Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye: To ask the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (a) how has fund-raising for charities been impacted by the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic; and (b) whether the Ministry intends to do more to encourage more charitable donations for the coming years.
Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth & Second Minister for Law:
Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on charitable fund-raising
- The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly disrupted many sectors, including our charity sector. Their operations were affected in many ways, from delivering services and programmes, engaging volunteers to organizing fund-raising activities and events. They had to postpone or cancel flag days and fund-raising gala dinners. There were fewer volunteering opportunities as we had to minimise close contact to reduce the risk of COVID-19 community transmission. Yet, this was also a time where many charities, especially those in the social and health sectors, experienced greater demand for their services due to the pandemic.
- Despite these difficulties, we saw the resilience of our charity sector. Many adapted their operations to serve their beneficiaries and found new ways to do things such as fund-raising online so they could continue their charitable programmes.
- In fact, the quantum of tax-deductible donations received by the Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs in short) was $1.01 billion in 2020, which is about the same level as in pre-COVID year 2019 at $1.02 billion. This was a difference of $10 million or just a 0.01% decrease from the previous year.
- In the financial year ended March 2021, Giving.sg, a one-stop online donation platform by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), raised $102 million in donations for approximately 600 charities. This is more than two-and-a-half times the $39.5 million raised in the prior financial year. Specifically, we see significant growth in donations supporting charities in the social welfare, health and community sectors.
- However, the distribution of charity dollars has been uneven. Tax-deductible donations dipped across all the sectors in 2020, except for the Social & Welfare sector, which reported a significant increase of $138.6 million.
Government and community efforts to encourage giving
- Over the past year, our government has put in place initiatives to better support charities and encourage charitable donations.
a. MCCY launched the #SGUnited Portal last year as a one-stop platform for donation and volunteer opportunities for COVID-19 related efforts by charities.
b. Our National Council of Social Service established the Invictus Fund to marshal private donations to Social Service Agencies, to help them serve beneficiaries safely and effectively during the pandemic. The Community Chest has raised over $10 million for the first tranche of the Invictus Fund.
c. We extended the 250% tax deduction for qualifying donations to IPCs until the end of 2023. The Tote Board’s Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme for dollar-for-dollar matching was extended to FY2021.
d. The SHARE As One programme, which offers Government matching for any new and incremental donations through Community Chest’s SHARE donation programme, has been extended to March 2024.
e. MSF also introduced the new Change for Charity initiative. It provides Government matching grants to encourage participating businesses to weave giving mechanisms into their business models, and to allow customers to donate to the Community Chest through their transactions on the businesses’ payment platforms.
- In addition, our NGOs and the community as a whole launched initiatives to encourage online contributions to charities and causes in response to the needs on the ground.
a. Giving.sg set up a central giving page to help donors locate and contribute to charities’ efforts to address the needs of communities affected by the pandemic. NVPC also fully waived its administrative fees to set up fund-raising for all charities, not just those in social services.
b. Meanwhile, campaigns on online donation platforms such as Giving.sg and Give.Asia encouraged Singaporeans to donate a part of or their entire Solidarity payment from the Government to those affected by the pandemic. Movements such as #GiveYour600 and #wegiveinsolidarity went viral online.
c. There were also many commendable ground up efforts initiated by the community. For example, The Majurity Trust raised more than $600,000 under the Singapore Strong Fund to fund ground-up projects to help our community stay strong amid the pandemic. To-date, The Majurity Trust supported more than 140 projects, benefitting more than 196 thousand beneficiaries.
- Besides programmes and initiatives to encourage giving, our Government has put in place longer-term initiatives to guide and support charities in their digital transformation and fund-raising efforts. This will help them further their causes in the new normal, and expand their toolkit for fund-raising.
- The Commissioner of Charities introduced the “Charities Lean Forward” series of webinars, the Charities GoDigital Kit, as well as the enhanced VWOs-Charities Capability Fund to help charities kickstart their digitalisation journey. Together with the National Council of Social Service and Tote Board, the Commissioner also rolled out the enhanced Tech-and-Go!, a first ever technology hub for non-profit organisations to accelerate the sector’s digital transformation.
- Through these digitalisation efforts, we hope to help our charities to expand the avenues available to them for fundraising and over time, even out the distribution of charitable donations across the various sectors.
- In the face of adversity, our charities did not give up. They acquired new knowledge and skills, embraced new technology and changed existing practices so that they could continue furthering their charitable causes. Our Government has stood beside them in this endeavour.
- I would like to encourage all our charities to use all the available grants, support and resources to prepare and transform, to adapt to the new normal that has arrived sooner than we all expected. MCCY and our agencies are committed to continue partnering our charities to emerge stronger from the pandemic together.
- Our Government and charities have made significant effort to encourage people to contribute generously. We are also working to ensure that these funds are more evenly distributed and are going to where they are most needed.
- However, our charities can only be effective if they have the monetary resources to deliver the services and programmes that are most needed. As individuals, we also have the opportunity to do our part to donate generously to charitable causes close to our hearts.