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Portfolio Magazine: Helping others help others
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Portfolio Magazine: Helping others help others

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John Doe
Asian woman (Ms Loh) in red dress posing for camera.

“These six years at CFS have definitely been a fulfilling learning journey for me,” says Ms. Catherine Loh. She smiles for the first time since we sat down to discuss how she traded her successful banking career to one in charity – as CEO of CFS. “I developed greater empathy and learned to see things from another person’s perspective. I’m also humbled by the selflessness displayed by so many in the social sector as they strive daily to help their beneficiaries overcome life’s challenges.”

Set up in 2008, CFS currently manages 110 donor funds, including the SR Nathan Education Upliftment Fund, and has raised over S$100 million in total donations. It also works closely with over 400 charities to identify the gaps in the community that need support.

Ms. Loh sees her work as stimulating attempts at innovation and problem solving. “The needs of donors and beneficiaries are always changing, and there are constantly new ways that we can work with donors and charity partners to solve complex social issues.”

A Different Start
The moment she stepped out of the university, Ms. Loh, like most of her peers, began an earnest pursuit of the 5Cs: cash, car, condominium and country club – popular benchmarks of success in the rapidly developing economic powerhouse that Singapore was in the 1980s and ‘90s.

She started her career at the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, followed by leadership positions in the Singapore offices of Nomura, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. “I’m very fortunate to have spent many years of my career in banking, which has seen tremendous growth over the past 20 years,” Ms. Loh says. Work in a dealing room was intense – a virtual roller-coaster ride that followed the constant fluctuations in the financial markets. It was also very competitive and profit-driven.

But there were genuine perks: “The best part of the job was meeting clients from all over the region, understanding their needs, and finding suitable financial solutions in volatile financial markets. Many colleagues and clients have become my good friends and I will always treasure these relationships forged over the years,” Ms. Loh says.

The thrilling ride came to a grinding halt, however. In 2008, the financial crisis that would trigger a global recession had peaked; its aftermath took a toll on Ms. Loh’s health. “I decided to take a break to spend more time with my family and regain my health. After leaving the banking industry in 2010, I spent a year and a half at home looking after my third child who was born in 2009.”

Changing Tracks
When her toddler entered preschool, Ms. Loh considered returning to work. A job offer from the social sector came along. Although it was a different path, her previous volunteer involvement with Assisi Hospice, Metta Welfare Association, and Telok Kurau Primary School prepared her for it.

“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for me to contribute back to society in a way that can maximize my skill-set and experience in management, sales and marketing, and financial investment management.”

Transitioning into her new role was initially difficult. Ms. Loh had to adjust from working in a large profit-driven organization to a small non-profit focused on doing good. “Being in a lean organization means every team member often has to multitask. Another learning curve was managing staff who are driven by the will to do good and not just by money alone.”

Ms. Loh also found that the largely female-dominated CFS required a more consensus style of management versus a more direct confrontational style in a male-dominated dealing room. “Working with charity partners also demanded more patience and empathy as they are generally understaffed and unable to work at a speed investment that bankers are used to.”

Inspiring Philanthropy
”Our goal has always been to inspire philanthropy, and that has not changed. When I first joined, CFS was still at its infancy and donors were simply looking for a convenient way to consolidate their donation and disburse grants. The needs of donors have evolved along with the shifting social landscape, and CFS has had to rise up beyond an administrative role to better accommodate these changing needs.”

Over the years, as donors gain a better understanding of the social landscape, they began to ask for more information and transparency on how their donations actually help those in need. “We then have to assist our charity partners to better articulate the impact of their programs to donors. For donors who want to find out even more, we facilitate charity visits and meetings with beneficiaries, with the objective of building deeper collaborations and strengthening partnerships among our donors and the communities we serve,” Ms. Loh elaborates.

In the recent years, donors have sought out CFS for strategic philanthropy advisory to obtain help in devising strategies to achieve their philanthropic goals and objectives. “We do that by understanding what donors want to achieve with their philanthropic dollars and we create a ‘portfolio’ of charity programs which they can support to achieve their goals. We would also follow up with evaluation and reporting back to donors so that they understand the impact of their giving.”

A Distinct Difference
Ms. Loh observes that although many people want to help, some may not have time, experience or expertise to do it themselves. “This sentiment can be exacerbated by the sheer volume of information available online. Donors want efficient ways to structure their philanthropy, so they can plan sustained giving to the causes they care about.

“This is where CFS can help with our philanthropy expertise spanning administration, strategy and grant-making. We save donors the work and resources needed to set up a private foundation. By tapping on our philanthropy services, they avoid high overheads, save on time and legal expenses, and enjoy tax deductions upfront.”

CFS has in-house resources to identify charities and evaluate their programs. “We help avoid duplication in funding areas where there may already be adequate government funding or private support. For donors who establish endowment funds with us, we invest their monies to ensure that there is a steady income stream to benefit their selected charities.”

CFS helps donors understand the issues and let them decide how they want to help. It then applies the donors’ funds to the particular area they have identified, and help to track the outcome. “This enables donors to feel a sense of fulfillment, and when they do, very often, they want to do more to help.”

