As the numbers and quantity of charitable contributions continue to grow, there has been a noticeable increase in organized fundraising events and activities taking place in Vietnam. Over the past ten months in Ho Chi Minh City alone, one could attend any multiple of charity golf tournaments, musical concerts, a cyclo race, a music fest, a group run, wine tasting, gala dinners, fashion shows, luncheons, bazaars and auctions each benefiting one or more charity organization or a community in need.
To learn more about this trend, I contacted representatives working for international not-for-profit organizations (INGOs) and I also reached out to Government agencies overseeing their activities in Vietnam. (Herein, I focus on INGOs rather than Vietnamese nonprofits given that the laws are quite different and the laws regarding the latter are less well understood.) My main purpose was to find out whether there were any restrictions on raising funds in Vietnam.
First, I sought counsel from a lawyer, who pointed me to Decision 340/TTg of the Prime Minister stating that, “The activities of all [INGOs] in Vietnam shall have to comply with the content and scope … stipulated in the issued Permit”. Thus, the legal perspective was that an INGO seeking to fundraise must ensure that its permit explicitly states the intention to raise funds in Vietnam.
Representatives from the Committee for INGO Affairs and the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee, two government agencies responsible for policymaking and oversight of INGOs in Vietnam, stated that there are no legal provisions for INGOs to fundraise in Vietnam. INGOs are expected to raise funds from abroad. However, it was explained, in the case that an INGO wants to raise additional funds in Vietnam to support a specific Vietnam-based project, they may do so through a local partner. The local partner, in this case a state agent, may represent the INGO to apply for a fundraising permit. Such permits, the Representatives clarified, are considered on a case-by-case basis.
In general, members of the INGO community involved in organizing fundraising events said they sought approval from local government agencies such as the HCMC Union of Friendship Organizations, the External Relations Office, the Service of Culture, Sports and Tourism or sometimes the Provincial People’s Committee. While most INGOs reported that less than a quarter of their revenues are raised locally, they acknowledged a rising trend and potential for raising more money in Vietnam.