Speech by CEO Catherine Loh at CFS’s 10th anniversary celebrations

Minister Grace Fu, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

The power of informed giving
It’s wonderful to see so many of you here this evening. Thank you for taking the time to join us as CFS celebrates its 10th anniversary.

This is an exciting moment in CFS’s history. When I joined CFS six years ago, we had just survived our first few years as a startup. There was an air of promise as we reached out to more donors, but we had much to prove. In those early years, we didn’t have any marketing. Our donors grew mainly through introductions by the Board and Committee Members and recommendations by existing donors.

Fortunately, CFS has grown over the years to have a much wider reach in the public sphere. Today, CFS has achieved 113 donor funds, raised over $100 million and disbursed over $60 million to over 400 charitable organisations in Singapore.

If we consider the reasons for our success, I believe CFS has been able to earn the trust of donors who not only want to give more, but also want to give well.

By our very nature, a community foundation is a neutral body that can offer donors strategic advice, and a more insightful overview of community needs. As a bridge-builder, we can pool together local resources and channel resources into long-term impact. It also helps that we can work across all sectors, from social work to education to health, to arts and sports, heritage, the environment to even animals.

The entrance of a community foundation like CFS has transformed how philanthropy is approached. We have introduced new models of giving, to respond to an increasingly complex social landscape. We have championed philanthropy based on community needs, because we understand the power of informed giving.

Of course, our success in championing informed giving would not be possible without our charity partners. They work tirelessly on countless programmes that expand the possibilities of how donors can give well – whether it’s piloting new programmes or scaling programmes that have delivered clear impact.

Yet for philanthropy in Singapore to thrive, public-private support needs to work hand-in-hand to address the evolving needs of the community. Hence CFS has been successful in building trust and meaningful relationships between donors, charities and the public sector. A strong and developed philanthropy ecosystem is crucial to ensuring sustainable and impactful funding support.

A new generation of philanthropists
We are also glad to see a new generation of philanthropists who are taking on a more active role as agents of change. Singaporeans have become increasingly conscious and involved in social issues. Giving back now no longer begins at retirement, as many of our donors are still active in their professions, with many below 50. Donors are also becoming increasingly sophisticated. Many exhibit gumption to take on meaningful projects, a willingness to explore collaboration with a keen focus on impact.

But many of our donors are silent heroes, giving generously in the background. That’s why I’m particularly glad to see some of our donors sharing their stories on a larger platform.

Take for example CFS donor and board member Mr Keith Chua. His great-grandmother Mrs Lee Choon Guan supported education in the early 1900s for women and girls, at a time when education wasn’t always an option for them.

Today, Mr Chua continues her legacy of giving through a charitable fund with CFS. Following in her footsteps, he is making education and healthcare some of the key areas he supports. Mr Chua’s family reminds us that acts of giving may not just bear fruit in our lifetime, but can also leave a lasting legacy for future generations

I would like to encourage more of you to take the next steps in your giving journeys or step up to share your stories of giving – if only to inspire and encourage a bigger and broader community of givers, including the next generation.

The next phase
We are truly encouraged by the growth of effective philanthropy over the last decade. But I believe we are still only at the beginning of our journey to promote and facilitate meaningful giving.

While Singapore has progressed rapidly, the social challenges we face, from an ageing population to social inequality, have become more complex and interconnected. While the government tackles social issues on a large scale, there are always gaps that are in need of more support. It’s crucial for philanthropy to evolve to tackle these diverse issues within our community innovatively. Here’s how CFS plans to approach it:

Social problems are usually too large and complex for anyone to tackle them individually. Through initiatives such as Colabs and the Singapore Youth Impact Collective, CFS brings together various stakeholders to collaborate and co-create solutions to make greater impact.

We encourage donors to think about creating a legacy as living a life of generosity and making meaningful impact. Our legacy giving offering will be further formalised into an approach that can help donors address the needs of the community over the longer term.

The future of philanthropy includes an increasing focus on tracking to help us better assess the impact made on the community. So we hope to influence more charity partners to incorporate output and outcome tracking in their programmes.

In the years ahead, as CFS continues to spearhead philanthropy, I am hopeful that more people will come to embrace the culture of giving, as it is integral to building a more caring and cohesive nation.

I wish to thank MCCY for its support of CFS, for helping us grow a giving culture to benefit all Singaporeans and to raise the professionalism of our sector.

To our donors, thank you for your trust and generosity that has opened doors of opportunity for so many in our community.

To our charity partners – thank you for your inspiring work. We’re grateful for your dedication in creating programmes that truly make a difference.

My gratitude goes out to the CFS Board and committee members – past and present – for your vision and guidance that has shaped CFS to the organisation we are today. Special mention and thanks to four of our founding Board Members– Ms Madeleine Lee, our first Investment Committee Chairperson. She was instrumental in developing our investment mandate and establishing our investment portfolio, which has outperformed its benchmark since inception. Thanks also to Mr David Lim, our first legal advisor who drafted our M&AA. My thanks and appreciation to Mr Yeoh Oon Jin, our first Audit Chair for setting up our very rigorous audit framework. I would also like to thank Dr Mary Ann Tsao, who together with Laurence, has contributed enormously to CFS’s grantmaking expertise as well as our understanding of community needs. Having proper governance, accountability and professionalism is crucial to gaining the trust of our donors and ensuring that their donations go to those in need of funding.

I would also like to pay tribute to Mr Stanley Tan and Mr Laurence Lien, two individuals who have guided CFS to where we are today. Both Stanley and Laurence are deeply motivated by their belief that philanthropy can play an instrumental role in creating change. I am honoured to have been able to work with both gentlemen, building on their knowledge and experience, and growing the organisation they started.

Last but not least, a big thanks to my team, the people behind CFS, for your hard work, professionalism and dedication, thank you for bringing your best to CFS every day.

To everyone who believed in us when CFS first started 10 years ago, thank you for being the bold frontrunners in our journey.

We look forward to your continued belief in us to build a more cohesive and caring Singapore.

Catherine Loh
Community Foundation of Singapore

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