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#MyGivingJourney x Trina Liang-Lin: Investing in a sustainable future 
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

#MyGivingJourney x Trina Liang-Lin: Investing in a sustainable future 

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#MyGivingJourney is a series by CFS to celebrate inspiring women and their work in the philanthropy sector. We are proud to feature Trina Liang-Lin, Managing Director at Templebridge Investments and Board of Director at CFS. 

Trina had a back to nature, farm to table experience growing up. Right up to the late 80s, her father’s family-owned farms in Lim Chu Kang, raising chickens, ducks and cultivating vegetables. That gave her a front row seat to the benefits of producing our own food and using natural resources thoughtfully.  

Today, Trina is investing her time and resources to push eco-consciousness to the top of our agenda. In November 2021, she led the launch of Women in Sustainability and Environment (WISE), the first women’s society in Singapore to focus concerted gender action towards Singapore’s Green Plan 2030 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 12. 

WISE hopes to educate and empower a community of women who, in their roles as consumers, business owners and professionals, can move the needle on creating a greener world. This will be done through lectures, mentorships and awards. “Climate change disproportionately affects women and girls around the world so it is important for women to be represented in eco leadership circles and in green economy jobs. We need greater participation, inclusiveness and visibility of key female stakeholders in sustainability and climate advocacy,” says Trina, who works for a US$5 billion global fund where she focuses on clean energy investments in Southeast Asia. 

Trina has been elbow-deep in social and community work for much of her professional life. The causes she champions are decidedly diverse: she has given her time and expertise to uplift women, the arts, education and animal welfare. She helped found the Financial Women’s Association Singapore, which offers women in finance a support network, and was a past-President of UN Women (Singapore). She is currently Singapore’s representative to the G20 for Women.  

Her giving journey has seen her serve on the boards of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy CentreSingapore Council of Women’s Organisations and Sentosa Development Corporation. In line with her passion for conserving wild species and their habitat, she currently volunteers on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF-Singapore) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. That’s not all: Trina is also a board member of Victoria Junior College and the Singapore Repertory Theatre.  

For their 20th wedding anniversary in 2016, Trina and her husband Edmund Lin established a foundation to give back in a more strategic and effective way. They explored different avenues but opted to go with CFS as it works closely with over 400 charities across a wide spectrum and can establish philanthropic funds seamlessly and quickly. Their Lin Foundation has supported causes that resonate with them, such as education, where they fund scholarships at Singapore Management University.   

“We decided to start giving back relatively early as we want to start making an impact now rather than later,” says Trina. “This is a long-term commitment for us and with CFS expertly guiding us in managing a foundation and making grants, our giving is optimised and can be scaled up further.” 

Begin your own journey of giving with CFS. Read more stories about the #MyGivingJourney series here. 

This article was written by Sunita Sue Leng, a former financial analyst and journalist, who believes that the written word can be a force for good. She hopes to someday write something worth plagiarising. 

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Beyond cultural philanthropy: The art of making a difference

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Last month’s Patron of the Arts event was a spot of sunlight at a time of gloomy Covid-19 headlines. The fact that Singaporeans – individuals as well as corporations – are still strongly supporting our arts groups in cash donations as well as with in-kind gifts was a heartening takeaway for everyone who cares for the arts and cultural scene in our country.

The annual awards – alongside a similar counterpart in the heritage sector – are a meaningful way to thank those who have been generous to the cultural landscape. And I am sure patrons also enjoy being in the limelight for an evening and being recognised for the vital support that they give to Singapore’s culture.

Cultural philanthropy is important for sustainability in the sector as it complements the grants given by the Government and the income that groups earn from ticket sales, classes and other programming.

However, while awards may recognise more significant donors, in reality, everyone can play a part, and arts companies appreciate all contributions, big or small. The income tax deduction also serves as an added incentive.

But beyond philanthropic giving, there are numerous other ways Singaporeans support the cultural scene. For starters, there are the skilled but unpaid volunteers who help out in many arts companies, serving on the board or on one of the committees. Today, with many arts companies being charities and some even Institutions of Public Character, which can collect tax-exempt donations, the boards have the important role of ensuring compliance with the latest codes of governance.

Fortunately, many of our leading arts companies have volunteers from the corporate world, including bankers, lawyers and accountants, who can contribute their expertise and ensure companies are well run, with funds from donors and grant-givers accounted for.

Sometimes, where necessary, they even mediate the relationship between the artistic team and company’s administrators who manage the purse strings.

