The Straits Times: Philip Yeo biography raises more than $500k for charity
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The Straits Times: Philip Yeo biography raises more than $500k for charity

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“More than half a million dollars have been raised for charity in conjunction with the launch of former senior bureaucrat Philip Yeo’s biography, Neither Civil Nor Servant.

The funds collected by the Economic Development Innovations Singapore (EDIS) – which Mr Yeo chairs – will go towards helping underprivileged children, via the company’s corporate social responsibility arm, EDIS Cares.

The monies will enable EDIS Cares to expand its programmes in Singapore to reach a targeted 300 children over the next three years, EDIS said yesterday.

The EDIS Cares fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Singapore.”
Read more here.

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CFS Celebrates 15 Years of Enabling Philanthropy

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On 14th February 2024, CFS marked its 15th Anniversary with a Chinese New Year “Lohei” (Prosperity Toss) celebration. The event was graced by Mr Alvin Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, and Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and gathered nearly 160 donors, charity partners, and business associates, both longstanding and new.

As a community foundation, we aspire to champion effective philanthropy with purposeful and informed givers, to uplift lives and catalyse positive change. We want to build communities that care and thrive together.

Unveiling the Sayang Sayang Fund Report was a great way to mark our 15th year, as it displayed the power of collective impact and love for our community. Established as an emergency response fund at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to support vulnerable groups, the Sayang Sayang Fund (SSF) impacted the lives of over 401,000 beneficiaries in Singapore. In a span of three years, an impressive $9.7 million was raised, showcasing the remarkable generosity and willingness of the community to offer their support.

As a philanthropic advisor and grantmaker, CFS links donors with well-governed charities that champion the causes closest to their hearts, to offer funding for beneficiaries to thrive. Two SSF grantees, ITE and Care Corner Singapore, shared about their programmes for lower-income students and children with learning difficulties and special needs respectively. Guests were then charmed by a captivating performance by two talented scholars from The TENG Company, which is also a CFS grantee for their Music for Wellness and Comfort initiative. 12-year-old Li Zhixin took command of the stage with a melodic piece on the Ruan, while Ee Anzhi, aged 11, held the audience in awe by masterfully sustaining a long tone on the Dizi using the highly challenging technique of circular breathing.

Q&A segment with Sayang Sayang Fund Grantees from Care Corner, Mr Christian Chao (left) and ITE, Mr Aw York Bin (right)
Li Zhixin, scholar from The TENG Company performing on the Ruan
Ee Anzhi, scholar from The TENG Company, performing on the Dizi

As the luncheon drew to a close, Ms Radha Basu, Senior Director of the Centre of Applied Philanthropy (CAP) at CFS invited donors and partners to participate in The Collective for a Stronger Society. Convened by CFS in partnership with MFS and Community Chest, the Collective will bring together donors, non-profits, public and private organisations to offer a coordinated series of cross-sector programmes and initiatives to uplift, enable and empower lower-income families. Find out more here.

We extend our gratitude to everyone who contributed to making this event a successful and memorable one. Here’s to many more years of impactful giving!

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Stories Of Impact

Supporting ITE Students through COVID

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As many as 80 percent of ITE students come from low-income families and are receiving bursaries from the government. Kintan Teo is one of them. Her family of four survived on just $800 a month before COVID-19 struck. Her mother, the sole breadwinner, was working as a cleaner.

When Kintan’s mother lost her job in April, the family had to use whatever meagre savings they had to get by. While Kintan’s mother sold baked and cooked food to generate some
income, her earnings were still insufficient to cover their utilities and other bills. Kintan, a Business Studies student at ITE, tried working part-time to supplement the family income but gave it up after a few months. She had to work four to five days a week for up to seven hours daily as a team leader at a chicken wing restaurant.

“The job was physically and emotionally draining. It was difficult for me to work and study at the same time. I didn’t have time to rest as I had to report for work immediately after my lessons and during weekends,” explained Kintan. Left with only five hours of sleep a day, Kintan was constantly tired and found it hard to wake up and stay focused in school. She also didn’t have enough time to do revision and her grades were affected.

Studies Come First
Like Kintan, Passenger Services student Siti Raudhah is struggling to cope with work and studies. Her mother, who works as a cleaner, is the sole breadwinner of her family of five. Since young, Siti has been aware of her family’s financial difficulties. After completing her ‘O’ Levels, she took on part-time jobs in banquet services and retail to supplement her family income.

Siti is currently working part-time at a clothing retail store but is clear that her studies always come first. “Working and studying at the same time is tough. As a slow-learner, I took a
break from my part-time job to catch up on my studies before resuming work. This is how I balance my studies and work,” explained Siti.

Help On the Way
More than 1,000 needy students are dependent on ITE for meals when they are in school. During the Circuit Breaker period, the Recess@Home scheme through the Sayang Sayang Fund made it possible for these students to continue receiving meals. More than $650,000 was contributed, enabling students across primary to tertiary levels to have at least one decent meal a day while on home-based learning.

