Interview with Yao Xiaofeng, charity auction star

Written and photo taken by Zhou Mo


Shortly before, at the 2016 Firefly Charity Auction Gala, hosted by the SSCLF – BEA Public Welfare Fund, a man of medium stature raised his paddle almost for every auction item and took away three from a total of 16 items. The charity auction "star" is Mr. Yao Xiaofeng, executive director of the Shanghai HugeLeaf Investment Holdings Ltd, and Chairman, Shanghai Aufeng Enterprise Development Co., Ltd. Mr. Yao is not only a regular in charity auction events, but he sets up Hugeleaf public welfare fund in Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation, in the spring of 2016,.


On the eve of Christmas 2016, the author interviewed Mr. Yao Xiaofeng in his company office located on Huashan road in Shanghai.


Charity auction, making affinity with public welfare


Question:  Over the years, you have been active in participating in the charity events sponsored by the Soong Ching Ling Foundation.  When have you been interested in participating in charity activities?  What is the reason for you to be involved in the social welfare?


Yao:  Frankly speaking, I have had exchanges with the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation since my child entered the Soong Ching Ling kindergarten. For the first time I was invited to participate in charitable activities organized by the SSCLF, I felt quite different from the auctions I took part in before. General auction’s commercial flavor is relatively strong, auction companies have some hype ingredients, the bidders want the auction articles exceed its value, which is of course only human’s nature. At the charity auction hosted by the SSCLF, the proceeds will go to help social vulnerable group, we do not pursue auction article’s price level, but pursue the dedication of love. Each charity auction has a clear theme to implement a public welfare project. Although the amount of money is not huge, but the atmosphere is very healthy and interesting. As long as I know the news of the charity auction, I am sure to attend it.


Question:  It is understood that you not only love to participate in charity auction activities, but also you are the most active in raising your paddle for auction items. Because of your frequent paddle – up, until the auction item taken away by other people, the final price is relatively high, so that people say you are "price gouging". What do you think?


Yao:  I think since it is a charity auction, a donation, of course, the final price is the higher, the better. The auction is not only to push the price higher, but can enlarge the value of love. Over the years, I not only actively participate in charity auction events, but also mobilize my friends to join in them.  In fact, every auction event is the spreading of love and all the attendants have surely been infected by and gradually involved in it. My friends are very interested in participating in the auction activities, and they told me: "Call me again for next auction!" I believe everyone has compassion, just inform him a clear theme of an auction, he will be willing to do charity. This is also a kind of love relay.



Question:  There is a risk for you in pushing up the auction price. How to do if you paddle up and no one take over?


Yao:  Auction will certainly push up the prices of the auction item. Of course, there are risks. Every time I participated in auction I made commitment that if the auction price is high and nobody wants, I must buy it. In fact, I bought some items at the final price, some of them I sent to my friends, most of them are kept in my warehouse, at the appropriate time those items would be taken out for auction.


Establish a special fund to devote myself to public welfare service


Question:   In May 2016, you invested 50 million yuan to set up Hugeleaf Public Welfare Fund in Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. Can you describe in detail the characteristics of the special fund? How to operate the special fund?


Yao:  First, I want to clarify a fact that the special fund is not set up by myself.  It is the Shanghai Hugeleaf Investment Holdings Ltd.'s decision. I just put forward the idea, and the idea got the recognition and support from Mr. Shen Peijin, President of our company and all the shareholders. 


I have been thinking charity auction is certainly a good thing, but my colleagues are not free sometimes, they entrust me to bid for auction items. The charity auction could not be held very often, the sustainable development of charity can’t rely only on the charity auction. How to establish and improve their hematopoietic function may be the problem all public welfare organizations need to face. I think Hugeleaf Public Welfare Fund invest a sum of money as the principal, to set up a financial fund, donate its profit while maintaining its principal. You can create an Everfount pool of funds, provide sustainable funding for public welfare projects that require long-term operation.