Supporting artists’ works

It is also important to remember philanthropic giving typically benefits these arts charities. So any largesse may not benefit the freelance musicians, creative writers and visual artists, unless they receive commissions from the companies.

That is why there is another kind of patron who should be recognised. These patrons visit the artists’ studios, check what they are working on, and acquire or commission new works as a show of support. This is not philanthropy that attracts tax deductions, but such patrons have been instrumental in sustaining the careers of the visual artists, especially in the early days of their practice.

One sterling example of how one individual can make a difference is architect, art collector and former chairman of the National Gallery Singapore Koh Seow Chuan. His support of, and genuine interest in, Singaporean artists from pioneer painters like Cheong Soo Pieng to young contemporary artists, is well known and documented in Singapore’s art history. Singapore needs more committed patrons like Mr Koh.

Corporations, too, can give work to home-grown artists through active commissioning. For example, Raffles Hotel, as part of its reopening earlier this year, commissioned a playwright and theatre practitioners to create a virtual whodunnit set on the hotel’s beautiful grounds.

Co-owning the arts

But why is giving to the arts important in the first place? Why can’t the Government just fund and take care of everything? Well, that is because the arts should be co-owned by the people, even if there is strong government support. This model also ensures a diversity of artistic expressions and encourages more ground-up creations.

For individuals who step up and offer their time, energy and financial wherewithal, I suggest that they are driven by a deeper desire beyond a personal love for an art form. They clearly understand that art created from the community has something unique to say about the world we live in, conveyed through an artist’s sense of aesthetics or personal philosophy.

Such individuals also appreciate how the arts can inspire, restore weary spirits, and bring joy to people. Thus, by enabling artists or arts groups, these engaged individuals enrich the larger community and by extension, the nation.

For those with both ambition and resources, individuals have even galvanised like-minded people with diverse skills to start an arts company. Two relatively new organisations that have made significant strides in recent years are the Jazz Association, which develops and promotes home-grown jazz talents, and Re:Sound Collective, which programmes excellent chamber music for classical music lovers.

This is the spirit we need to harness in the Singapore of tomorrow. Certainly, the Government has signalled that it welcomes more partnerships with the private and people sectors, and no doubt, it has the resources to enable growth. This, of course, means a joint ownership of the arts and the attendant challenges in artistic excellence and audience development.

For those with the interest, skills or financial means but have no idea how to navigate and support the cultural scene, here are some practical suggestions.

The National Volunteer And Philanthropy Centre provides a service that matches skilled volunteers with leadership roles in non-profit organisations, including arts companies. First-timers can always start with event-based volunteerism, or by serving on a sub-committee, before offering to contribute on a board.

For those with more substantial financial means, they can approach the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), which can advise them on how to start a fund to support the cultural scene.

The CFS has helped donors set up charitable trusts with an interest in giving to the arts, among other priorities, on a sustained basis. In particular, newly settled entrepreneurs or business owners from overseas could consider this both to support and better understand the Singaporean cultural fabric.

One area Singapore can do better is in how the Government and an active citizenry can jointly identify the gaps in specific sectors, and establish ways to work together on solutions and co-deliver the outcomes. The Government should not be expected to have its finger on the pulse of every part of society, and indeed may not also be in the best place to respond to every challenge.

Timely questions

For the arts, this is a timely question as the National Arts Council takes stock of its first five-year arts master plan and looks ahead to its next.

Should grooming pop music talent for export or developing community arts for positive social outcomes be a priority? What about adapting our home-grown literature across multimedia or facilitating more translations? And importantly, how can the people sector jointly own these priority areas?

The approach here applies to other parts of society as well – from the social sector to sports and the environment. A trusting partnership between the Government and committed citizens will lead to Singaporeans proactively owning challenges and gaps in specific sectors, encourage experimentation on new approaches while providing greater clarity to private funders and skilled volunteers on where to focus their energies.

Successful partnerships will also reduce duplication and inefficiencies, such as having too many parties with similar missions or chasing after the same demographic to provide services.

As existing non-profit companies make an objective assessment of their future and relevance to their stakeholders, government agencies will also need to reflect on how much more space they can cede to support the growth of the people sector to achieve such strong partnerships.

This will be critical for a resilient citizenry, as society matures and the people continue to grapple with the pernicious impact of a protracted pandemic.

  • Paul Tan is the former deputy chief executive of the National Arts Council and serves on a few boards of non-profit arts companies in Singapore.

If you would like to start your journey of effective giving, visit here.

This article was originally published in The Straits Times here. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.

