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Empowering Her Dream: International Women’s Forum Singapore Aids Young Fashion Designer’s Success
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

Empowering Her Dream: International Women’s Forum Singapore Aids Young Fashion Designer’s Success

John Doe
John Doe
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Denise Yeo was juggling two part-time jobs while studying full-time for a degree in Fashion Design & Textiles at LASALLE College of the Arts. So, she was overjoyed when she received an education grant from the International Women’s Forum Singapore (IWF). “The money meant I could divert more time to my studies,” says the 23-year-old student.

Funding her degree has been a struggle. Her father is disabled in both legs and cannot work. Her mother works in a restaurant and Denise’s elder sister, who looks after their father, had to take out a loan from her Central Provident Fund savings to help Denise pay for her tuition fees.

The $4,500 IWF grant has let her cut back on her working hours in her crucial final year. It also helped fund her graduation project – a collection of six looks inspired by the whimsical, playful nature of clowns – which is critical to building a career in fashion. “Fashion involves a lot of money and time,” says Denise, who graduates in April 2023. The financial security allowed her to devote more time to designing her collection and invest in better quality fabric and trimmings.

Denise is already crafting a name as a designer to watch. In 2021, the articulate and talented young lady won the Men’s Folio Designer of the Year competition. She plans to start a brand of her own and pursue a master’s degree and a PhD. Grateful for how the IWF grant positively impacted her, Denise hopes more philanthropic support can be extended to students in the creative arts.

The annual grant came from the IWF Singapore Education Grants Fund, a donor-advised fund (DAF) which IWF set up in 2014 with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS). IWF is an invitation-only network of accomplished women dedicated to advancing women’s leadership and championing gender equality. It strongly believes in nurturing the next generation of women by providing access to education and mentorship.

The IWF Singapore Education Grant aims to support deserving young women in any field, in any educational institution in Singapore. Beneficiaries are typically students between the ages of 17 to 35 who are applying or studying for a diploma or degree at a local polytechnic or university, and who are at risk of dropping out due to financial challenges.

Aside from monetary aid, the grant seeks to equip these students with life skills and guidance on career choices. This is done with the help of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection, a mentorship programme initiated by Mrs Arfat Selvam, Managing Director of law firm Duane Morris and Selvam LLP. For IWF, partnering with CFS has been the ideal way to fulfil its specific philanthropic goals. As Singapore’s only community foundation, CFS is a leader in philanthropy advisory and grantmaking, and will celebrate its 15th year of connecting donors with opportunities to make impact in 2023. Tapping into its deep roots in the community, CFS helped IWF navigate unmet needs in the educational sector, backed by its solid knowledge of local institutes of higher learning and data such as the cost of education.

With the help of CFS, IWF looks for students with grit – those who strive to excel in their chosen field. Beyond that, it also seeks out students with a strong desire to make a difference to their community and who show empathy for the less fortunate. In Denise’s case, what helped her stand apart was her commitment to sustainability.

While working in F&B, she gained an appreciation for managing waste, recycling and thoughtful sourcing of materials. This prompted Denise to weave in elements of eco-consciousness into her designs. She opts for natural fabrics, instead of synthetic ones, and is creating outfits that can be worn in many different ways, to improve their lifespan.

In 2021 alone, the IWF fund supported grants to 31 students in tertiary institutions. Since its inception, the IWF has awarded a total of 143 grants to 127 unique young women from 13 local institutions. Through its long-running generosity and tireless mentoring, the IWF has made a lasting impact on the lives of numerous young women.

Establishing a DAF with CFS is a seamless, cost-effective and flexible way for donors to embark on their very own giving journey. As a one-stop philanthropic centre, CFS tailors each DAF to a donor’s motivations and handles the tax, legal, reporting, governance and fund management requirements. This is all carried out at minimal cost. Backed by 14 years of experience and counting, CFS is honoured to be the leading provider of DAFs in Singapore today.

For more on how CFS can help you on your philanthropic journey, please visit this page.

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The Business Times: EDIS manages CSR like a business

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For many, CSR (corporate social responsibility) has been an extracurricular activity, almost cosmetic in the way it sits outside the realm of real business. However, companies such as Economic Development Innovations Singapore (EDIS) are exceptions, given the way it manages its business – which is collaborative, sustained and in-depth.

EDIS is an international economic development company which undertakes the development and management of integrated industrial and urban areas.

