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7 steps to deliver medical supply donations to China

On Feb 7th, our second batch of medical supply donation arrived at two hospitals in Guangzhou for the fierce fight with Coronavirus.

8 people, 14 days, $60k+ donation from 240+ donors, 4000+ pounds supplies direct delivered from NYC to hospitals in Guangzhou.

While we shared our progress of the charity donation project to the public, many people have reached out and ask about how it worked and how to get their logistics work.

How does everything work to donate to hospitals in China?

Assuming following 100% of the law as well as all the required charity donation procedures from Chinese government and Guangdong Charity Federation, here is the ultimate workflow:

There are 2 flows as shown above. The document flow determines if a charity donation can be made legally. Required paperwork that you must pay attention and prepare for includes:

  • Doc#1: International Donation Letter by you or your organization. A required doc to get Doc#2 stamped. Must address it to the Charity Federation. Must include your organization’s letterhead and/or sign it;

  • Doc#2: Charity Federation Acceptance Letter for International Donation. The letter that certifies your charity donation. Stamped by Charity Federation on the basis of a copy of signed Doc#1. Required to be exempt for charity airline shipping fee (digital copy is fine here). Required for Customs to let the donation into China without duty;

  • Doc#3: Packing List and Invoice. Required for the logistics partner to create a shipping label with the airline and for the Customs to check on the cargo;

  • Doc#4: Hospital Acceptance Letter for International Donation. Created/stamped by the hospital. A required doc to get Doc#2 stamped;

There are templates for all 4 of them. Considering the amount of information required and the necessary accuracy, prepare to leave at least 4 hours of paperwork time for a small-medium batch.

Assuming the goal is to deliver qualified medical supplies to the hospitals asap, here is the ideal project execution plan.

It looks crazy and it is. In the next section, I’m breaking it down into 7 steps with all the details to equip you to be an expert.

Step 0 is to find a qualified organization if you are an individual. Otherwise, DO make sure take international shipping cost into your donation planning. It can get very expensive.

Now let's start the journey from the upper left corner in the map.

1. Bright Yellow box is highlighting the importance of transparency of the whole donation process. End-to-end transparency makes a HUGE difference on team morals and donors’ confidence, which attracts more donors over time. Collect photos and even videos at every single step and post them as evidence of success.

  • Two major tasks to initiate the donation process: purchasing (in light yellow) and local logistics (in green)

  • Before making any purchase, make sure you get connected with a hospital, and confirm what you can buy meets their acceptance criteria

  • With the chaotic situation in those hospitals and 13h time zone differences, people may be super busy and less responsive (not as fast as ideal). Purchasing can be time sensitive due to low stock, thus you can use CDC listing as a reference when needed. Use your judgement and move fast!

2. Confirm your airline and local logistics before the ordered supplies arrive at your storage. Some people may ship the supplies directly to a partner warehouse, but that could result in lots of hands at the warehouse to confirm you’ve received everything you ordered - potentially chaotic and unorganized. We used a doctor’s office in Manhattan to check all the supplies and hired a moving truck to transport the boxes to the airline's partner warehouse near JFK, which we found both fast and effective.

  • Get connected to an airline which provides free charity donation cargo. Shipping can be VERY expensive otherwise - more than what the medical supplies are worth. Note that free shipping is only applicable for organizational donors, not for individual donors

  • The fastest way to get to our destination, Guangzhou, from NYC is via China Southern Airline. CZ300 is a daily direct flight from JFK. It lands in Guangzhou around 3:30pm local time. However, with the escalating Coronavirus situation, many flights are getting canceled. The latest news says no more flights after Feb 15th. HURRY!

