Suishouji, a bookkeeping application, is now energizing a charity project. It is being used at 30 schools to consolidate "Free Lunch for Children", which was launched in September 2011 by Deng Fei, a reporter with the Phoenix Weekly.
The project has since notched up more than 150 million yuan ($24 million). The donations have been used at 465 schools in poverty-stricken areas of China. Around 500 journalists have joined the cause so far. The project is now operated by the China Social Welfare Foundation, with the Suishouji app set to play a key role in its evolution.
The "transparent app" was pioneered by Suishou Technology, an Internet-based financial company in Shenzhen. According to research firm Analysys International, the app accounts for more than 60 percent market share in China's individual online bookkeeping.
Students have free lunch at a classroom of a primary school in Mashan county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. The Free Lunch for Children project has benefited 465 schools in poverty-stricken areas across China. Provided to China Daily
Users can keep accounts and manage personal and household finances anytime, anywhere. Charities could use the app to record details of each donation and expenditure.
"The key to transparency in financial aspects of public welfare is real-time publication of details of each and every donation and expenditure," said Jiao Yigang, vice-president and co-founder of Suishou Technology.
The lunch project's full-time staff and its volunteers use the Suishouji app to maintain such details using mobile phones.
The time, nature and amount of each donation were recorded automatically in the specific e-account book. Donors themselves and the public at large supervised how each donation was used. They just need to log in to Suishouji, download the program's e-account book, and check details thereof.
They could keep track of all the details vis-a-vis every school - like, what kind of vegetables and meat were bought, how much money was spent. They could share this information through WeChat, QQ, Weibo and other social media apps.
"The people who spend money keep accounts and the people who donate check those accounts," said Jiao. "We plan to expand the project to more schools across the nation. However, the biggest problem is that schools in mountainous and poverty-stricken areas cannot access Wi-Fi, so they are unable to record each grant and expenditure in time on their mobile phones."
But Deng remains hopeful. "Honesty and efficiency form the lifeline of charity organizations. Financial transparency and openness will get the free lunch program on to a new stage," he said.
He may well be right. For, according to a survey conducted by Suishou Technology in October, 61 percent of the 2,008 respondents said low transparency and inability to obtain full information on donations would affect their willingness to attend charity events. And 75 percent of the respondents said they would be more willing to participate in charity events if they could easily understand the financial situation of the charity concerned.
"Public welfare needs continuous innovation. We made a giant leap through cooperation with Suishou. Hopefully, more people will participate in public welfare programs as they know how their donations will be spent," Deng said.
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