Do a third of us really volunteer?

Source: Straits Times, 4 February 2013
By: Leslie Kay Lim and Janice Tai

Doubts over poll claiming that more help out in free time than ever before
SCEPTICS have questioned the results of a survey showing that one in three people in Singapore volunteers for a good cause.

They said it was hard to believe that so many working adults found the time to help out.

However, the organisation that commissioned the research said it stood by its findings. It added that the figure was high because it included people who volunteer informally –

meaning they do not do it via any particular group.

More than 1,500 respondents aged 15 and above were polled on behalf of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

The results showed more people in the Republic are giving up their free time than ever before.

But not everyone is convinced this reflects the reality on the ground. Student Timothy Ang, 24, said: “I’m surprised so many working adults are able to find the time to volunteer.”
Housewife Tracey Tan, 56, added: “One out of three sounds like a lot.”

Others questioned the criteria used in the survey. Research associate Pauline Tan of the National University of Singapore’s Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy
said when most people think about volunteering, they imagine doing it through an organisation, not informally.

“If it is not stated clearly, readers may have the wrong perception that formal volunteerism has risen so sharply,” she said.

Ground-Up Initiative founder Tay Lai Hock wondered whether the numbers were being artificially inflated by “lumping all things together”. The 49-year-old, whose environmental
non-profit group connects people to nature, said: “Volunteerism should be helping somebody you don’t know, for a cause.”

The survey’s results have also raised eyebrows because they contradict the findings of the recent World Giving Index, which ranked Singapore only 140th out of 146 countries.

NVPC chief executive Laurence Lien said this could be due to the fact that the index included only formal volunteering. It also measured people’s contributions over one month, while the
latest survey asked them whether they had volunteered in the past year.

When asked whether it was right to include informal volunteering – such as dog-sitting for a neighbour – in the poll, Mr Lien said researchers had used the United Nations’ definition of volunteerism. This is: “Time individuals give without pay to activities performed either through an organisation or directly for others outside their own household.”

Mr Lien added that “people-to -people” volunteering was something that the NVPC promoted. “There can be limits at non-profits for volunteer opportunities,” he said. “If you do it in the community, it’s limitless.”

National Council of Social Service chief executive Ang Bee Lian said: “Informal volunteerism has always been around, it is just that some from the older generation may not call it such.”

Singapore Red Cross secretary-general Benjamin William added that ad hoc volunteering sometimes turned formal.

If it opens the door to more people eventually becoming regular, formal volunteers then that can only be a good thing.”

Social service veteran Gerard Ee expressed his firm belief that informal volunteerism was valid. “How can you care for the elderly in a home far away when you don’t first start caring
for your neighbour who lives alone?”

More people do volunteer work

Source: Straits Times, 1 February 2013
By: Leslie Kay Lim and Janice Tai

One in three involved in doing good, but many help out only occasionally

MORE people than ever before are volunteering in Singapore, a survey showed yesterday.

One in three now helps out for a good cause – the first time the proportion has crossed the
30 per cent threshold.

But many volunteer only occasionally and on an informal basis, meaning it is not done via
any organisation, according to the 2012 Individual Giving Survey commissioned by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

They also spent less time doing so, compared with the last survey in 2010.

The survey, which is conducted once every two years starting from 2000, polled more than 1,500 people aged 15 and above. Respondents were asked if they had volunteered at least once in the preceding 12 months.

The findings came as a surprise to some Singaporeans, who felt they were too optimistic.

Explaining the rise in the volunteerism rate, NVPC chief executive Laurence Lien said it was largely due to the growing number of people helping out informally. A third of volunteers
belonged to this group, up from just a tenth in the last survey.

“We’ve always wanted to see more direct, people-to-people volunteering,” Mr Lien told a press conference yesterday. “You don’t need to go through an organisation to befriend.”
More people are also volunteering on an occasional basis, contributing to the increase. “We have to be realistic in Singapore,” he said. “For some people, ad hoc is the only way they
can contribute.”

He added that the challenge for non-profit organisations is how to turn occasional volunteers into regular ones. Better management is one area to concentrate on. While volunteering is on the rise across all age groups, it rose particularly sharply among those aged 35 to 44. Mr Lien said one reason could be that many are parents who volunteer
at schools and religious organisations.

Singapore Red Cross secretary-general Benjamin William said that age group may be more
established in their careers, and have a little more time to spare.

They could also have already reached the point in their lives where “they feel a need to give back to society”, he said. His organisation has a volunteer pool of roughly 4,000, of whom 90 per cent are occasional volunteers.

Still, some said they were surprised by the findings, given that Singaporeans are not known to be active volunteers.