Leveraging on its experience in Singapore, EDIS provides strategic advice to other countries. Innate to its business is the need for a long-term, strategic view, flexibility, and a nimble attitude, which it applies to CSR. Read more.

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Stories Of Impact

The Business Times: A S$10m fund with a difference to address Singapore’s social issues

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A professional man confidently stands on a railing, showcasing elegance and poise in his suit.

It seeks to foster tie-ups among stakeholders for long-term initiatives, rather than one-off donations

By Claudia Tan

Lunch affairs with Singapore Exchange (SGX) head of global sales and origination and executive vice-president, Chew Sutat, does not come cheap. But it is not because he prefers fine dining or a lavish meal, but rather, he is always looking out for opportunities to raise funds.

Mr Chew is known for chairing the SGX charity initiative Bull Charge since 2011. He is also chairman of Caregivers Alliance and the Kaki Bukit Grassroots organisation, among other key positions he holds.

“That’s why people joke that lunch with me is very expensive because invariably, there is always some cause that someone resonates with and I happen to be able to be a channel to help them give back,” said Mr Chew.

His inclination to contribute to society can be attributed to his days as a boy scout in Anglo Chinese School (ACS).

“As a kid, my first interaction with social causes was raising money as a scout,” said Mr Chew. He also chaired the Interact Club, which provides opportunities for students to serve the community, in secondary school.

While he was actively involved in social and community-based activities in his early days, he admitted to taking a backseat upon enrolling in university and entering the corporate world.

It was only when former SGX chief executive officer Hsieh Fu Hua came into the scene that Mr Chew reignited his passion for philanthropy. Mr Hsieh was responsible for initiating the Bull Charge back in 2004 and had always championed for charitable causes.

“Fu Hua was an inspiration and after he left SGX, I had the opportunity to chair the internal SGX corporate social responsiblity activities. He is also one of my key mentors that got me more involved in charity and community work later in my corporate life,” said Mr Chew.

His involvement in charity and community work made him realise that there exists what he coined as a “market failure” in fundraising efforts.

“There are a lot of young folks who may have an interest in doing good and want to set up charities for causes they are passionate about but money from many foundation owners may not necessarily find the way to these people who want to do good.”

“And many of them with the best intentions don’t necessarily have the experience, network or professional ability to set things up,” he said.

That was why when the new initiative Mind the Gap 200 (MtG200) was brought to his attention, he seized the opportunity to be a part of it.

Kickstarted by chief executive officer of Pavilion Capital Tow Heng Tan, MtG200 is a S$10 million fund set up by 11 donors, in their own private capacities, with the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) to address social issues in Singapore. MtG200 targets needs in four main areas – community, education, healthcare, and sustainability.

Mr Chew, who is the youngest member in MtG200, said that it was humbling for him to be able to fill the gaps of the “market failure”.

“The fund can create confidence for new initiatives to kick off and be a platform for others who would like to give back and bring about catalytic change,” said Mr Chew.

What sets this fund apart is that it aims to foster collaboration among stakeholders for long-term initiatives, rather than one-off donations.

“The MtG200 family of funds can leverage on each other in terms of their individual expertise to create something that is much bigger than what they can do on their own,” said Joyce Teo, deputy chief executive officer of CFS.

This is contrary to current charity efforts that involve a lot of event-based fundraising.

“Current initiatives create a very transactional relationship between the giver and the charities,” she said.

A fund like MtG200 will build a longer-term relationship with the charity partners, creating sustainability in terms of funds going into the charity sector.

Last week, MtG200 had already made a commitment of S$500,000 to Assisi Hospice to look into building capabilities in manpower and innovations to deliver palliative care.

But Mr Chew acknowledged that sparking change in the society extends beyond fundraising, and manpower is needed on the ground.

He recounted how he often gets mocked by his wife, who is a volunteer at an after-school care for those who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

“She said she is doing the real work while I sit on charity boards and do the boring stuff,” said Mr Chew.

The challenges faced in the charity scene are plenty but the needs are even more, he said

“Bottom line is that there is a role for every individual. You may not be able to write that big cheque but a small cheque can go a long way. You may not be able to go into the sector fulltime but you may volunteer in other ways.”

