six categories: business entity, private non-enterprise unit, social organization, unregistered, other, and missing. Location of the organizations included four categories: metropolitan cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, and Shenzhen), East, Middle, and West regions. Organizational age was calculated by subtracting the time point of establishment from the time point of survey (June 2013). Donation income refers to revenues that come from individuals or groups. Grant income refers to revenues that come from governments’ appropriation or subsidy.


Analytic Strategy

Our analysis starts with descriptive statistics to examine the distribution of main variables. The bivariate association between characteristics of the organization and dependent variables, including transparency, donation, and grant incomes, were conducted. These were followed by regression analyses of dependent variables.

Contribution to the Field

Our study contributes to the knowledge and practice of the field in several ways. First, our study enhances the public’s understanding of current transparency levels of Chinese grassroots organizations. Second, our study provides implications for organizational improvement of grassroots organizations. Third, our study suggests the importance of developing legislations and policies that encourage grassroots organizations’ information disclosure in China and beyond.