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Stories Of Impact

Spreading the Holiday Cheer: CFS Contribute Year-End Meal to Melrose Home Residents & Staff

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As the year 2023 drew to a close and office parties were being planned, the staff at CFS decided to redirect their staff celebration budget from traditional year-end parties and gift exchanges. Instead, they chose to sponsor a special New Year’s Eve dinner for the children and youth of Melrose Home, and contributed by purchasing grocery vouchers, hoping to bring joy and warmth to them during the holiday season.

At CFS’s monthly Town Hall, representatives from Children’s Aid Society Ms Serlina Huang, Manager of Community Partnerships and Ms May Su Paing, Communications Executive from Children’s Aid Society, visited along with their colleagues from Melrose Home, Ms Michelle Chen, and Mr Timothy Pang. Together they offered the CFS team valuable insights into the home’s operations and needs, enhancing their understanding of how donor contributions can benefit the beneficiaries. Ms Tricia Lee, Director of Communications & Marketing at CFS then presented grocery vouchers that the CFS staff had contributed, to support the purchase of essential items for the residents of Melrose Home. 

Mr Alvin Goh, Executive Director of Children’s Aid Society shares, ‘We are grateful for this heartwarming gesture from the Community Foundation of Singapore and thank the CFS team for spreading the holiday cheer to our residents. It is heartwarming to see the community coming together to help improve the lives of those in challenging situations.’

Melrose Home, a service under the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), is a residential home for children and youths aged 6 to 21. Their residents have experienced challenging family circumstances or child protection issues that led to them being removed from their family homes. 

The organisation has been a CFS grantee since 2022, and our donors have generously contributed to supporting Melrose Home in its mission. CAS is currently appealing for donations to help transform its premises at Clementi Road into “Melrose Village”, which will enable residents to have more living space, and offer purpose-built facilities, advanced counselling and psychological services. To find out how you can contribute, visit 


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Stories Of Impact

International Women’s Forum: From seeding bursaries to expanding horizons for young women

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Grit. Confidence. Passion. When it comes to long-term success, these qualities matter.

For Chen Si, an awardee of the International Women’s Forum Singapore (IWF) Education Grant, her pursuit to become a psychologist was driven by a personal conviction. “Two of my close friends almost lost their lives to depression. I’m convinced mental health is a serious issue and I hope to be there for those who struggle in the dark,” says Chen.

Started in 2014 and managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), the IWF Education Fund has been supporting young women from financially-challenged backgrounds during their tertiary education. To date, the IWF Education Grant has disbursed over $150,000 to 60 young women from 12 local tertiary institutions.

But beyond affirming academic excellence, the grant has also aimed to nurture women of ‘steel’ – individuals with the character and commitment to achieve in their chosen field. Applicants for the education grant are personally screened by IWF, whose panel includes some of Singapore’s top women business leaders, to recognise young women with the potential to excel and give back to society.

For Chen Si, receiving the IWF Education grant has been a great encouragement. “It affirms the work I do and spurs me to achieve excellence in what I believe in”, she says.

With CFS’s facilitation, the IWF Education Grant has in recent years expanded to more tertiary institutions, including the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) and LASALLE College of the Arts, thus supporting women who wish to pursue alternative career paths.

The IWF Education Grant has also grown to include a mentorship programme, in collaboration with the Young Women’s Leadership Connection (YWLC). All recipients of the IWF Education Grant are eligible to apply for the IWF-YWLC Mentorship programme, which opens doors for these young women to benefit from connections to successful women mentors, whether it’s building confidence, valuable industry contacts, or a role model they can learn from.

Celeste Marie Jacob, previously an opera student at NAFA, and who now teaches voice at a local music school, received the IWF Education Grant and took part in the IWF-YWLC Mentorship Programme. She was delighted to find that her mentor, despite coming from a business background, helped her to address her career concerns as an arts practitioner.

“It was important for me to think outside my job scope and have interactions with people from different backgrounds,” says Celeste. “As an opera student, my mentor opened my eyes to see new possibilities and opportunities to use my skills.” As a result of the mentorship, Celeste began emceeing for concerts and productions, which has benefited her through the additional income.

For Chen Si, the mentorship programme has offered support in a time of transition to work life, “My mentor reminded me to stay rooted in my values and beliefs and strive for excellence with confidence. With this confidence, I am now better able to face the uncertainties of the future and take things in my stride.”