On rumours that his active involvement in grassroots work may position him for a career in politics, Mr Chew replied, “My present plate of professional responsibilities, community and volunteering work is already more than full – supported by a very patient wife. Read more

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Learning Initiatives for Employment (LIFT) Community Impact Fund – Training and placing marginalised individuals into stable jobs

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People in masks and aprons preparing food in a restaurant.

The Learning Initiatives for Employment (LIFT) Community Impact Fund (CIF) was launched in 2019 by The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), which provides vocational training and socio-emotional support for marginalised individuals in Singapore before placing them into jobs.

CIFs are flagship programmes established by CFS in partnership with charities to address unmet needs or under-supported social issues in Singapore. It takes a ground-up approach to understand the needs of care recipients and outcomes they care about to ensure that they would truly benefit from these programmes.

LIFT is designed to leverage the expertise of social enterprises in terms of job coaching and job matching. These programmes support persons with disabilities, persons recovering from mental illnesses, disadvantaged women and youth-at-risk who face challenges finding jobs and keeping them. 

In partnership with Bettr Barista and Project Dignity, LIFT saw 115 people receiving training at Bettr Barista Coffee Academy or Dignity Kitchen from April 2020 to March 2021. Ninety-one participants completed the training, and of those who had completed the course, 73 people were successfully hired, with 55 managing to remain employed for more than three months.

To support the LIFT Community Impact Fund, visit here. Read the media release here.

 

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The competition was organised by City Harvest Community Services Association and received support from FUN! Fund, a Community Impact Fund jointly established by the Community Foundation of Singapore and the Agency for Integrated Care, with the aim of addressing social isolation among the elderly.

Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development Mr Tan Kiat How attended the event. He encouraged the elderly to stay physically and mentally well, as well as urging them to participate in community activities and enjoy their golden years together.

Learn more about FUN! Fund at https://www.cf.org.sg/fun-fund/.

 

The programme provides the children with a non-threatening platform to connect with peers and have positive conversations. In addition, it exposes them to different people who can assist to broaden their perspectives.

L.S., a volunteer with the Reading Odyssey programme @ Spooner Road

中心“常胜将军”胡锦盛:比赛限时反应要快

现年92岁的胡锦盛是最年长的参赛者。自2017年退休后,他几乎每天都到活跃乐龄中心报到,从此爱上了玩拉密,每次可玩上三个小时,在中心是“常胜将军”。

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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

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Epoch Times: Corporate philanthropy? When a company truly cares

John Doe
John Doe
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By Li Yen, October 2016

Download Epoch Times article – ‘Corporate Philanthropy? When a Company Truly Cares’

Corporate giving, or corporate philanthropy, has been gaining momentum in the Republic over the past decade, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong in parliament on Nov 3, 2014. Donations by corporations to Institutions of a Public Character (IPC) have increased two-fold from S$325 million in 2004 to S$644.4 million in 2013, he added.

Looking back at Singapore’s history, charitable donations from corporations is not a recent trend. During the pivotal ‘60s, the tenacity to rebuild Singapore had kindled the philanthropic spirit of some corporations. They offered monetary donations to aid the newly independent nation to battle its problems.

According to a research paper entitled ‘Philanthropy on the Road to Nationhood in Singapore’ by Roshini Prakash and Pauline Tan, the Medical Progress Fund launched in 1965 collected a total of S$4.75 million, with donations from Singapore Turf Club (S$100,000), Singapore Tobacco Company (S$30,000) and The Straits Times (S$12,500).

Other imperative fund-raising projects like the National Defence Fund raised S$8.29 million by 1969. Donations came from big corporations, namely Fraser and Neave (F&N) (S$20,000), F&N’s Board Chairman Tan Chin Tuan (S$50,000), Overseas United Bank (S$150,000), Chinese Chamber of Commerce (S$63,325), and Sheng Huo Enterprise (S$25,000).

Why Should Companies Build a Culture of Giving Back?

Let us take a closer look at corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The two concepts are closely linked, just that philanthropy is a portion of the bigger corporate social responsibility pie.

Typically, corporate philanthropy comprises monetary donations or resources such as facilities or volunteer time put in by the company’s employees.

Nonetheless, while the motive of corporate philanthropy is altruistic, corporations have begun to foresee the need to initiate philanthropic schemes as corporate investment, to gain a better positioning edge over their competitors.

