Make Your Donations More Impactful
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Make Your Donations More Impactful

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John Doe
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Donating to a worthy cause seems easy. Many people simply give to a charity that asks, give where they gave before or talk with friends. By being more strategic with your money, though, you can make sure your donation has more impact, regardless of whether it is small or large.

Strategic Giving

It is indeed easy to give to charities that you know or that friends recommend. Ad hoc donations without doing a bit of research and deciding on your strategic purpose may, though, have less impact or not fully align with your values.

Starting with a clear giving strategy can enhance the impact of your giving, the Singapore EDB observes. It is better to clarify your goals before considering any donation by considering what you want to change, how much effort you want to put in, the amount you wish to give and the means you have to achieve them. “While data, best practices and tools are available, philanthropy is inherently personal and driven by passions and interests.

Along with giving to causes you support, it is important to ensure that the organization you donate to is reputable. “Better Ask, Better Check, Give Better,” the Charity Portal suggests. You can ask for details such as how your donation will be used, who the beneficiaries are and how much of your donation goes to the beneficiary. Not being able to get this basic information may be a red flag. You can also verify that the beneficiary is a registered charity or provides information to the Commissioner of Charities.

If you need advice, a variety of organizations can assist. Asia Community Foundation, for instance, says it provides donors with support and expertise to make confident and purposeful giving decisions.

Finding the Right Organization for your Philanthropy

One easy way to find reputable organizations to donate to is to use, part of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), lists more than 500 non-profits and categorizes them into “causes”. You can select the type of organization, look for ones in that category, click on ones of interest to “learn more,” and donate directly once you have found an impactful organization that aligns with your goals. You can usually also receive a tax benefit.

An alternative for people who want to make a larger donation is to set up a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). You can establish a fund with a donation and use the money to make future gifts to charities. Along with the administrative services that the manager provides, you can get a tax donation for your donation even though you’ll actually give funds to charities later.

The first DAF manager in Singapore and perhaps the most easily accessible one is the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), established in 2008. At CFS, said CEO Catherine Loh, “we aim to inspire and enable strategic philanthropy.” Donors can enjoy an upfront tax deduction when they make their contribution and disburse grants over time. CFS takes care of the administrative work, and it provides advisory and grant-making services. “We work with the donors to understand their philanthropic goals,” Loh said “and help them achieve their objectives. As needs become more complex, we aspire to help our donors to make the leap from ad hoc reactive charitable giving to strategic philanthropy which has clear goals and evidence-informed plans and attempts to tackle the roots of complex problems.” CFS scans Singapore’s charity sector to find worthy programs to fund, conducts due diligence and helps donors disburse grants to charities, social enterprises or ground-up groups.

Measure the Impact 

To ensure your donation has the intended impact, it is important to assess the results of what the charity actually does. You can do it yourself, or a DAF such as CFS can help with impact measurement.

The Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, one of the early movers in impact measurement, provides insights on what to measure. It explains that a donation is a social investment, and each donation should generate a social return in order to be effective. “The outcome would answer questions such as “How far has this donation gone to help, change or improve society?” and “Can the social investment be given differently to achieve a better outcome?”

Rather than just looking at how many people show up for events, for instance, you can look at how the organization changes lives, how it is a catalyst for change in a particular sector, whether it has long-term impact or just organizes events with limited impact, and other outcomes. If they don’t provide information, it may be preferable to look for other beneficiaries.

There is plenty of need in Singapore. By determining your strategy, finding the right beneficiary and measuring what you achieve, you can ensure you have the intended impact.

This article is written by Richard Hartung and is originally published in the November/December 2023 issue of Living In Singapore, a magazine by the American Association of Singapore.

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Stories Of Impact

Care Corner Educational Therapy Service – Tackling gaps for children with special learning needs

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John Doe
A child creatively arranges red and white paper to form letters, showcasing their artistic skills and imagination.

Singapore can take pride in being billed the best country for children to grow up in, based on a 2018 report by the non-governmental organisation, Save The Children. Yet, for children with special learning needs within mainstream schools, there remains room for timelier intervention and more holistic support.

Supported by multiple donors from the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), Care Corner’s Educational Therapy Service (ETS) has been serving children with special learning needs in mainstream schools from Kindergarten 1 to Primary 6. More than half of its students are from lower-income families, where lack of financial resources often means delayed diagnosis or access to specialised learning support services. Children struggle to keep up with their educational milestones and peers, hurting their self-esteem and motivation.