Insurance agent Peter Lim, 36, said: “I don’t know many people who do volunteer, and with the need to balance work and family, there’s very little time left to volunteer.” The recent World Giving Index, for instance, ranked Singapore 140th out of 146 countries
when it came to volunteering one’s time. The index, compiled by British-based Charities Aid Foundation, took into account only formal volunteering over a one-month period. But informal volunteering should be included, said National Council of Social Service chief executive Ang Bee Lian, “as long as the outcome is people helping one another”. Besides giving time, more Singaporeans are also giving money to good causes, the NVPC survey found. Nine in 10 respondents said they had done so. But they gave less on average,
about $305 each, down from $331 in 2010.

Across income levels, those in the least well-off group – earning $1,000 or less a month – gave the most in terms of percentage of their salary.

Ms Pauline Tan, a research associate at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, said the phenomenon is not new and it is not limited to Singapore. “Studies show that poorer people, because of their own vulnerabilities, notice other people in need more,” she said.

Madam Lily Ng is among those who volunteer despite having to juggle career and family commitments. The mother of two started visiting the CARElderly Senior Activity Centre in
Circuit Road two years ago to befriend senior citizens and give them facials.
The 42-year-old, who works as an operations manager at a laboratory equipment company and runs an online skincare business, said: “When I volunteer on weekday mornings, I
make up for the lost time from work by staying later or working on Saturday.
“The smiles on the faces of the elderly make it all worth it. It is very meaningful to me.”

Service provides donors with report on charities they fund

Source: Straits Times, 21 January 2013
By: Leslie Kay Lim

DONORS can now tap on a new service to find out more about the charities that they have singled out for possible support.

Starting this year, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) has begun to offer large donors and grantmakers the option of commissioning an evaluative report on charities.

The reports range from basic ones that rely on public information to in-depth ones that
compile on-site observation as well as interviews with management, staff and beneficiaries.
“We want to promote a more transparent and informed giving landscape,” said NVPC head
of philanthropy Patsian Low.

The service will cost donors between $100 and a few thousand dollars per report.
The service is part of a larger NVPC project to encourage informed giving. Beginning in mid-
2010, a pilot began with NVPC working with 30 charities to produce charity reports.
The initiative helped to determine the framework of the reports, the comfort level of
charities in revealing information, and the type of reports the service could offer, said Ms

HCA Hospice Care was among the charities taking part in the pilot in 2011. Chief executive
R.Akhileswaran described the move as “an opportunity for donors to understand what we do

“New insights can arise with an independent team auditing our programmes,” he said.
The report is available for public viewing online, but he added that it is hard to determine if
this has led to greater donor confidence and giving.

Ms June Tham, executive director of the Rainbow Centre, which also took part in the pilot, said it would take some time to see if it affects donors’ decision-making. But she noted it is a chance to “enhance transparency” and promote the mission of the Rainbow Centre which runs programmes for children with special needs.A corporate governance expert, Associate Professor Mak Yuen Teen of the National University of Singapore Business School, said it is crucial that NVPC is independent of the charities it evaluates.

Users must also be aware of the different levels and depths of the reports, he added, noting
that the reports can help boost donors’ confidence that funds will be properly used.
Other groups like Shared Services for Charity offer similar analysis-type options. But the
group focuses more on internal governance review and helping charities improve in those
areas, making its service “quite complementary”, said Mr Alfred Poon, a research associate
at the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy.

Large grantmakers and potential users of the service like property giant City Developments
Limited (CDL) describe the new NVPC service as a useful tool.
Said a CDL spokesman: “It would be especially helpful for companies and individuals who do
not have the resources to conduct their own detailed assessments.”
Citibank’s head of corporate affairs, Mr Adam Rahman, touched on the possibility of using
the service in the event that employees want to donate to a charity that “we have not
worked with before”. The bank has given out roughly $1.5 million annually in recent years
to various charitable causes.

NVPC is also developing a standardised data framework for charities listed on donation
portal SG Gives, so that the same basic information is available, and a self-assessment tool
for charities to identify their areas of strength.

Room to grow

Source: Straits Times, 17 January 2013
By: Mr Lu Bo, Managing Director, World Future Foundation; Advisory Board Member, ACSEP

SINGAPORE has achieved much in the area of philanthropy, with countries like China seeing it as a role model. There is of course room still for development and improvement.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said during the Philanthropy in Asia Summit in September that between 2006 and 2010, individual donations in Singapore had tripled, reaching 0.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). The participation rate for voluntary work also increased from 15.5 per cent to 23.3 per cent in the same period.

By way of comparison, in the United States, individual donations come to over 2 per cent of GDP and the participation rate for voluntary work is between 30 per cent and 40 per cent.

The World Giving Index recently released by the Britain-based Charities Aid Foundation showed that among the 146 countries surveyed, Singapore was ranked 114th last year. I have some suggestions on how Singapore’s philanthropic efforts can reach greater heights:

* Include philanthropy in “Our Singapore Conversation”
Philanthropy helps to instill correct values, narrow the poverty gap and ease social conflicts. Since there is now “Our Singapore Conversation” to seek public views and review existing policies, I suggest adding philanthropy as one of the dialogue topics.