Corporate philanthropy denotes a company’s values. As Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said at the NVPC Corporate Giving Practitioner Roundtable 2015: “Corporate Giving is a deeply important endeavour. When corporate organisations embark on volunteering or philanthropic efforts, it sends a strong message to all both inside and outside the company that they are more than just about bottom lines.”

Corporate philanthropy can be integrated into a corporation’s mission and corporate social responsibility to steer the company in the right direction. Not contradictory to their business interests, the company itself and the employees can reap the benefits of doing good while benefiting the communities it serves.

Catherine Loh, CEO of Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), told Epoch Times: “Companies who do good and build a culture of giving back reap benefits like inspiring and engaging their staff, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. Companies are also more likely to grow a positive brand image and attract and retain talent.”

Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is a non-profit organisation founded in 2008 to encourage and enable philanthropy in Singapore by enabling donors to set up their own named charitable funds.

CFS helps to bridge individual and corporate donors with charitable organisations to develop programmes and give out grants that support a wide range of needs in the community. Currently, CFS manages more than 80 donor funds, giving out S$10 million every year to make a positive change in many ways.

Ms Loh added that there are numerous benefits for companies looking to partake in corporate philanthropy, such as:

  1. Increasing staff morale and employee retention
  2. Attracting and retaining talent
  3. Growing a positive reputation with the media and the public
  4. Reinforcing corporate culture and identity
  5. Generating business development opportunities
  6. Improving customer retention and brand recall

For instance, Douglas Conant, who was President and CEO of Campbell Soup Company until 2011, noted that the more Campbell allocated their resources to developing philanthropic initiatives to serve the communities, the more engaged and productive their employees were.

Their meaningful mission of “building the world’s most extraordinary food company by nourishing people’s lives everywhere, every day” laid the foundation for the firm’s success.

In another example, American production firm DreamWorks SKG joined hands with schools to devise training programmes that taught low-income students in Los Angeles essential skills in the entertainment industry. This in turn contributes to a better education system that boosts the employability of these low-income students. In addition, having more specially trained graduates helps to strengthen the entertainment industry that it relies on.

However, companies engaging in corporate philanthropy should also comply with other ethical issues concerning environment, consumers, human rights, supply-chain sustainability and transparency, or they cannot be said to be practising good CSR even if they make huge donations to charities. Doing otherwise is just sheer hypocrisy and falsehood, said Gerard Ee, Chairman of Charity Council.

“First and foremost, you got to believe you have a broader responsibility than just making money,” stressed Mr Lee Poh Wah, CEO of Lien Foundation.

How Corporations Can Start Giving
Corporations wishing to kick-start their philanthropy effectively can approach the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS).

“For companies that approach CFS, we help to kick-start their philanthropic journey by aligning their core values and intent with the needs of the local community,” said Ms Catherine Loh. “By setting a charitable fund with us, companies are actively involved in deciding how to make the most impact with their philanthropic money.”

CFS, which has a vision of growing a sustained culture of giving for generations to come, has worked alongside a number of corporations in Singapore – for example, Changi Foundation, Ascendas-Singbridge, Estate Developers Association (REDAS) and UBS – on their corporate philanthropy, which involves grantmaking that supports community projects.

A notable example is the Diversity in Abilities programme co-managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore with UBS, which aims to develop and showcase the artistic talents of children and youths with special needs.

As there are more than 2,000 charities in Singapore, CFS can “narrow down and identify charities that are aligned with their philanthropic objectives, given their knowledge and expertise, and we can identify gaps and opportunities to enable companies to make more strategic and effective giving,” said Ms Loh.

To ensure full transparency and accountability, CFS also assists donors in keeping an eye on how their philanthropic money is impacting the beneficiaries, the output, and outcomes through a rigorous programme evaluation and robust grantmaking process, as well as concise reporting.

“Companies find our services useful as they often have to report back to the shareholders on how their philanthropic money has been used.”

She added: “We can also help companies identify charities that can better accommodate their employees for volunteering activities. For example, we introduced a bank with many foreign employees to a charity that runs an English reading programme for children from low-income families. These native English-speaking employees could actively contribute by reading aloud to these children.”

“Companies can contribute time, treasure and/or talent. There is no one best way to give back,” she asserted.

CFS’s sister agency, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NPVC), whose mantra is “Goodness is the Business of Every Organisation”, has a programme called the Company of Good that aims to help companies give better and holistically. For information, visit https://companyofgood.sg/

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