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Seizing opportunities in the charity landscape

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Charity Transparency and Governance Awards 2018
29 November 2018

Dr Gerard Ee, Chairman of The Charity Council

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Good evening! It is my pleasure to join you at the 2018 Charity Transparency and Governance Awards.

2. Tonight, we recognise and celebrate 47 charities which have demonstrated good transparency and governance. The number of charities receiving the awards has been increasing which shows that more charities are taking steps to be more accountable and transparent to the public. Congratulations to all award recipients!

Charities should seize the opportunities present in this dynamic and changing landscape

3. I cannot emphasize enough on the importance of charities in our society. You strive to meet the needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, and rally Singaporeans to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

4. Our latest figures show that your hard work has been recognised by the public. Donations have increased steadily over the past five years across most sectors, such as arts and heritage, health, and education. For Financial Year 2016, total donations stand at a healthy figure of $2.9 billion, an increase from the $2.7 billion in Financial Year 2015. And 2015, as you remember was SG50 where we had additional tax benefits and the year after, donations not only held up but increased.

5. In recent years, the giving environment has become more dynamic and creative, powered by social media and digital technologies such as Instagram and PayNow. We are now able to donate anytime and anywhere. In fact, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre’s online donation platform, Giving.sg, raised $50 million within two years. It used to take six1 years for Giving.sg to raise the same amount. Another online platform, Give.Asia, saw its donations increased by more than twofold, from $4.5 million in 2016 to $10.8 million in 2017.

6. The widespread use of technology has lowered the barriers to entry for fundraising. This is a golden opportunity for charities to reach out to more donors, new donors. Small, nascent charities that may not have the marketing headcounts stand to benefit from the use of technology to engage donors, through online giving or social media platforms.

7. While there may be new platforms, the values of being transparent and accountable to your donors remain critical to the giving sector. Charities need to be clear and genuine in your communications, stating clearly the intended use of the donations and accounting for them. It is necessary for all charities to be transparent and accountable to our public so that we can collectively as a sector uphold the trust public placed on us. By so doing, we are giving our donors the assurance and the peace of mind in supporting your cause. Let me now share three ways to building public trust and expanding the donor base.

8. First, by building capabilities in communication for transparency that the public has come to expect. The COC has been working with partners to roll-out shared services so that even the smaller charities can meet the communication and regulatory requirements without having to devote precious human and financial resources in administrative functions. The COC has also recently launched the Visibility Guide to guide you in your engagement with the public.

9. Second, by seeking partnerships from beyond the charity sector. For example, by recruiting volunteers who are IT-savvy, or corporate partners in the IT industry to help strengthen the IT capability of your organisation. Another example would be to partner business consultancy firms to help in business process change and organisation development, in other words skills-based volunteers looking beyond the sector to find valuable skills.

10. Finally, by tapping on existing social media platforms such as Facebook, and mobile apps such as SG Cares and Giving.sg. You can use these social media platforms and the apps to spread your message, share inspiring stories of your volunteers and your beneficiaries, to recruit new volunteers.

New initiatives to better protect charities and donors 

11. The COC has been strengthening the regulatory space by amending the Charities Act to better protect charities and donors. We have been progressively bringing into effect these amendments, bearing in mind the need to make them clear and easy for adoption.

12. One revision to be implemented by the end of this year is that IPCs will no longer be required to submit annual returns on tax deductible donations to the COC, so long as the information has been filed with IRAS. The COC will obtain this information from IRAS directly.

13. To further simplify key reporting requirements, we will be introducing an Annual Report template by next month. The template will clearly indicate the mandatory as well as voluntary disclosures to make it easier for you to complete your Annual Report.

14. The COC will continue to encourage co-regulation and partnership with key stakeholders of the charity sector. Following the launch of the Code of Practice for Online Charitable Fund-raising Appeals early this year, the COC is now co-developing with major commercial fund-raisers in Singapore a Code for Commercial Fund-raisers. The Code will state three core principles in commercial fund-raising - legitimacy, accountability and transparency.

15. The initiatives I have just outlined are designed for a safer giving environment. We look forward to your continued support and partnership as we implement them.

Encouraging small charities to embark on journey to good governance

16. Tonight, we celebrate your efforts in partnering us on this journey towards good governance.

17. I would like to specially highlight MINDSET Care and Silver Ribbon (Singapore) for receiving the Charity Governance Award and Special Commendation Award respectively.

18. Both come under the category of small charities, with annual receipts of less than $1 million. Like every two out of three charities, these 2 winners have demonstrated that size is not a barrier to achieving good governance.

19. To encourage small charities to participate in the Charity Governance Awards, the COC and Charity Council, together with our partner Ernst & Young, have simplified the assessment process. In future, shortlisted small charities are required to complete a simplified checklist.

20. By participating in the Awards, charities can tap on the professional expertise of the independent assessors and panel of judges to identify areas of improvement. We hope this will encourage more small charities to come forward and be part of the Awards.

Conclusion

21. Finally, special thanks to our Charity Council members, sponsors, as well as partners who have helped us build capabilities in the charity sector.

22. And once again, I would like to congratulate our winners this evening. You are helping to grow SG Cares – a national movement to encourage Singaporeans to come together, collaborate, and contribute to the common good. Through your efforts, you inspire all of us to build a more caring, compassionate and inclusive Singapore.

23. Thank you, and have a wonderful evening!


1 Giving.sg raised $50 million in the recent two years (2016 and 2017) which is the same amount its predecessor SG Gives took six years to collect from 2010 to 2015. Since end 2017, Giving.sg has crossed the $100 million mark. (Straits Times, December 2017)

 

 

Last Updated: 30 November 2018

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