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Beyond cultural philanthropy: The art of making a difference
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Beyond cultural philanthropy: The art of making a difference

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group of musicians practicing together

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

Relaxed Fund – helping SAAC clients through horticulture

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Group examining flora in a garden setting.

CFS donor George Jacobs, who created the Relaxed Fund, advocates a vegan lifestyle. Promoting horticulture is his way of championing this, while at the same time helping the clients at the St Andrews Autism Centre (SAAC).

He has funded three Edible Community Gardens (ECG) through the Relaxed Fund: one at SAAC, one at Metta Welfare Association, and one at the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES).

The ECG is a unique programme as it involves multiple parties, including the community, and meets both social and environmental needs.

CFS and George visited the ECG at SAAC late last year. The grant from the Relaxed Fund has supported eight planter boxes in two locations at SAAC. The crops grown include: tomatoes, chilli padi, mint, lemon balm, thai basil, rosemary, mosquito plant, xiao bai chai, kang kong, kai lan and brinjal.

The vegetables have been harvested on a quarterly basis while the herbs are harvested as and when there are requests for them. It was also an opportunity for the donor to meet some clients, parents and a community volunteer, and to receive affirmation from them.

“My wife and I wanted to encourage people to eat more plant-based foods, as these foods boost human health and address global warming issues,” said George. “The reason behind the ECG was to give them a sense of vested ownership. If they grow the fruits and vegetables, they may be more likely to eat them. This programme at SAAC also supports the Singaporean government’s 30 by 30 vision, which is to produce 30% of our own food (up from 10% currently) by 2030.

I am very pleased with the great results of the SAAC Community Garden and would like to credit the parents of the clients as well as the community who have all been a supportive part of this amazing effort,” said George.

SAAC currently has about 66 clients altogether. Twenty two of them are on the horticulture programme, although some of the other clients help out on occasions.

Chloe Phua, Senior Coach for Horticulture at SACC, said there have been huge improvements in the clients: “At the start of the programme, they would only do watering and simple weeding, as they used to do for other plants in the premises. Many had tantrums due to the exposure to heat and extreme aversion to dirt. However, the routine of the chores helped them to adjust to the gardening. Now, with very little prompting, the clients are familiar with various stages of the gardening process, from germination through to harvesting. They have also built up their tolerance levels, being able to go through a quarter hour of gardening before washing their hands at a break.”

She added that, overall, the gardening has helped to improve the social skills and capabilities of the clients, who are now able to do gardening together and even go out to the community to deliver their produce.

It was Rosa Quitadamo, a resident of the nearby Villa Marina Condominium, who bridged the gap between SAAC and Villa Marina. Having started her own community garden within the condominium, she had suggested that SAAC sell the produce from their garden to residents in Villa Marina.

Rosa said: ‘’By selling the vegetables they have grown, it gives the clients a sense of value in their gardening. It also raises awareness of autism within the community in a very personal way.’’

Not only that, it instils a sense of pride and responsibility in the clients who work in the ECG. Aloysius has been gardening at SAAC for 18 months, and he is proud to bring vegetables home for his aunt to cook in a soup or for his family to eat with rice.

‘’I enjoy gardening here,’’ he said, with a glowing sense of ownership of his part in the ECG. ‘’I like the watering and the soil preparation,’’ he added, before going on to describe the latter in great detail.

Even the parents of clients who work in the ECG were full of praises for the programme. Aunty Chin and Uncle Joo, parents of client Dwayne Goh, were impressed and amazed by their son’s progress.

Said Aunty Chin, “Dwayne used to be so scared of getting dirty but now, trained by the coaches and regular gardening, he can plant seeds and even do weeding.  I have seen a lot of improvement in Dwayne because of the gardening and am thankful for the support from the donor.”

“Many people with autism connect better through their senses. Gardening speaks to them as it involves many senses, like smell and sight. It has even changed my wife’s diet! She actually doesn’t really like vegetables but because Dwayne brings back what he has grown, she will eat them! I prefer to get the vegetables from here because it is fresher and they don’t use pesticides,’’ added Uncle Joo.

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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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Opinion

How much does a Singapore household need for a basic standard of living?

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a group of vegetables in green bags

In a study of household budgets by Dr Ng Kok Hoe (Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), A/P Teo Youyenn (Nanyang Technological University), Dr Neo Yu Wei (National University of Singapore), Dr Ad Maulod (Duke-NUS), Dr Stephanie Chok and Wong Yee Lok (LKYSPP), a basic standard of living means “…more than just, housing, food, and clothing. It is about having opportunities to education, employment, and work-life balance, as well as access to healthcare. It enables a sense of belonging, respect, security, and independence. It also includes choices to participate in social activities, and the freedom to engage in one’s cultural and religious practices.”