Because of different concepts, the majority of the wealthy Chinese might not be able to donate their entire fortune, if you guarantee against the loss of principal, just donate profits or part of profits, I believe many rich people are likely to accept it. I have an idea, if possible, expansion to 200 million yuan on basis of our company invested 50 million yuan, 5 million yuan each share, mobilize our familiar rich friends to subscribe them. Through financial operation, we will donate profit margin of ten percent or below to the Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation; more than ten percent parts, after deducting the operation cost, as dividends for investors. The risk is borne by our company: if there is no profit, our company will also donate 1 million yuan to Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation. In case of loss, the first loss comes from our company’s 50 million. When losses of 50 million yuan finished, the financial project is terminated, all the principal investment returns to its origin owner. Of course, I believe it is basically impossible to happen such situation. We will appoint a professional team, in accordance with the law, and in the supervision of the Soong Ching Ling Foundation. The principal is guaranteed not for other purposes, earmarking. To ensure the safety of investors’ fund, and let everyone experience charity, this may make more rich people dispel worries to participate in the ranks of the charity.


Question:  How has Hugeleaf Public Fund run so far? Does the fund have any definite public welfare projects?


Yao:  Since this special fund set up only for 6 months, we are busy on its preparatory work, the capital in operation now is only our company's 50 million yuan and so we donated 3 million yuan to the SSCLF in 2016. The fund will be in full swing in 2017. Many of our friends are very interested in this project, willing to join in. Hugeleaf Public Fund is designated mainly for the SSCLF’s farmers' entrepreneurial baton project, which aims to provide financial support for migrant workers returning home to start their own business, hoping to solve the problems of rural left behind children by restoring the integrity of the family. So far, the projects have been implemented in poor rural areas of eight provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in China.



Reshape the image for the development of public welfare industry


Question:  What’s the most urgent problem for China's public welfare industry?


Yao:  China has a long history, splendid culture and the tradition of helping the poor. Although public morals are recently declining, in fact,there are still good will in most Chinese hearts, — "Man’s nature at birth is good". As for the wealthy, getting rich earlier or later, basically after the reform and opening up, their successes are attributed to their own efforts, opportunities and policy factors. People should feedback to community after they are getting rich. I know some of the rich would like to do charity.  The problem is that the rich people want to do charity, but they are so busy that they don't have enough time to do charity by themselves, most people willing to do charity still need to entrust a professional team to do. It is very important to choose what organizations to do charity. Some organizations now cry up wine and sell vinegar, especially these years there appear scandals in the public sector, a rat shit can make a pot of porridge terrible. It makes many people who really love charity shrink back at the sight of current situation of charity. Eliminating people's psychological barriers, remodeling the image of public welfare organizations is currently the most urgent problem that need to solve in China.


Doing good is also a kind of investment, investment will pay off, of course, the return, we referred here is not the economic or physical. Donors donated money or materials, they want to know where their donations are in the end; volunteers donated their knowledge and time, they also want to see the improving living environment of vulnerable groups. Seeing the feedback information, the donors will continue to do charity, if they can’t get the feedback information, they will not continue to do. Our company previously provided financial support to build five Hope Primary Schools in poor rural areas in Henan province. That is a well- done project. A long-term cooperation agreement has been signed between our company and the Shanghai Song Ching Ling Foundation. We appreciate and trust in the execution and transparency of SSCLF’s working team.



In addition, it is imminent task for public welfare organizations to attract faithful and gifted talents to join in. With a good leader, the team will be full of innovation and vitality. For example, you can try to operate through the business modes, some of the good business modes can graft to charity projects, which require innovative thinking. Of course, to attract talents, it is necessary to let their income integrated with market, no worries to have a decent life. How can the people with distress life to help others? These all need us to solve in practice. With professionals, and the financial platform to support, China's public welfare undertakings is likely a snowball gathering as it goes on, sustainably developing.


((From SSCLF’s Quarterly “Change”, third issue in December 2016)