Stories Of Impact
The Tabung Project – Saving together for a better future
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Stories Of Impact

Stories Of Impact

The Tabung Project – Saving together for a better future

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Launched in 2013, the Tabung Project is a simple yet inventive micro-savings programme by the Healthy Start Child Development Centre (HSCDC), a childcare centre by Beyond Social Services serving children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

With generous support from a donor through the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), families who take part in the Tabung Project are encouraged to save in an innovative way. The idea is simple: every child brings home a tabung (“savings bank” in Malay) where family members and even the child are encouraged to contribute. Each month, Tabung Counting Days are conducted, and each child’s savings is then poured into a community savings pool.

Through a multiplier strategy, the collective savings are matched by the donor and government, yielding a greater savings deposit. The impact of the programme is that every dollar saved multiplies into much more as a result of this generous funding support. As an initiative which involves the whole family, the Tabung Project also inculcates an appreciation of the importance and benefits of saving together.

Today, over 84% of students at HSCDC are involved in the project. Based on review sessions, 70% of the participating parents have developed a positive mindset and culture of saving. Many of them have also expressed their gratitude for the project, which both motivates and helps them kickstart savings for their children, and enables them to tap the CDA funds for their children’s childcare and healthcare expenses.

“The Tabung Project is a small gesture toward a more inclusive society,” explains Gerard Ee, Executive Director of Beyond Social Services, “For low-income families who find it difficult to meet household expenses let alone save, their children will not have much in their Child Development Account (CDA) to meet their educational and healthcare expenses. This project is trying to help them meet practical expenses for their children’s well-being.”

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How Family Offices Could Shape Philanthropy

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Singapore has a long history of family philanthropy. The first family foundations were established after World War II and they donated generously to alleviate poverty, care for the vulnerable and build schools and hospitals. Today, there are over 400 foundations and trusts registered with the Commissioner of Charities but families that institutionalized big-ticket giving early on – such as the Lee Foundation and the Lien Foundation – continue to dominate philanthropic giving in Singapore.

Family offices are entities which typically manage assets for or on behalf of a family. And Singapore – well-regulated, transparent and politically stable – is rapidly becoming the region’s preferred choice for family offices. In 2020 alone, approximately 200 single family offices were set up here, doubling the total count. As wealth grows, charitable giving is likely to keep climbing.

These high-net-worth families have the potential to shake up philanthropy in Singapore. Traditionally, the Asian family office was an extension of the family business, with a laser-sharp focus on the bottomline. “However, as founders age and younger successors take over, we expect to see greater value placed on sustainable and responsible investing as well as on strategic philanthropy,” says our CEO Catherine Loh.

Research firm Wealth-X estimates that $1.9 trillion worth of wealth in Asia will be passed on to the next generation in the coming decade. For many heirs, giving back is emerging as an integral part of doing business. For them, philanthropic activities are an optimal way to build and sustain a family’s legacy, strengthen family cohesion and better engage family members. 

But here’s where it gets interesting. “Family offices have the power to shake up traditional philanthropy as they tend to be more agile and responsive compared to large foundations or corporate foundations, which are answerable to multiple stakeholders and layers of decision makers. Secondly, family businesses tend to be built by entrepreneurs and disruptors, making them more open to new ways of doing things,” says Catherine. 

What this means is that the new wave of family-driven philanthropy could fund untested, possibly radical new approaches to problems. It could find innovative ways of harnessing capital for social impact. It could move away from cheque book charity to a more engaged approach which could lean towards social enterprises or private-public initiatives. 

However, while most family offices across the globe are engaged in some form of giving back, only 41% of them have a philanthropic strategy in place, notes the Milken Institute. Few family offices have the in-house expertise to evaluate nonprofits, deploy philanthropic dollars optimally, or monitor and measure impact. 

“At CFS, we believe giving should be thoughtfully planned and driven by evidence-based insights,” says Catherine. As a cause-neutral philanthropy advisor, CFS offers unparalleled access to over 400 charities in Singapore, across a diverse range of sectors. We conduct due diligence to ensure the giving is accountable and creating a social impact.  

For family offices, a cost-effective and flexible way to embark on philanthropy is to set up a donor-advised fund (DAF). Since 2008, CFS has set up close to 200 DAFs: of these, almost half have been for families. We pool donor funds for investment management and with over $90 million in assets at any one time, smaller individual funds can reap the economies of scale that large foundations enjoy. Beyond this, as the country’s largest convener of philanthropic activities, we mobilise donor capital through collaborations and collective models to scale up impact and generate more empowering solutions. 

If you would like to find out more about how CFS can help you achieve your giving goals, please click here.



  1. June Lee (January 2019) Exploring Family Philanthropy in Singapore – Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, National University of Singapore 
  2. EDB Singapore (February 2022) How Singapore is Becoming Asia’s Family Office Hub 
  3. Richard Newell (March 2022) New study sees Singapore as top family office hub – Asian Investor 
  4. Milken Institute (June 2021) Philanthropy in a Family Office
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Feeling good about giving

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It’s the season for giving and besides getting gifts for our loved ones, many of us will also be giving to charities we usually support.

But over the years, if you are wondering whether you are merely writing a cheque or really helping the needy, perhaps this is a good time to take stock. Gain a better understanding of who you are helping and the kind of difference you are making. Many of CFS’ donors start with this thought, and I am happy to share some tips that can help make your year-end giving more meaningful.

