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Sustainable Philanthropy Case Study - Lao Niu

Sustainable Philanthropy Case Study

Name: Lao Niu Foundation

Type: Private Charitable Foundation

Size: RMB 838 mm[1]

Year of Establishment: 2004


Lao Niu Foundation is the sixth largest foundations in China established by NIU Gensheng, a founder of China Mengniu Dairy. Based in Inner Mongolia, it is one of very few foundations in China established by an individual, using the founder’s own assets. The vision of the foundation is: 渡人渡己,心怀感恩;树人树木,责任天下 (“grateful hearts, improving ourselves by helping others; responsible under heaven to nurture both people and nature”).

Source: China Foundation Centre, Star Magnolia Capital (As of 2017)

By the end of 2018, Lao Niu Foundation had completed over 236 philanthropic projects in 31 provinces and other countries, including the United States, Canada, France and Africa. In 2019, the foundation has an AUM of RMB 838 mm and donated RMB 68 mm. Since its establishment in 2004, the foundation cumulatively donated RMB 1.5bn, mostly supported by continuous contributions from NIU and his family.

Public welfare expenditure from 2005 to 2018 (RMB 10,000)


The Lao Niu Foundation was founded in 2004 by Mr. NIU Gensheng. Mr NIU donated all his shares holdings in China Mengniu Dairy Company to set up the foundation, which values at RMB 1.5 bn at that time. The foundation has their focus on the area of cultural education, environmental protection, poverty alleviation and industry development, hoping to improve the quality of human life and equity within the society.

Gensheng Niu

Mr. NIU Gensheng’s children, Mr. Niu Ben and Ms. Niu Qiong, inherit his goodness. However, they established another foundation, Laoniu Brother & Sister Foundation, in 2015 rather than joined Laoniu Foundation. With the aim of committed to the growth and development of future generations and promoting social progress through effective charity, it is committed to focusing on the development of future generation through supporting children welfare and youth entrepreneurship projects and leading social progress with innovative philanthropic ideas.

Family Involvement:

The foundation was set up by NIU Gensheng, who was born in Inner Mongolia in 1954. He began his career as a milk-bottle washer at Yili Industrial Group in 1982, and rode his way up the career ladder to become Vice President before he was ousted due to a policy disagreement. In 1999, he set up Mengniu Diary and took an unconventional expansion path, pouring millions of yuan into brand-building before establishing its own manufacturing facilities to sell sterilized long-life milk across the nation. In 8 years, he turned the company from a tiny producer, ranked No. 1,116, into the nation’s largest. However, the company’s reputation was tainted by the melamine contamination scandal in 2008. It is reported that there were over 300,000 victims, including six babies dying from kidney failures and 54,000 babies being hospitalized. The scandal broke on 16 July 2008, after sixteen babies in Gansu Province were diagnosed with kidney stones. The babies were fed infant formula produced by Shijiazhuang-based Sanlu Group. After the initial focus on Sanlu—market leader in the budget segment—government inspections revealed the problem existed to a lesser degree in products from 21 other companies, including Mengniu Diary. This scandal hugely heightened NIU’s determination to involve more in philanthropic activities, eventually led to his resignation from the board of Mengniu in 2011.

He set up the foundation in 2004 and later donated all his shares of Mengniu Diary to the foundation. In 2011, he resigned from the chairman of the board of directors of Mengniu Dairy and switched his focus to philanthropy. To date, he and his family has donated over RMB 45 bn to philanthropic activities. His philanthropic ideas[2] include:

  • “小胜凭智,大胜靠德”, meaning small victories depend on cleverness and large victories depend on morality

  • “财富越多 , 责任越大” , meaning greater wealth comes with greater responsibility

  • “予人帮扶,于己修善”, meaning helping others is also helping himself to become “good”


The foundation’s primary focus is on environmental protection, cultural education and the advocacy for the philanthropic causes. The foundation is dedicated to creating a healthy and equitable environment for all human beings and becoming guardians of the next centuries.

Investment Program:

There is a very limited amount of publicly available information regarding Lao Niu Foundation’s investment program. Shining Capital, a private equity firm, is helping the foundation’s asset management. It is set up by NIU from its Mengniu and other shareholdings in 2007 and the firm is now operated by Mr. WENG Xiangwei, who previously worked in Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley with rich M&A related experience. The major investment focus of Shining Capital are financial services and electronic platforms. Some major investments of Shining Capital are as follow:

  • Owned 5.6% of Xiao Nan Guo, one of fast-growing casual restaurant chains in China in 2008; Xiao Nan Guo went public in 2012

  • Invest RMB 86 Million into Jekun Auto in 2016, leading the funding series of the company

  • Participating in the funding series of JustFab in 2013 and 2014

  • Co-invest with IDG in Beijing Weipass Panorama Information Technology Co., Ltd. for a total amount of RMB 100 million in 2015

  • Participating in the funding series A & B of Hainan Poly Pharm Co Ltd in 2011 and 2012, exit through IPO in 2017 with an amount of RMB 86.5 Million, achieving a multiple of 2.33x

[1] Source: China Foundation Center, Retrieved from: [2] Source: Introduction of family history, Lao Niu Foundation. Retrieved from:

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