* Build up “Asia’s Philanthropic City” Philanthropy can become part of Singapore’s international branding. The city can consider setting up new statutory bodies, hosting related international conventions, awards and training in this field; and encouraging international philanthropic organisations to be regionally headquartered here.

* Rank charity organisations
There is a Charity Navigator in the US to assess charities, while Beijing’s Civil Affairs Bureau has its Star-rating. Since November, Singapore now has its Charity Governance Awards. But there is still no authoritative or publicly recognised assessment of the sector from the Government or a third-party organisation. Ratings – and how these are arrived at – can help the public in choosing their preferred charity or charities and such assessments encourage greater striving and self-discipline by charity organisations.

* Greater media coverage
Here, Singapore can perhaps take a leaf from the experiences elsewhere. For example, in the last few years, dozens of journals on philanthropy have been published in China. Well known magazines and portal sites have dedicated columns or weekly issues on philanthropy. China Central Television is considering a channel on philanthropy.

* Developing specialised studies, grooming talent
Currently, only the National University of Singapore (NUS) offers a bachelor’s degree in social work, while the NUS Business School recently offered some relevant modules. But there are neither undergraduate-level studies related to philanthropy and social enterprise,
nor master’s studies and PhDs in this field. However, some start has been made. NUS, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University now have one new research centre each in this field. In this context,
there is a need to nurture and groom high-end philanthropic talent.

* Tap immigrant investors
Thanks to the Global Investor Programme (GIP), a scheme that allows entrepreneurs from abroad to obtain permanent residence in Singapore, many immigrant investors have settled
here. Perhaps some tweaks to the GIP scheme could be made to encourage such immigrants to take an active role in charity work here. For example, policymakers may want to consider donations from these investors as part of the GIP funds, or channel a portion of
the GIP investment profits for charity.

* Encouraging foreign charities, professional service providers to locate here
Some months ago, I had meetings with a charity research centre linked to a famous US university and a listed French company that provides fund-raising services for non-profit
organisations. Both had to give up the idea of setting up branches in Singapore because of the high start-up costs. If the Government can offer the same incentives and approaches used in attracting international research organisations, these entities will come.

* Enhance income levels of charity practitioners
Local charities commonly have a hiring problem – “hard to find, hard to recruit, and hard to retain professionals”. The remuneration package is the crucial factor. Would the Government consider, say, increasing the charity practitioner’s income through  an increase in his personal tax threshold, tax rebates and tweaking the Central Provident. Doing so might increase the charities’ competitiveness in the job market. Various major financial groups can also consider setting up a fund to reward excellent practitioners or subsidizing professionals who need such help. Philanthropic growth requires not only leaders’ encouragement; it requires practitioners thoughts and actions too. We must look at the areas needing action when we sum up past experiences, gather our thoughts and ideas, and work towards bringing Singapore’s philanthropy to greater heights.

The writer, a Chinese national, is the managing director of World Future Foundation and a senior visiting fellow at the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy at the NUS Business School.
Ryan Teo provided the English translation.

Calling for Entries for 14th Start-Up@Singapore Social Venture Challenge – Convert Your Entrepreneurial Dream into Reality!

The 14th edition of Singapore’s premier start-up challenge comes with an exclusive category to showcase pioneers in the fields of social entrepreneurship and co-operatives. The Social Venture Challenge is your opportunity to wow the world with your very own attempt at using entrepreneurship to solve social issues.

Start-Up@Singapore is not just a competition, but an educational journey. Not only do you get to compete with others, you also get mentored by the most reputed names of Singapore’s entrepreneurial community, network with angel investors, venture capitalists and start-up gurus, and undergo rigorous training at our business clinics and workshops. And then there are the prizes! With S$31,000 up for grabs by means of prizes, awards and incubation opportunities, the ball is in your court, so step up and make the most of this opportunity!

Preliminary submissions end on 8th February, 2013. You may register and upload your executive summary to Further details about the competition process, terms and conditions can be found at our website,

Inspiring and enabling action for a better world through Young Social Entrepreneurs Programme 2013.

Calling all NUS students under the age of 26 interested in social entrepreneurship!

Application for the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme 2013 has been SPECIALLY EXTENDED till the 7th of January 2013, 12pm (only for NUS students)! Please to apply.

Philanthropists should adopt a higher profile

Source: Business Times, 17 November 2012
By: Andrea Soh

IN order for the philanthropy scene in Asia to grow to the next stage, philanthropists here should adopt a higher profile. This will help educate and encourage more people to give as well, panellists said yesterday on the second day of the Credit Suisse Philanthropists Forum 2012.