Know your own motivations and resources
Consider your motivations and expectations when you donate. What prompts you to donate? What sort of impact are you expecting? How quickly do you want to see results? How much time can you set aside to learn more about a cause or social issue? These questions can help you to gain greater clarity on why you give, and whether your expectations are realistic.

If apart from donating, you would also like to volunteer, assess your ability to deliver by considering your time, money, commitment and expertise. Perhaps you would like to be on the organising committee of a fundraising event this year? Help the charity by being honest with yourself and with them.

Build your knowledge of social issues and collaborate
It’s always easy to give to causes that you are familiar with or are directly in front of you. But is your money going to where it is most needed? Instead, you can build your knowledge and learn more about current social problems or deep-rooted community issues that need support. Who knows, you may uncover fresh perspectives on how your money can better meet needs and still support a cause that resonates with your values. You can also gather a group of like-minded friends together to multiply the impact. When donors are willing to share knowledge and resources, redundancy is reduced, and funds can be directed more efficiently.

Adopt the mindset of a partner
Lastly, here are some things to keep in mind when working with charities. While some charities are able to provide a certain level of appreciation to donors, there are many that are under-resourced and face challenges in providing a satisfactory giving experience. If you are a customer to a for-profit business, you may give to a business with better service. But before you take your donation to another charity, do consider taking on the mindset of a partner rather than a customer.

If you assure the charity that you are interested in their real challenges rather than how well they keep things together on the outside, the charity can be honest about what they really need. As a result, you will gain a better insight into what it takes to make a meaningful change.

At CFS, we believe in giving that is marked by continuous learning and a true desire to make community better. Let’s make this giving season better than the last. Happy holidays!

Catherine Loh
Community Foundation of Singapore

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Stories Of Impact

#MyGivingJourney x Year of Celebrating SG Women

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One of the biggest myths about philanthropy is that you need millions of dollars to give back. At CFS, we strongly believe that everyone can leave a charitable legacy. Everyone can make a difference. Everyone can donate to the causes close to their hearts.  

Because giving comes in many ways. 

With 2021 being the Year of Celebrating SG Women, CFS would like to share the giving journeys of women who are touching lives with their generous spirit. Some started giving back early in life, others later. Some are in a position to make a big-ticket donation or pull together a fundraiser. Others lend their skills, talents or energy.  

Some volunteer actively with their hands and feet, helping at-risk youths or the old and frail. Some have crafted a career in the world of social services. Some are millennials, others are well, let’s say ageless.  

CFS talks to these women to find out what motivates them to give back, the causes they champion and how their giving journeys have uplifted and given back to them in ways they never expected.  

We hope their stories also showcase how Singaporean women are revolutionising philanthropy. And that you will be as inspired by them as we are. 

Read more about their inspiring stories:  

Begin your own journey of giving with CFS.   

Learn more about how to get started here. 

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The Art of Giving – 4 Questions with Ms Catherine Loh

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CEO Catherine Loh was featured in the National Arts Council’s latest issue of The Art of Giving offering her insights on encouraging giving to the arts.

Speaking after the association’s annual general meeting at Kallang Netball Centre on Friday, Liang-Lin, a fund manager for a US$7 billion (S$9.5 billion) firm focused on green real estate investments in Asia, hopes to bring her expertise to the table and increase the amount of financial support for Singapore netball during her four-year term.

The 53-year-old took over from Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jessica Tan, who has been the association’s president since 2012. Tan had reached the end of her tenure, which saw the national team make several breakthroughs, including a gold medal at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.

Liang-Lin holds various appointments such as being Singapore’s representative to the G20 for Women appointed by the Ministry of Finance. She is also a board member of the Community Foundation of Singapore, which promotes philanthropy through facilitating the establishment of charitable funds.

She said: “One of the things that is overlooked when we look at philanthropy and fundraising is that sport is not really part of the things that people will automatically think about.

“Less than one per cent of the funds that we raise in the Community Foundation goes to sport. The values that sport brings need to be amplified more, so that corporates… see the need to support sport. I think that link needs to be stronger so that we get not just more corporate sponsors, but also they can come in for longer periods of time.”

While national agency Sport Singapore provides funding to netball, corporates can also do their part, she added.

She said: “If we play our cards correctly, we can get corporates to come in and hopefully support them, to see the wider purpose of sport and bring the nation together.”

She also hopes the association can be proactive in looking for financial support, adding: “We must work more strategically with governing bodies on educating corporates on the importance of really supporting sport.”

The former netball player also made references to the recent Women’s World Cup for football, noting the “ability for a game that focuses on women in the sport to bring global attention”.

She said: “I want that kind of trajectory of the limelight going to women’s sport. I think that is a trend that will continue, and I hope that netball will be part of that trend.”

Meanwhile, Tan was satisfied that she has achieved the three objectives she had set out to do when she came on board – to improve quality of play, build a fan base and create an ecosystem which involves coaches and players.

The 57-year-old added: “As much as I do feel sad about having to step down, but at the same time, leadership renewal is very important.

“I think Trina will help to galvanise the team together, and bring a lot of new perspectives and quality to the association.”

Join us in making an impact on Singapore sports scene! Reach out to us for more information.

Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction

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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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