Care Corner’s ETS well-received Specialist Tuition (English) and Specialist Tuition (Math) programmes have helped these children overcome their challenges and progress in their academic journey. Over 70% of its students showed improvement in their literacy and numeracy skills in 2017, based on assessment scores.

Many of its students spend on average of at least two years with ETS, benefiting from small class sizes where teachers adapt learning methods to the needs of each child. “Current mainstream resources do offer short-term support, but in reality, such children require continuous, targeted help for longer duration to allow the child to pick up the needed skills,” says Isaac Tan, Clinical Director.

More notably, its Specialist Tuition programmes are designed to not just improve key skills, but actually meet the academic demands of mainstream curriculum. “Improving reading skills does not mean the child can address academic demands, and tuition classes without these specialised methods might not cater to these children’s weaknesses,” adds Isaac.

Care Corner’s dedication to its mission can be witnessed in its innovative KidsBright Programme, which it developed by exploring research into brain development and contemporary movement therapy. KidsBright takes a three-pronged approach, through brain-stimulating movement exercises, diet, and mental training to help stimulate a child’s brain.

Care Corner believes tackling underlying causes in cognitive difficulty can have far-reaching effects in boosting learning. Impressively, more than 90% of children in its 2017 programme saw improvements in their learning abilities based on parental feedback.

“By addressing the underlying causes, these children may reach a level of improvement that they no longer require specialist tuition,” expresses Isaac. KidsBright’s approach is now being compiled into a research study, which Isaac hopes will catalyse and influence local approaches towards children with special learning needs.

Moving forward, Care Corner ETS is piloting a new Psychological Assessment Service in the second half of 2018. Tan believes such services are much-needed, especially for lower-income families, as early diagnosis allows children to receive interventions at an earlier stage and improves their chances of catching up with their peers.

Increased demand for its services has also seen Care Corner ETS open a new centre in Woodlands. Joanne Sim, Programme Head and Senior Educational Therapist, expresses, “With our expansion into Woodlands and launch of psychological services, we aim to offer a more comprehensive range of services, whilst reaching out to more children with special learning needs to support them in achieving their potential.”

Photo: Care Corner Educational Therapy Service

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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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Stories Of Impact

2023 Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award Winner Megan Low: Music is her Ikigai

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A woman in a white dress sits on stairs, gracefully holding a violin.

Congratulations to Megan Low, this year’s winner of the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award, which supports young Singaporean musicians who have consistently demonstrated outstanding musicianship and performance. The Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Fund, a donor-advised fund which CFS has managed for over a decade, honours the legacy of Mr. Goh Soon Tioe, a pioneering and accomplished violinist, conductor, and teacher.

Megan is thrilled to be joining the community of previous award winners and is excited about the performance opportunities that come with the award. The prize money will help defray the cost of a Master’s Degree in Violin Performance, which Megan hopes to pursue after graduation.  She is currently in her final year of a Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree in Violin Performance at the prestigious Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of internationally-renowned violinist Zuo Jun.

Of her success, she says, “My parents have been my biggest inspiration in my music journey and have supported me every step of the way. They taught me that success only comes with hard work. They also taught me the concept of Ikigai – where one’s passion, mission, vocation, and profession overlap and becomes your reason for being.”

It was her parents who filled their home with classical music and inspired her to ask for violin lessons at the age of three and then piano lessons at seven. At sixteen, she made her solo debut with the Orchestra of the Music Makers.

Megan’s passion for performance has taken her to many stages locally and abroad, from Asia to Europe and the US. Most recently, her piano trio won the first prize at the 17th Cecilia International Music Competition 2023 in Japan.

The young musician is most accomplished at playing Romantic music, yet her most memorable experience was performing the complex Baroque masterpiece, Bach’s ‘St John’s Passion’. Megan says, “I most enjoy collaborative music-making in chamber music and small ensemble groups. I would love to dive deeper into that in the future.”

A believer in the restorative power of music, Megan also harnesses her musical talent as a gift to uplift others. During the Covid-19 pandemic, she and her peers held a workshop for the staff at Sengkang General Hospital, in which they introduced music as an avenue for stress relief and creative expression. The tunes created during the workshop were sampled and turned into an original soundtrack, which was then played in the hospital lobby. During the Christmas season, Megan and her friends also brought cheer to the residents at the All Saints Home by performing familiar tunes.