“Our culture and society suggest that giving is something that we keep quiet about,” said Keith Chua, advisory board chairman of Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School.

But publicity has a role to play in the philanthropy world, he added. “(It is) not so much to fly your flag or raise your profile, but really to communicate the place of philanthropy. When we talk about the examples of philanthropists that we can look to, they become a source of encouragement and they can also bring about others to participate in it.”

Similarly, for Stephen Riady, president of the Lippo Group, a large conglomerate in Indonesia, coming across the places that had been named after his father in countries such as United States, Indonesia and Singapore for the contributions that he made, serves as a reminder to
“My father has been an example to me. Some of the places in Indonesia and China that he gave to, like libraries, started putting his name (on the buildings). The purpose of that was to remind the next generation to continue giving,” he told BT.

Dr Riady hopes to inspire the next generation to do the same. Places that have been named after him include the arts centre at the Singapore American School and the library at St Joseph’s Institution International. “We are so limited (in our resources) – whether you give $25 million or $50 million, it’s still small compared to the needs of Singapore and the region. Our function will be to raise a bit of profile, to encourage others to also donate,” said Dr Riady, who attributed his Christian faith and the desire to become a channel of blessing as the reason behind his giving. The importance of publicity to advance the cause of philanthropy notwithstanding, Dr Riady cautioned that the motive should still take precedence. “You give with the heart, not just for the publicity. That’s very important.”

The businessman yesterday donated $25 million to NUS in support of its University Town and Yale-NUS College. This was made through the newly established Stephen Riady Group of
Foundations, which comprises 11 foundations in Singapore and Hong Kong.
The institution will focus on giving to causes in Singapore -to return to the society where he has
lived for 20 years in all – and education, Dr Riady said.

Credit Suisse Global Philanthropists Forum – By Invitation Only event

Mr Keith Chua, ABR Holdings Executive Chairman; ACSEP Board Chairman, spoke at a Donor Forum: Why I Give. Moderated by Prof Tan Tai Yong, Vice Provost of Student Life, NUS. The other panelists include Dr Stephen Riady of Lippo Group and Dr Fabio Landazabal, Senior Vice President and Area Director Asia Pacific of Glaxo Smith Kline. Dr Rob John, ACSEP Visiting Senior Fellow, chaired a plenary session on Maximizing Impact through Collaborative Giving. The panel comprises Ms Liza Green, Co-Founder & Director, New Day Asia (Hong Kong); Mr Deval Sanghavi, Partner & Co-Founder, Dasra (India); Mr Ken Ito, Project Research Associate, Keio University (Japan).

The panel explored model of giving/investing circles that are taking root in a number of Asian countries, and how such circles enhance effective philanthropy. The quantity and quality of resources made available to non-profits or social businesses is enhanced, and also the circles are part of donor education. Circles lower the barrier to beginning a philanthropic journey and allow philanthropists to learn from each other.

Presentation Slides

Inaugural Charity Governance Award Ceremony- Organised by Charity Council, in partnership with ACSEP

The Inaugural Charity Governance Award (CGA) is organised by Charity Council and held in partnership with ACSEP, who developed the judging criteria and assessment process. The CGA aims to promote good governance in the charity sector by acknowledging the excellent work of charities, while inspiring others to emulate their best practices. For more information about the award ceremony, please click here. CNA News on the awards, please click here. For more information about the award, please click here.

1st Singapore International Public Health Conference

Organised by the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and the Chapter of Public Health and Occupational Physicians, Academy of Medicine Singapore.

ACSEP co-organised a Symposium on social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy in health delivery held in conjunction with the conference on 2nd October 2012. The panel was chaired by Prof Audrey Chia (ACSEP Co-Director; Assoc Prof Business School; Joint Assoc Prof Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health). The panel comprised Mr Sadeesh Raghavan, Global Advisory Board Member of the Acumen FundMr Amit Jain, President and CEO of HealthPoint Services Global Inc.; and Mr Timothy Ma, Senior Project Consultant (Ex-Executive Director) of the Senior Citizen Home Safety Association (SCHSA), Hong Kong. For presentation slides, please click on the names above.

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All other uses are prohibited without the express written permission of ACSEP or partner presenters.

For reflections from the symposium, please click here.

Faculty Seminar on “Landscape of Philanthropy in China” by Mr Lu Bo, ACSEP Senior Visiting Fellow & Advisory Board Member.

“Landscape of Philanthropy in China”

Major characteristics of philanthropy in China through data and facts were presented. It was followed by a comprehensive introduction of China’s nonprofit sector, including the administrative system, legal frame, tax incentives and other barriers. Conclusions were highlighted from the perspective of a practitioner and researcher.

Presentation Slides. Not for reproduction.

The presentation slides made available here are for reference only.