Mr Laurence Lien, Chairman, Community Foundation of Singapore
Ms Catherine Loh, CEO, Community Foundation of Singapore
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed my great pleasure to be here today. First, I would like to congratulate the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) on its 10th anniversary. Throughout the past decade, CFS has done excellent work in raising funds and giving out grants, as well as in inspiring and enabling giving in Singapore. This is in no small part due to the generosity and hard work of staff, donors and partners. I’d like to express my gratitude and to commend all of you for your contributions. CFS was first started during the tumultuous period after the global financial crisis, and conversations about donations must have been difficult. Nevertheless, under the stewardship of Laurence, Catherine and Stanley, CFS has really grown over the years. Once again, thank you so much!
Philanthropy has played an important role in Singapore’s history
Philanthropy has always played an important role in the history and development of Singapore. In fact, records of philanthropy in Singapore go back to as early as the 1800s when immigrants came to this country in search of opportunities. Notable philanthropists such as Lim Nee Soon, Tan Kah Kee, Syed Mohamed Alsagoff and Govindasamy Pillai have responded to the needs of their times. These are early pioneers who have very selflessly and generously helped their communities. They helped to build up Singapore in the pre-war years, rebuild it in the post-war years, and worked alongside the government to develop our infrastructure after independence.
Today, it is just as crucial to build a culture of care and contribution. We live in an increasingly complex and dynamic environment. In many developed countries, socio-economic challenges have bred distrust and grown uncertainty. Terrorism continues to be a global threat. Within our region, exclusivist trends are rising, and societies are becoming increasingly polarised. At the same time, technology is disrupting nearly everything, from industries and jobs, to the way we live, to the way we do business and interact with one another, to our social hierarchy. Singapore is not immune to such threats and challenges, especially when we are so diverse as a people. So when we care and look out for one another, when we have that relationship that is beyond the transactional but instead comes from within the heart and is genuine, we will be better equipped to stand together in times of crisis.
Government support for philanthropy
There is already a strong support infrastructure for philanthropy to thrive. The Government gives tax deductions for donations to charities. There are matched-funding initiatives that have spurred more giving by individuals and corporates; for example, MCCY’s Cultural Matching Fund which supports giving to arts and culture, and the One Team Singapore Fund, which supports high performance sport.
The Government is also committed to developing a well-governed and thriving charity sector, with strong public support. In January this year, the Parliament passed the Charities (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to strengthen governance of fund-raising in response to trends in charitable giving.
As Singapore’s only community foundation, CFS plays an important role as a bridge between local communities and the larger charitable ecosystem. Beyond just encouraging cheque-book donations, CFS has connected donors with organisations that support their cause. For example, 71-year-old Mr Govind Bommi felt an affinity for the eldercare sector. Through CFS, he was connected with Metta Day Rehabilitation Centre, which provides rehabilitative care for elderly beneficiaries from all races and backgrounds. He then set up a fund to support the Centre, and continues to volunteer there today.
Closing gap between aspiration and participation
But there is more we can do for Singapore to be a more caring society. The Individual Giving Survey conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) showed that although the total donation amount to organisations has grown over the years, the overall rate of donation* has declined, with 3 in 4 donating in 2016, compared to 9 in 10 a decade ago. However, among the non-donors, 1 in 3 said they are likely to donate in future. Similarly, in the volunteering space, there is high propensity among non-volunteers to volunteer in future.
We want to close this gap between aspiration and participation, and unite Singaporeans through a common culture of care. This is the basis for SG Cares, a national movement for us to better support one another in making Singapore a caring society through giving, through volunteering, and through acts of kindness. By bringing together partners across the people and private sectors, SG Cares enables the building of capabilities across organisations to grow opportunities for contribution. SG Cares also better equips individuals and organisations who want to give back, and connects them with suitable opportunities to do so. So it’s very much an encouragement and a call to action. But more importantly, it’s about building the infrastructure, platforms, connections and capabilities within the sector.
The work at CFS contributes to SG Cares, because an impactful philanthropy landscape is a hallmark of a caring society, where those with resources give back effectively to help those in need. Collaboration is the way to go, and donors today are taking more initiative, and seeking more meaningful engagement opportunities. CFS is well positioned to seize these opportunities and provide the platforms. For example, the Colabs series by CFS and NVPC brings together givers, non-profits and sector experts to build insights and co-create solutions together. This not only encourages more collective efforts that deliver impact, but also deepens the knowledge base to guide donors to areas of needs. It also improves the design of programmes and how volunteers are involved, to better serve the community.
Caring involves all of us
The making of a caring Singapore involves and requires all of us – the government, non-profit sector, businesses and individuals – to work together to find solutions and demonstrate care and compassion for our community. With this shared sense of responsibility, we stand a better chance in riding out the waves of global uncertainty and disruption. By caring for one another, we foster resilient communities that stand together in both good and bad times.
To conclude, I would like to leave you with the words of Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Once again, congratulations to CFS on your 10th anniversary! And once again, thank you for your contributions and I hope you will continue to inspire others with your efforts and actions. I’m sure there will be greater capacity for CFS to grow. Thank you.
*Through both formal and informal means.