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Regulation of non-profit and charitable ground-up community groups

Response to parliamentary question on regulation of ground-up community groups with non-profit or charitable objectives

  1. Community groups play a crucial role in society. Ranging from small, informal groups of volunteers, to larger, registered entities that are professionally managed, community groups respond to social needs in the community, and have the potential to build bridges and unite people through their work. We are heartened to see society coming together and initiating projects to serve the community. This kampung spirit is commendable and should be encouraged.
  2. The ground-up community groups that Mr Sitoh mentioned are usually informal, small in scale and run by volunteers. MCCY has worked with many such groups to support their efforts through funding and other resources. As they and their efforts grow in scale, we encourage organisations to do more to maintain accountability and put in place stronger governance structures to ensure that their activities and resources continue to be well-managed, to deliver sustained impact. This includes seeking registration with the appropriate authorities and subjecting themselves to the regulatory regime which promotes transparency and strong governance. 

    Registration of charities

  3. The Commissioner of Charities (COC)’s Office plays an important role in upholding trust between charities and the public, and the regulation of the charity sector serves to promote a well-governed sector which has the trust and confidence of the public. Organisations that are set up for exclusively charitable purposes are required to be registered under the Charities Act. The COC’s Office registers charities only when the applicants are able to meet registration requirements such as having objects which are exclusively charitable. Applicants that lack substantive activities and do not demonstrate their ability to exercise proper control and management of the organisation will be rejected. 
  4. In supporting charitable efforts, including ground-up community groups serving charitable objectives, collaborators, donors and funders should be discerning and check for registration details. If the organisation appears to be a charitable one, members of the public can check for the organisation’s information on the Charity Portal. Donors and members of the public are advised to practice caution when working with or donating to unregistered organisations. 

    Regulation of charitable fund-raising

  5. Aside from registration, charitable fund-raising is similarly regulated. Anyone (including businesses, organisations and individuals) conducting fund-raising appeals in Singapore for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes are regulated by the COC under the Charities (Fund-Raising Appeals for Local and Foreign Charitable Purposes) Regulations 2012. This includes fund-raising appeals for in-kind donations. The Regulations spell out the duties and obligations of fund-raisers, which include disclosure of clear and accurate information; proper management and usage of donations; as well as keeping accounting records of donations received and disbursed.

  6. If there is reason to believe that a fund-raiser has violated any of the Fund-Raising Regulations, the COC’s Office will look into the matter. Where there is misconduct in any fund-raising appeal, the COC can act to protect donors by invoking his powers to suspend, restrict or prohibit the conduct of the appeal.

    Conclusion

  7. The COC’s Office adopts a risk-based regulatory approach to ensure good stewardship and public accountability while not stifling the growth of philanthropic acts. We want to encourage a democracy of deeds where Singaporeans can actively participate in building a caring and cohesive society. To retain public confidence in the sector, organisations should also do their part in ensuring that their operations are well-run and remain accountable to their donors and beneficiaries while delivering their charitable purposes.    

 
Last updated on 12 January 2022