Goh Swee Chen, President of the IWF Grant Committee Singapore said, “Over the last five years, it has been a joy to see the IWF Education Grant blossom and become a catalyst for personal and professional growth for these talented young women. Empowering women is not merely about supporting them financially, but exposing them to opportunities, networks and career options as they make this critical transition from student to working life. CFS’s facilitation has played a pivotal role, helping to establish a strong foundation that has enabled us to develop collaborations and increase our impact over time.”

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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


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



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The Community Foundation of Singapore spreads greater love through effective use of charitable gifts

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portrait of CFS CEO Catherine Loh

Catherine Loh, the CEO of the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), recently spoke to Lianhe Zaobao to share more about the work the organisation is doing. CFS has over 13 years of expertise in philanthropy advisory, fund administration and grantmaking and has been recognised for its commitment to transparency and governance. Hence donors can be confident that their grants will help meet the evolving needs of the community – now and into the future.  

As shared by Ms Catherine Loh, the CEO of CFS: “With falling birth rates and a rising elderly population, philanthropy can focus more on the elderly in the coming years. While the government take cares of the basic needs, there is much that the general public can do to improve the quality of life of the elderly, give them dignity and allow them to have a meaningful and active third age. 

In the area of education, in addition to the young, we should also be helping adult learners who need additional support as they re-train due to disruptions brought on by rapidly changing technology.” 

Catherine Loh also shared that, following last year’s outpour of generosity, CFS saw how much Singaporeans care about others – supporting programmes relating to the disadvantaged, education, health and more. The Sayang Sayang Fund, established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has drawn over S$9 million in donations from 5,185 individual and corporate donors, helping an estimated 136,000 individuals across Singapore.  

Since its establishment, CFS has collected a total of 192 million, distributing more than 114 million dollars in grants and is currently managing a total of 162 charitable funds. As a charitable organization, CFS helps individuals and corporates set up and manage their own donor-advised funds, supporting causes which they are passionate about.   

Building on the momentum of the launch of the Legacy Giving Initiative and “A Greater Gift” campaign, CFS is focusing on growing knowledge of legacy giving and the value of gifts to charity. A poll – conducted by CFS and NVPC between April and July last year with survey firm Toluna – found that 6 in 10 agree that everyone can make a legacy gift. Going forward, CFS will focus on highlighting ways of making gifts, as well as encouraging and enabling philanthropy conversations – whether at dinner tables or in office settings. 

CFS recognise that, while there is awareness, more information is needed to help individuals make informed decisions. CFS actively reaches out to legal and financial professional advisors, to share about the donor-advised fund as a modern tool for planning philanthropy. It is our hope that professional advisors will more frequently include charitable giving in conversations about wealth planning with clients.  

One example of CFS’s donor-advised fund would be the SR Nathan Upliftment Fund (SRNEUF), which has distributed millions of dollars to bursaries, scholarships and various financial assistance programmes, to support financially disadvantaged students to smoothly advance to higher education. 

As shared by Mr Bobby Chin, Chairman of the Grant Advisory Committee of the S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund: “President Nathan’s life epitomises the spirit of generosity, caring and giving. He was a tireless giver. Known to come from humble beginnings himself, he was always known to have a heart for the less privileged in society. 

As we celebrate the Fund’s 10th anniversary, we are happy to share that the SRNEUF has disbursed over $3.7 million to support ITE, polytechnic and university students through awards, bursaries, scholarships as well as monthly financial assistance.” 

The other example is the Dr. Lim Boon Tiong Foundation which donated 24 million dollars from his estate, to assist elderly and terminal patients, and fund cancer research. Working as a doctor till the age of 80, Dr Lim’s medical background and life experiences shaped his interest in helping the elderly and those suffering from urological conditions. After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in his 70s, Dr Lim became interested in supporting urological cancer research.  

His daughter Sylvia revealed that her father was frustrated because he was unable to help her grandfather who also had prostate issues. When he became ill himself, he wanted more research in this area to benefit future generations. 

Dr Lim passed away prior to the establishment of the fund, leaving his wishes to be executed by his adult children.  

In 2018, his daughters Sylvia and Ivy set up the Dr Lim Boon Tiong Foundation, a donor-advised fund with CFS – with a gift of $24 million supporting causes that Dr Lim was passionate about. 

CFS worked with them to identify and support projects such as the Dr Joseph Lim Boon Tiong Urology Cancer Research Initiative at the National University of Singapore (NUH), Catholic Welfare Services (CWS) and Assisi Hospice. 

This translated article was originally published by Lianhe Zaobao 

Credit: Lianhe Zaobao © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.  

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