To date, a total of two household budget studies were conducted using the Minimum Income Standards (MIS) as a research method for establishing the incomes needed for a basic standard of living in Singapore. In 2019 the study[1] targeted seniors and in 2021 the study[2] extended this work to the needs of households. The results helped to establish a living wage level, a wage that allows people to afford a decent standard of living and embodies the values and principles that the public identifies with across a range of domains.

So, if I have a wish for, for next year and of course beyond…. it is to have a greater conversation around wages and people’s living standards that are based on principles like these – people’s needs, what is decent, what is basic, and what will allow people to not feel excluded from society.

Recognising the importance of research on the needs of households living in poverty, the Community Foundation of Singapore collaborated with the research team to invite 25 leaders from the social service sector to learn about the opportunities and trade-offs in applying MIS in Singapore, as well as to compare income standards in different countries. It was a process to understand about the living standards from ground up experiences which demonstrated what Singaporeans see as necessary and important to thrive while living in Singapore. Without such a process to unpack the lived experiences of individuals and communities, narratives often reinforce the worldview of the dominant and are unable to account for the real habits and practices of ordinary members of society. 

The session with the social leaders was held in August 2022 and it opened up possibilities to incorporate MIS findings to review and enhance the delivery of programmes and services for marginalised communities and families.

This is an interesting discussion – we need more of these sessions for paradigm shifts within the sector itself. Social justice is one of the core principles in social work but what is “just” and is it the same as “fair”? Just or fair to who?

Participant’s reflection

The workshop invited attending social leaders to anticipate how society is changing and ask about the relevance of MIS and how it challenges or contributes to current income policies, assistance schemes, eligibility criteria for assistance and practices to ensure a minimum socially acceptable standard of living. It is also helpful for leaders from different fields to come together and share their assumptions, priorities, and values that may impact their assessment of clients’ needs and support provided.

It inspires me to imagine that when we talk about families no longer being in poverty, it is not just about being earning above a certain income (e.g., poverty line) but being able to achieve a basic standard of living. This has tremendous implications and guidance on how we think about measuring and evaluating the outcomes and impacts of our work.

In the discussions, the participants found it crucial to include multiple stakeholders such as donors and funders who will fund these programmes and dictate expected processes and outcomes. As a follow-up, another session will be facilitated to gain their perspectives and ensure the conversation goes deeper, and generates aligned perspectives.

Through these sessions, we hope to push the boundary of thinking to inspire different stakeholders. Donors can play an important role in encouraging greater giving and I hope the next session will allow even deeper conversations

This article was written by Joyce Teo, an executive director of Centre for Applied Philanthropy. Joyce leads the CAP team and works with donors and non-profit organisations to address the critical gaps in strategic philanthropy in Singapore.

References

[1] 2019 Household Budget Study: What older people need

[2] 2021 Household Budget Study: What people need in Singapore

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News

Around 7,000 school children in need of support for meals

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Children happily sitting on the floor, smiling and radiating joy.

A four-week ‘circuit breaker’ is the latest challenge to hit Singapore, as a pre-emptive strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19. As students transition to over three weeks of learning at home, about 7,000 children will miss access to food they would normally get in school, compounding difficulties in continuing their education at home.

As mentioned in Parliament by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Heng Swee Keat on 7 April 2020, CFS today bolstered efforts to generate support for the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF). Donations to this fund will complement the work of local public health, non-profit and government entities with emergency support.

CFS now seeks another $3 million for the SSF, to meet evolving and urgent needs of the community. This includes the launch of Recess@Home, a meal programme that will provide disadvantaged students with support for their meals and ensure that children do not go hungry.

Speaking on the SSF, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Foundation of Singapore, Ms Catherine Loh shared, “During these tough times, we hope that the Sayang Sayang Fund will be able to provide immediate and longer-term support not just for the frontline workers but also the vulnerable groups like low-income families and elderly. With programmes such as Recess@Home, we want to help the children whose families are already dealing with many other difficulties due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Community Foundation of Singapore and the Sayang Sayang Fund remain sensitive to the needs of the community and we urge everyone to rally together to overcome this challenging period.”

CFS raised $1.1 million earlier after the launch of SSF in February. However, the increasing severity of the COVID-19 situation and more adverse impact on the economy and society have seen a surge in the demand for charity services.

Donors wishing to donate can do so via PayNow or visit our SSF campaign at giving.sg. Should you require any assistance or if you would like to set up your personal giving campaign in support of the SSF, please visit https://www.cf.org.sg/ or contact us at contactus@cf.org.sg.

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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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News

The Art of Giving – 4 Questions with Ms Catherine Loh

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Graphic of "The Art of Giving – 4 Questions with Ms Catherine Loh"

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 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”。

Picture of admin bluecube
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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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