Embracing technology to meet community needs
Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the “In Conversation with the Commissioner of Charities” webinar
23 June 2020
Dr Gerard Ee, Chairman, Charity Council
Mr Gregory Vijayendran, Chairman, Law Society Pro Bono Services
Ladies and Gentlemen
- A very good afternoon to all of you! It is my pleasure to be able to join you at our virtual “family meeting”. I would like to extend my appreciation to Greg and his team from Law Society Pro Bono Services for co-organising this event with MCCY.
Important for charities to continue to develop their capabilities to prepare for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead
- It is important for charities to develop their capabilities to prepare for the challenges and opportunites that lie ahead. Behind every crisis lies an opportunity. COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to innovate and develop new skills. For charities, learning and innovating allows you to continue your operations, develop your capabilities, and deliver services to those who need them.
- In partnership with various agencies, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) has rolled out a series of webinars for charities. They covered topics such as financial resilience, conduct of virtual AGMs, and online fundraising. Other topics that you can look forward to are Donor Engagement Strategy, Cybersecurity and Risk Management. These webinars will equip you with the knowledge to thrive in a COVID world.
COVID-19 has accelerated charities’ adoption of technology
- COVID-19 has accelerated charities’ adoption of technology. In fact, it has impelled many to embrace technology. Working from home is now a norm, and many businesses are offering their services online. The pandemic has also accelerated charities’ adoption of technology in two key areas – to meet operational needs and to raise funds.
Using digital solutions to meet operational needs
- To meet operational needs, charities are using digital tools to continue working from home, engaging their volunteers and serving their beneficiaries. Filos Community Services, for example, now conducts virtual tuition for its students from lower income families via online platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. This is to ensure that their students receive continual support and guidance from volunteer tutors. The Virtual Tuition programme has received positive feedback. And Filos is working on expanding their volunteer base to cater to more requests for this service.
- The Government saw the benefits of accelerating the adoption of digital technology. I am happy to announce that the Info-Communications Technology Grant under the VWO-Charities Capability Fund will be enhanced to provide charities with more support in adopting digital solutions. The Grant will fund up to 80% of costs, capped at $30,000 per charity. Charities can start applying for this fund from the 3rd quarter of 2020. I strongly encourage charities to make use of the Grant, and step up your digitalisation efforts.
Going online to fundraise
- More charities have also gone online to raise funds, given the restrictions on street fundraising and also large-scale events. One such charity is Club Rainbow (Singapore), which serves children with chronic illnesses and their family members. Due to the Circuit Breaker measures, Club Rainbow had to postpone their signature fundraising event, Ride for Rainbows. Undeterred, Club Rainbow turned to platforms such as giving.sg and give.asia to start fundraising campaigns. They also worked with certified personal trainer, Roy, who provides free virtual exercise classes. At the end of each class, Roy will encourage his participants to make a donation to Club Rainbow. Having an online fundraising presence helped Club Rainbow gain about $50,000 per month in donations since March this year.
- I urge charities to embrace digital technology, just like Filos and Club Rainbow did. To guide you in your journey towards digitalisation, Commissioner for Charities, Dr. Ang Hak Seng will be sharing more details about a Digitalisation Roadmap for Charities later.
Collaboration is key for charities to deliver more sustained impact
- The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of collaboration between the people, private and public sectors to meet community needs. A point I’d like to echo Gregory earlier on about “collaboration” being the key word.
- One such example is the Meals On Us programme, spearheaded by Loving Heart Multi-service Centre at Jurong East. It brought together multiple partners, such as stallholders in coffee shops, corporate sponsors and grassroots leaders in identifying and providing two hot meals to residents in need every day. This initiative also helped to sustain local coffee shops and food stallholders during the Circuit Breaker period. This is the spirit of Singapore Together! I would like to encourage charities to explore more of such partnerships, which can go a long way in building resilience and a strong social compact in our community.
- Another area of need is job opportunities. Many young adults who are entering the job market are facing a tougher time. The Government has set up the SGUnited Traineeship Programme to meet this need. The Programme will provide graduates with opportunities to gain work experience and build professional networks across all sectors, including the charity sector. The Government will support these programmes by providing funding to the training allowances. If your charity is interested to be part of this programme, perhaps to help with digitalisation, do apply with Workforce Singapore via the MyCareersFuture Portal. Youth Corps Singapore will also be offering internship positions to students from our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) who are passionate about community service and helping in the charity sector.
- I urge charities to see this as an opportunity to expose our youths to the charity sector, and get them involved. You can tap on their creativity and knowledge of digital technology – trust me, it is a lot faster for young people to set up things like Zoom and live chat – and of course, you can also gain fresh ideas on how to reach out to more donors and stakeholders, and perhaps more youth.
- 2020 has brought about unprecedented challenges for all of us. It has also brought additional demand for social services. We have a lot of work ahead of us; let’s gear up for the challenges ahead. Take this crisis as an impetus to review your programmes and activities against the changing environment and needs. To ensure sustainability of your charity in the long term, have open and honest conversations with your board, and prioritise the programmes that can deliver the greatest impact to the community.
- Singapore has weathered many difficulties in the past. This time is no different. By standing together, staying united and working together, we will emerge stronger. Thank you.
Last updated on 23 June 2020