Ms. Loh maintains that donors appreciate CFS following up on the outcomes of their grants. Donors understand that their support is part of a greater whole, and they like to understand how their money has made a difference. “The desire for accountability has always been there, and 10 years on, we see enhanced reporting capability in the charity sector. At CFS, we would like to think that we have contributed positively to this trend.”

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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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Stories Of Impact

Relaxed Fund – helping SAAC clients through horticulture

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John Doe
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.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit dolor

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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BLLNR: How to donate time and money to a charity effectively

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While the notion of giving is indeed widespread, it isn’t easy to commit to help those in need when you find yourself caught up in today’s ever-changing environment.

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is one such organisation that facilitates this line of work by bridging donors with causes of interest to develop programmes and provide grants to enrich lives. It values the 3 C’s to make giving better: connect donors with respective causes, collaborate with charities and commit to managing donor funds.

One woman has managed to significantly grow the number of donor funds and volume of donations, paving the way for an effective philanthropy — Catherine Loh, the Chief Executive Officer of CFS, believes in the heart of giving. However, her arrival into the philanthropy space was not immediate but serendipitous.

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Stories Of Impact

EDIS Cares Fund – Helping disadvantaged young children reach their full potential

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a man holding a microphone publishing his book

EDIS (Economic Development Innovations Singapore) is an international economic development company that provides strategic advice to other countries by leveraging on its experience in Singapore. Innate to its business is the need for a long-term, strategic view, flexibility and a nimble attitude, which it also applies to its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts.

Its CSR initiative EDIS Cares creates opportunities for disadvantaged children in Singapore by helping them to reach their full potential. From the onset, EDIS Cares adopted a non-traditional CSR model – looking to understand the basic needs of beneficiaries, co-run programmes with community partners and recruit volunteers from outside the company.

For fundraising, it tapped on the book launch of ‘Neither Civil Nor Servant’ – an authorised biography of EDIS chairman Philip Yeo – which raised over $500,000 from book sales and private donations for the EDIS Cares Fund. Managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore, the EDIS Cares Fund is expected to grow and support programme expansion over the next three years.

Some of the programmes that EDIS Cares supports include the Early Learning Programme – a literacy and numeracy intervention programme for 6 to 7 year-olds as well as iShine – a thematic exploratory learning programme that provides children with aspirational experiences.

“CFS worked closely with us to set up our EDIS Cares Fund. They took time to understand our innovative CSR model and helped us realise our goal of creating more opportunities for disadvantaged children. Through CFS, we have been able to focus on growing the impact of our programmes.” said Abel Ang, CEO of Economic Development Innovations Singapore.

So far, EDIS Cares has impacted over 300 children and hopes to double the number of children, volunteers and partners it reaches over the next three years.

Photos: Singapore Press Holdings, EDIS Cares

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Stories Of Impact

The S.S. Jhunjhnuwala Charity Fund: Honoring a Father’s Legacy

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For CFS donor Mr Surya Jhunjhnuwala, the late patriarch Shyam Sundar Jhunjhnuwala who founded the Hind Group, was a devoted father and man of vision, passing on to his children the values of humility, hard work and honesty. These principles were ingrained into them at a young age and have guided his family through both good and challenging times.

The  S.S. Jhunjhnuwala Charity Fund was set up by the Hind Group to honour him. The Fund, managed by The Community Foundation of Singapore, is proof that S.S. Jhunjhnuwala’s legacy lives on, its grants supporting welfare initiatives and underprivileged women.

Mr Jhunjhnuwala was also a forward thinking visionary of his time. He was a passionate believer that girls should receive equal opportunity, and that they should receive a good education. He was a mentor for one of the first all-girl schools in his ancestral home of Rajasthan, and this belief has also been entrusted and passed down to his children.

The S.S. Jhunjhnuwala Charity Fund believes that education is the most vital tool in unlocking the potential of children and young adults, hence its mission to provide students in Singapore with opportunities to achieve their potential and a chance to create for themselves a life they dream of.

The Fund currently provides two grants to the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT). The first is the SS Jhunjhnuwala Naumi Hotel Bursary, given in perpetuity to female students who wish to pursue an education in the field of hospitality, created with the late patriarch’s vision of equal opportunities for women in mind. 

The second grant is the VD Jhunjhnuwala Naumi Hotel Emergency Grant, which supports students facing unforeseen difficult situations and gives them a chance to continue their education. Over the years, they have also supported Gladiolus Place, Ramakrishna Mission-Boys’ Home and the Migrant Workers’ Centre.

‘’My father embodied the principle of honesty, and through his strong character and resolve he taught me the importance of consistent and conscious hard work. Our hope for the S.S. Jhunjhnuwala Charity Fund is to create a legacy of continuous service and impact. Giving back is at the core of our business, and a duty we take seriously. I fondly remember my father who taught me to live a life of integrity,’’ shares Mr Surya Jhunjhnuwala.

Learn more about our Donor advised funds here. If you would like to start your giving journey and provide support for the causes close to your heart, get in touch with us at contactus@cf.org.sg to find out how you can make an impact with your giving.

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