As she embarks on a promising music career, this young lady hopes to continue performing and teaching music – her ikigai – for as long as she can.

Learn how you can work with CFS to support talented musicians like Megan and boost Singapore’s arts scene –

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Stories Of Impact

Life after winning the 2020 Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award: Natalie Koh’s pursuit of a career in musical excellence

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John Doe
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Winning the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020 was a pleasant surprise for talented violinist Natalie Koh, who was not usually recognised for her solo performances and had to prepare for the Award’s audition just after last year’s circuit breaker without any formal instruction.

“I am deeply honoured to have received the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award in 2020. Violin playing has always been something that I am very passionate about, although my growth and achievements have not always been a given,” says Natalie. 

“A lot of conscientious and diligent work was put into moulding myself into the musician that I am currently and that I am proud to be.”

Since then, the budding musician has kept herself busy and forged determinedly ahead in her musical career. These included performing in digital concert recordings, teaching the violin at Forte Musicademy as a private violin teacher, and engaging with the special needs community through various community art activities.

Apart from keeping a hectic schedule as a performer, Natalie also spends much time imparting her love of music to the next generation of budding musicians — serving as a Teaching Assistant in her Alma Mater, the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, and as an Assistant Director for classical music concert recordings and productions by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, alongside other local organisations.

The promising young musician was also able to present her solo recital at the Awards, for which she was extremely excited and thankful for, as her graduation recital was put off last year due to the pandemic’s restrictions. “Overall, I would say that my recital was a success, and I hope that I fared well as a representative on behalf of the Award and the music community,” Natalie recalls with pride.

The Award’s prize money has enabled Natalie to realise her dreams of going overseas to attain a Master’s in Violin Performance, which will broaden her horizons as a performing violinist, music educator and community artist. She hopes to take the experience and knowledge gained from the two years abroad and expand her musical practice upon her return to Singapore.

Natalie recognises that living and studying in Chicago will prove to be expensive, but with the $10,000 award money, she will be able to defray some of her living costs. With the reduced financial burden, the young musician will be able to focus on learning to the fullest of her abilities in the States.

The Goh Soon Tioe Award has supported yet another promising young musician in paving her way to a brighter future towards a career in music, and adding another valuable gem to the flourishing music scene in Singapore.

“I am deeply thankful for the recognition and the support from the Goh Soon Tioe Centenary Award and the Community Foundation of Singapore. This Award has raised my profile as an emerging musician in Singapore, and I sincerely hope that I can be one to shape and grow the classical music scene in Singapore,” says Natalie.

Read and learn more about Natalie’s first steps into music and how she grew to become the talented musician that she is here.

If you would like to contribute towards the arts or support causes that you are passionate about, please visit our website at

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Stories Of Impact

Over $9 million raised for CFS’s Sayang Sayang Fund benefitting over 130,000 beneficiaries

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John Doe
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The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) launched the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF) in Feb 2020 as an emergency response fund, aimed to benefit Singapore’s underserved communities impacted by COVID-19.

As a result of the keen generosity from Singapore’s general public, over $9 million had been raised, enabling the SSF to expand its scope to support nine initiatives to ensure that the most vulnerable in Singapore’s communities did not fall through the cracks. This was made possible through CFS’s highly proficient understanding of grantmaking and close collaboration with our valued community partners. This was swiftly translated into impact supporting 298 grantee organisations and 136,000 beneficiaries.

“It is with great pleasure that we thank all our partners and donors for their unwavering generosity in such times of adversity. CFS is honored to have brought together so many people from all walks to life to help those most vulnerable in need. 

Without everyone’s support, neither the Sayang Sayang Fund nor its initiatives would have been birthed. We are humbled and proud of the part that CFS has played to be able to be in such a privileged position to do what we did,’’ says Joyce Teo, Deputy CEO of CFS.

Some of the initiatives that were supported by the SSF included SeniorsOK@Home, which provided relief to seniors unable to leave their homes because of social distancing measures, Recess@Home, which provided meal subsidies for needy students during their Home Based Learning (HBL) period and MigrantsOK@Home, which extended care towards our migrant workers in the form of free top-ups in their prepaid cards to call their loved ones at home.

