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NCSS wants to help charities with weak or no fundraising capabilities

SINGAPORE — With an increasing number of charities competing for donations, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) is looking to help the smaller ones ramp up their fundraising capabilities. In a Request for Information (RFI) that closed last month, the NCSS sought proposals for “tried-and-tested” fundraising methods targeted at voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) with “weak or no fundraising capability”.

TODAY file photo

TODAY file photo

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — With an increasing number of charities competing for donations, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) is looking to help the smaller ones ramp up their fundraising capabilities. In a Request for Information (RFI) that closed last month, the NCSS sought proposals for “tried-and-tested” fundraising methods targeted at voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) with “weak or no fundraising capability”.

The NCSS wants to help such VWOs develop alternative resources to support their organisation’s functions “thereby strengthening the organisation”, the RFI documents said.

Figures from the Commissioner of Charities’ (COC) latest annual report show that the number of registered charities here grew from 2,028 in 2010 to 2,142 in 2013.

When asked to elaborate on the reasons for the RFI, NCSS said the exercise was for “ground sensing”. If such services are needed, the council would know where to look.

VWOs said an increase in number of counterparts has crowded out the smaller charities and those that support less-visible causes.

Ms Joi Tan, a community worker from En Community Services Society (ECSS) said larger organisations have established greater awareness among prospective donors, and often have dedicated fundraising teams. “ECSS is a small organisation, everybody does everything from case management, volunteer management to fundraising, all at the same time,” she said.

Last year, Singaporeans gave S$1.25 billion to various causes, according to the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.

The COC report showed that in 2012, 85 per cent of the total funds raised went to large charities with annual receipts of above S$10 million. Small charities with annual receipts of less than S$250,000 received less than 1 per cent of the funds. This is so despite small charities making up almost half (50.6 per cent) of the sector, while large charities only account for 5.6 per cent. Figures for 2014 are unavailable as of press time.

Donors tend to give more to programmes for which they see a tangible impact and which “stretches the dollar the most”, said O’Joy Care Services’ executive director Choo Jin Kiat, whose organisation focuses on the elderly and those with mental health conditions. “Most would rather give towards children and education-type causes because these appear to be more sustainable,” he said.

Mental health sufferers comprise another group that falls under the radar, said executive director of the Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH) Tan Li Li. “We always call them the silent sufferers,” she said.

With growing competition for the same fundraising dollar, several charities say they are also exploring other ways of raising money, but these alternatives come with challenges.

For instance, ECSS has looked into collecting and reselling pre-loved items, but the authorities only offer a limited number of licences for this practice each year.

SAMH’s Ms Tan said her organisation may look into investments in the future, when it has enough capital. If larger players invest and rely less on fundraising, the smaller players stand a better chance, she pointed out.

Nominated Member of Parliament Chia Yong Yong, who had suggested charities look beyond donations to fund their needs in Parliament in March, noted that one of the conditions for registering as a charity is that its purpose must be exclusively charitable. This bars VWOs from pursuing profits, she said. VWOs could be allowed to differentiate between beneficiaries who are able to pay for the services and those who require subsidies, and offer its programmes to generate a profit so long it remained true to its mission, she suggested.

A fundraising consultancy will be helpful, said VWO practitioners, if it also helps organisations review their focuses and communicate their causes in a compelling way. “Our staff tend to be trained in social work, but we cannot afford to hire professional marketing expertise,” said ECSS’ Ms Tan.

Added Ms Chia: “It may also be ideal if NCSS could look into consolidating causes in order to maximise the effectiveness and reach of this initiative.”

Social consultancy Conjunct Consulting is one of few organisations that currently offers fundraising assistance targeted at VWOs. President Samantha Lee said the fundraising consultancy must focus on a long-term objective and help organisations attain long-term financial sustainability. For instance, Conjunct has helped larger charities to establish social enterprise arms, and advised smaller outfits on profit-generating programmes.

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