Japan is hurting and needs our help. But actually it needs Asia's help the most. Like anyone in the world, our best is brought out when we help without expectation — what is called charity. Asia would grow in many dimensions if it grew in philanthropy.
There is an ocean of wealth -- in China, India, the Tigers and Japan itself — that is still rising. For instance Merrill Lynch reports that China has half a million millionaires, and those numbers are growing at 31% per year, the fastest in the world. (The US has 2.87 million millionaires.) India is not far behind, with a 50% expansion in one year, 2009. It is fifth in total millionaires.
But the tools and expectation of creative sharing are scarce in Asia for historical reasons. In 2010 Bain and Company estimated philanthropic donations as a percent of GDP:
What is the most effective non-emergency philanthropy one could do today in the world?
I have come to the conclusion that the highest leverage point in philanthropy right now would be to cultivate a culture of giving in Asia. That is to educate, reform, nurture, and expand philanthropy in Asian cultures.
A few tens millions spent now in seeding reform in current legal and tax regimes in order to encourage philanthropy, or millions spent educating and equipping the newly wealthy and soon-to-be wealthy, elevating role models, developing appropriate persuasions, and making giving in Asia cool for the average citizen -- all these would "pay off" a million fold in a decade or two. This type of meta-giving -- giving to increase the degree of giving -- is long term investing of a different type.
In 2010 two of the richest people in the world, who had publicaly pledged to give away more than 50% of their wealth — went to visit some of the richest people in India and China to nudge them to do the same. Primarily to serve as role models and peer pressure for the other million millionaires not giving yet.