The emergency response funds were able to reach recipients promptly due to the Fund’s nimbleness, alongside the combined efforts of informal grassroots networks and community groups outside of the regular charitable bureaucratic systems.

A summary on the SSF funds disbursed so far

CFS aims to disburse all of the donations raised to our allocated partners and beneficiaries. To date, over $7 million has been disbursed. The charity partners were required to provide a comprehensive report on how these funds were used and whether they were fully utilised.

Giving relief to migrant workers

CFS worked with Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME), Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) and Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) to provide funding for our migrant workers, whose assistance has been invaluable and support to this community would not have been possible without their help.

In total, $200,000 had been disbursed by the MigrantsOK@Home initiative through our partners, benefitting 90,000 migrant workers with care packages and free prepaid top ups.

“We are very happy to have CFS partner with us to support our migrant workers in the factory-converted dormitories,” says MWC Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang. “We are really very thankful to everyone for giving a helping hand to our migrant workers in this challenging time.”

Aiding the elderly with AIC

More than $1.5 million was also disbursed to seniors for assistance through the SSF through the SeniorsOK@Home initiative, who received immediate aid, food supplies, necessities and medical supplies.

CFS collaborated closely with the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and other agencies to distribute relief to this particularly vulnerable community. Much needed funding was delivered to nursing homes and other community care providers to enhance precautionary measures during the pandemic, and also to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the staff and residents of more than 90 community healthcare organisations.

300 infrared thermometers were also developed and distributed by CFS through the initiative, and helped to reduce the manpower required for temperature taking at nursing homes, hospices and eldercare centers, where manpower was sorely lacking during the COVID19 period.

‘’During this period, it is important that we combine efforts with our partners to support seniors in a timely manner. The Sayang Sayang Fund, within a short time frame, has helped to channel significant and meaningful support for our Community Care partners and seniors,’’ says Tan Kwang Cheak, CEO, AIC.

Distributing meals to needy students with the Ministry of Education (MOE)

Much credit goes to CFS’s partnership with the Ministry of Education with the Recess@Home initiative. The persistent efforts of the dedicated civil servants in MOE shone through, as they worked tirelessly with CFS in disbursing funds to needy students in the fastest way possible.

More than $1.3 million has been disbursed through MOE to the Recess@Home initiative and helping more than 28,000 needy students to receive their meals. The subsidies were disbursed via top-ups to the students’ School Smartcard which students could use to purchase food and essential groceries at some hawker centres, food courts, minimarts, convenience stores and supermarkets.

“Thank you for helping us with our daily expenses during the circuit break period. It really helped our family financially as our parents do not have enough money to give us pocket money every day. Having this really helped us because sometimes we try to save the money our parents give us. We are really grateful because not many people have this opportunity.’’ said Primary 6 sisters, Liyana and Hanayani.  

Putting a roof over the heads of rough sleepers with SafeSleep@Home

For the initiative SafeSleep@Home, almost $200,000 was disbursed to help more than 300 rough sleepers to find shelter during the circuit breaker period and obtain more permanent housing in the long term. The funds also went towards providing them with daily necessities and food supplies.

CFS has collaborated with four charity partners to provide temporary housing, overhead support, and home transition funds for over 300 individuals, including families. About 10 percent had successfully transitioned into long-term permanent housing, while the rest are in the process of doing so.

Other Community Grants disbursed by CFS

Through our community partner Filos Community Services, CARE packs were distributed to 250 vulnerable and isolated elderly and 50 low income families. These CARE packs contained tip sheets on hygiene, hand washing, use of masks, home exercises and helplines. Essentials such as antiseptic soaps, dettol, vitamin c, tissue packs, stretch bands or water bottles to be used for home exercises, thermometers, biscuits and milo, hand sanitizer and masks were also included.

CFS also supported community partner Petapis, and provided funds to purchase essentials to 4 of their residential welfare homes to mitigate the risks of the infection such as personal protective equipment (PPEs) and thermometers. 300 beneficiaries benefitted from the essentials that the funds provided.

“The Sayang Sayang Fund’s measure of success is not by how much it has raised, but by the number of smiles on the faces of all the people it has helped. I feel tremendous gratitude for our partners both government and community, who have come together so compassionately to give aid to those in Singapore who are most in need. Thank you for your steadfast efforts and generosity,’’ says Catherine Loh, CEO of CFS.

To find out more about Sayang Sayang Fund, please visit

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