In addition, some students like Siti receive additional aid under the Special Student Assistance Scheme (SSAS)-Covid, which provides emergency relief for students who are badly affected by the Covid-19 situation. With the help of the $100,000 donation from the Mind The Gap – Knowledge Funds, Siti and others like her have some emergency funds to fall back on to help them tide through this difficult period.

“The additional financial aid has helped my family. My mother is able to buy groceries and I am able to set aside some money for school and other necessities,” said Siti.

Photo credit: ITE

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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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Helping Earthquake Victims in Türkiye and Syria: Ways to Donate

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The earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria on 6 February 2023 has become one of the top 10 deadliest earthquakes ever. Over 41,0001 people have been killed (as of 15 February), a death toll the United Nations expects will eventually exceed 50,0002. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred near the border of the two countries. Since then, more than 2,000 aftershocks have pummelled the devastated region.

The widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure has left millions of people without homes, access to clean water, and basic necessities.3 The disaster has also led to countless casualties and injuries. First responders from all over the world are working tirelessly to save lives. However, with each passing day, the focus is turning from search and rescue to helping the survivors in desperate need of aid.

Local authorities and international aid groups have rushed to mobilise humanitarian aid, including food, shelter, medical supplies, and clean water. UNICEF estimates that millions of children in the affected regions are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.4 The massive scale of the disaster, however, has stretched their resources thin. There are other serious challenges: freezing temperatures and snow have hampered logistical operations.5

Donations have generously poured in for non-profit organisations providing disaster relief in Türkiye and Syria. In Singapore, there was an outpouring of support through in-kind donations of warm clothing, blankets, diapers, baby food, and other supplies to the Turkish embassy. The Turkish embassy has since stopped accepting such items and encourages Singaporeans to make monetary donations instead, given the manpower and logistical challenges in processing and sending items to Türkiye.6

The sombre reality is that this crisis will have a “long tail”. Humanitarian aid groups warn that the earthquake will have an aftermath of needs that will require donations for months, or even years, after the initial aid missions end.7 For donors in Singapore, the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is your trusted advisor on how best to deploy your generosity to make a difference to earthquake victims now and beyond. 

For donors who prefer to donate directly to non-profit organisations that are providing aid on the ground, we recommend the following bona fide organisations:

Singapore Red Cross

Established in 1949, the Singapore Red Cross is the global humanitarian organisation’s local arm. It is a credible, transparent, and time-tested charity with a long track record of providing humanitarian aid and responding to emergencies. It is looking to raise $5 million for the Türkiye-Syria earthquake, which will support the needs of those affected by the disaster, including emergency shelter, first aid and food.

Mercy Relief

Headquartered in Singapore, Mercy Relief was established in 2003 to respond to human tragedies and disasters in the Asia Pacific region. Today, it is Singapore’s leading independent disaster relief agency with dedicated leadership, capacity-building expertise, and an affiliate network operating across the entire disaster management cycle. Mercy Relief has launched a fundraiser for the earthquake with a target of $100,000. The money will provide hot meals, ready and instant food, drinking water, hygiene kits, blankets, and shelter tents to the worst affected and vulnerable families.

Philanthropy can play a pivotal role in alleviating the worst of natural disasters. At CFS, we are encouraged by how so many have stepped up to help victims of the Türkiye-Syria earthquake. However, much more needs to be done, given the scale of this tragedy. With our donor-advised funds (DAFs), we enable donors to respond better to unexpected needs. By pooling our resources, knowledge and experience, we convene donors, charities and other organisations in the community to quickly support those in need.   

To learn more about our DAFs, please click here.


    1. BBC. (15 February 2023). Women pulled alive from Turkey quake debris nine days on.
    2. Deutsche Welle. (12 February 2023). Turkey-Syria earthquakes: UN expects death toll above 50,000.
    3. Channel News Asia. (15 February 2023). Nine survivors pulled from Türkiye’s rubble as earthquake death toll passes 40,000.
    4. The New York Times. (14 February 2023). Quake Updates: Toll in Turkey and Syria Surpasses 40,000 Dead.
    5. Deutsche Welle. (11 February 2023). Turkey-Syria earthquakes: Grief ‘slowly giving way to anger’.
    6. Channel News Asia. (9 February 2023). Singaporeans flood donation centre with supplies in outpouring of support for Türkiye-Syria quake victims
    7. The Guardian. (12 February 2023). Turkey-Syria earthquake: death toll rises to 33,000; baby girl rescued alive after 150 hours, Turkish health minister says – as it happened.
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Donor-advised funds can make a meaningful impact in Asia

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Such funds give donors more say in the philanthropic process, and can lead to donors being tipped off about underfunded causes. These funds also make it possible for non-millionaires to do their bit.

WHAT do Jack Dorsey, Larry Page, Elon Musk, Jack Ma and Mark Zuckerberg have in common in terms of their charitable giving?