3. Immediately start working on the 4 required charity donation documents after you put down orders.

  • Doc#1: Use the full name of the hospital on the letter and make sure there is one letter for one donation recipient. All fields in the template must be filled. Donation value must be converted into CNY

  • You must prepare the Doc#2 draft for the hospital. It must be so accurate that when the hospital brings the letter to the Charity Federation, it gets stamped with zero hesitation or question. The attached donation itemization list must be an exact match with the list in Doc#1; The stamping can take as low as 30 min

  • Note that the most popular template you could find for Doc#3 still misses some important information, such as invoice number, item brands, models, unit price, original country, destination Customs

  • The above 3 docs all have a donation item list. Make sure they are listed as the same sequence in each doc. Some of the information is provided in English, however, English is not the mother language of people from the Customs. We need to make sure that when they check the documents, they could tell immediately everything matches 100%. This can save a lot of hustle at the Customs

  • All 4 docs must be sent to the local logistics partner so that they can book the flight for you accordingly. They must also be sent to the airline so that they confirm it’s certified donation thus free of shipping charge. Digital copies are fine here

  • Ship the signed Doc#1 to the hospital only after Doc#2 is stamped. The digital copy can be used to pick up the supplies from the Customs, thus no need to rush. Make sure it’s actual final (when Doc#2 is done, no more changes can be made thus it’s final) before shipping

4. Once you confirm the exact date the orders are arriving, immediately request your logistics partner to get ready at the warehouse for packing, booking flight, reserving TSA trucks for transportation to the airport.

  • There are two major steps here: your office to the logistics warehouse (any car/truck is fine), warehouse to the airport (must be a TSA certified truck)

  • Make sure the hospital’s logistics partner’s address is on the CNEE of the MAWB (main Air Waybill) form while the CNEE on the HAWB is the invoice CNEE. This allows the logistics partner in Guangzhou to pick up the cargo from the Customs after everything is cleared and deliver all the boxes to the hospital(s) directly. Otherwise the logistics company may be required to go to Charity Federation and the hospital would have to wait longer

  • Timing! If you want to catch the CZ300 flight the next morning, your donation must arrive at the airport by 9pm the latest on the previous day

  • Label all the boxes with your org name, recipient name, and box#, for three reasons: #1 to significantly improve the efficiency of packing at the warehouse, especially when you have multiple donation recipients; #2 easy to track them when arriving at the Customs in China, especially when the Customs inspects your shipment; #3 great PR for your organization

  • Collect photos/videos/signatures when the warehouse receives your boxes of supplies, when TSA truck picks up your cargo, when TSA arrives at the airport, when the cargo is all set with the airline. There are so many people/stakeholders involved in it and you may be competing with many other shipments. Eye on the details to keep yours secured

  • Keep an eye on the TSA truck reservation (I know I know. It’s the logistics partner’s job but they are not as time sensitive as you are and they don’t lose anything if a disconnection happens). TSA truck companies in the US don’t work overtime (nights or weekends) so make sure you plan out everything and follow up on the logistics closely

5. Email all the documents (Doc#1-4 plus airline shipping documents from the logistics partner, including Air Waybill, labeling, flight # and ETA, type of packaging) to the Hospital’s logistics partner.

  • Goal is to equip the hospital’s logistics partner with all necessary documents to pick up the cargo from the airport directly and deliver everything to the hospital without making an extra stop at the Charity Federation, so as to eliminate extra time on the way and other potential risks

  • In some instructions, medical product manufacture and certification documents are listed as required documents. This is NOT true for the current charity donation from overseas. Many products purchased were manufactured in China and the suppliers in the US wouldn’t be able to obtain such documents anyway. We were not asked for these and our shipments were successful

  • Provide product photos to the logistics partner so that they have an easier time at the Customs during shipment checking

6. Flight lands in the airport; the Customs checks the items in the shipment (optional); Customs cleared and the logistics partner picks up the donation; donated supplies get delivered to the hospital.

  • Expect 1-2 days delay at the Customs for everything to be cleared

  • If the Customs is located in a different city, remind the hospital to get a logistics partner where the Customs is. Expect more delays due to ground transportation to the hospital

7. The hospital reports back to the Charity Federation on accepting medical supplies with a stamped receipt.

DONE! Finally.

As you could tell, there are so many parties involved in a charity donation. Everything must be orchestrated well so that qualified medical supplies can get to the hospitals within the shortest amount of time. During this process, every step forward requires a tremendous amount of effort. When we have to race against time, we must facilitate precise coordination to avoid blockages and compliance risks.

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