All of them have used donor-advised funds (DAFs) in short. DAFs are popular in the United States, with over US$140 billion sitting in these accounts. In Asia, DAFs are relatively new with only Singapore, China, South Korea and Japan setting them up.

What exactly is it? In a DAF, the donor transfers money or other assets to another entity called the sponsoring organisation. While the sponsor legally owns the assets, the donor is given a huge say in determining when the fund is disbursed and causes to support, hence the name “donor-advised funds”. Typically, the sponsoring organisation will provide advisory services to the donor on how to effectively utilise the funds.

At this juncture, a reader may ask what is the difference between a DAF and an organisation like the Community Chest in Singapore, which raises funds for multiple charities?

The major distinction is the role of the donor in the DAF, as compared to the donor making an outright contribution to charity. In a DAF, the donor is an active participant, working in collaboration with the sponsoring organisation, in disbursing funds.

Let us say, we have a philanthropist who wants to make a S$1 million contribution to educational causes. While S$1 million is certainly a lot of money, it is insufficient to set up a private foundation due to the administrative costs involved. A donor who uses a DAF may direct the funds to support worthwhile causes in education, while being properly advised.

In many cases, the donor is a wealthy person who may not be familiar with what is happening on the ground. Therefore, the sponsoring organisation adds value by providing advisory services.

In this example, the sponsoring organisation may, after doing due diligence, recommend that the donor disburse funds to underfunded causes like pre-school, technical and special-needs education.

DAFs can also function as an emergency fund for a “rainy day”. For instance, there could be an emergency societal need like children living under Covid-19 lockdown conditions, who are now deprived of sponsored school lunches. Money from DAFs could then be channelled to fund food vouchers for their families during home-based learning.

In fact, this was the cause championed by The Recess@Home programme spearheaded by the Community Foundation of Singapore, a DAF.


A DAF is attractive to donors because of the many benefits it offers.

First, the DAF gives the donor a greater role in the philanthropic process. This sense of satisfaction that the donors get may encourage them to give more to charities in future and set up a private foundation. In fact, in setting up the first DAF in Singapore in 2008, then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Vivian Balakrishnan, described it as a “starter kit for foundations”.

Second, the donor is supported by DAF sponsors, who are intimately aware of the needs of the community. Therefore, the funds can support the causes that are desperately in need.

Third, the DAF, if properly used, may achieve maximum impact by making contributions to underfunded areas. Fourth, the donation to a DAF need not be a cash gift, but may take the form of company shares or other non-cash assets. Finally, some countries provide requisite tax breaks to donations to DAFs.

The biggest advantage of the DAF is democratisation of philanthropy from the ultra-high net worth families to individuals who have a modest sum to donate. A heart-warming example is the story of the late Kim Gun-Ja, who set up a fund with the Beautiful Foundation, a South Korean DAF. Ms Kim, a sex slave under Japanese rule, donated all her assets save for funeral costs to set up the Grandmother Kim Gun-Ja Fund to support college tuition for orphans. In Singapore, a DAF may be set up with a minimum sum of S$200,000.

Recently, DAFs have come under trenchant criticism in the United States; some quarters have called it a form of “zombie” philanthropy. The main critique is that donors enjoy tax breaks while disbursing too little to charities. Some have called for a law that mandates the DAF to pay out a certain percentage annually. While this criticism of DAFs is legitimate in the United States, it may not apply to DAFs in Asia, where tax breaks are not the primary motivations behind philanthropic giving.


There is anecdotal evidence, at least in Singapore, that the level of disbursements to charities is quite high. For example, the two DAFs in Singapore, the Community Foundation of Singapore and SymAsia Foundation Limited, show a high payout rate to charities. The Community Foundation of Singapore has collected S$192 million and disbursed S$114 million in grants. SymAsia Foundation Limited stated in its 2020 annual report that it collected S$170 million and disbursed S$120 million. In fact, donors are conscious that they ought to disburse more to charities.


There is currently a campaign in the United States called #HalfMyDAF, where donors are committing to granting half of the money sitting in their DAFs to charities. During this pandemic, there are reports in the United States that payouts from DAFs to charities have indeed been higher, even as critics push for the payouts to be even more accelerated. In contrast to the cautious and structured giving inherent in DAFs, there is McKenzie Scott, ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, who upended the philanthropic world by donating US$6 billion in 2020.

With proper governance, DAFs yield a net-positive over the Asian philanthropic space, compared to an informal channel of giving that relies on one’s family and business contacts. A DAF provides a structured and cost-efficient vehicle that democratises philanthropy and identifies societal needs that are underfunded. It is hoped that there would be more properly governed Asian DAFs set up, with high payout rates to charities to tackle difficult domestic and pressing transnational problems of our time, like climate change.

To find out about donor-advised funds, read more about it here.

This article is written by Professor Tang Hang Wu, CFS Board Committee Member and a professor of Law at the Yong Pung How School of Law, Singapore Management University.

This translated article was originally published by The Business Times.  

Credit: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.  

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