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The Straits Times: The new philanthropists in town
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The Straits Times: The new philanthropists in town

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by Theresa Tan, 26 June 2016

There is also a growing number of donors who have started charitable funds parked under groups like the Community Foundation of Singapore and the SymAsia Foundation. Both charities manage their donors’ funds and disburse them to each donor’s chosen causes, thus saving the donors the cost and effort of starting their own foundation. A sum of at least $200,000 is required to set up a charitable fund with the Community Foundation, and 82 funds have been formed since it was set up in 2008.

…..Also giving to a specific cause are Mr and Mrs William Bird. They pledged $1 million, through the Community Foundation of Singapore, for outings for frail seniors to attractions such as Gardens by the Bay and the zoo. Mr Bird, a Briton who is now a Singapore citizen, is 70 years old. He made his money from the logistics business. His and his wife Mary have three grown-up children.

While visiting some elderly people whom they helped, the couple realised that such seniors felt lonely and isolated, as they were unable to go out. Mr Bird says: “We were affected by the fact that the seniors had such a poor quality of life, and thought more could be done for them to enjoy the golden times of their lives.”

Each year since the Outing for the Elderly Fund was set up in 2010, about 1,600 elderly people a year have benefited. They especially love to visit supermarkets, where they are given $20 to buy whatever they want.

Mr George Phua, a 79-year-old resident of the Ling Kwang Home for Senior Citizens, was taken to a Giant supermarket last month. He was delighted to buy his favourite coffee and chocolates. He tells The Sunday Times: “It’s wonderful.”

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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

CFS Annual Report 2017

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CFS annual report 2017 cover

The CFS Annual Report 2017 has just been published. This year’s Annual Report sums up CFS’s effective work with donors and charity partners for the year as we continue to impact diverse communities. Download your copy here.

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Opinion

How Family Offices Could Shape Philanthropy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

References:

  1. June Lee (January 2019) Exploring Family Philanthropy in Singapore – Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, National University of Singapore https://wings.issuelab.org/resources/34346/34346.pdf 
  2. EDB Singapore (February 2022) How Singapore is Becoming Asia’s Family Office Hub https://www.edb.gov.sg/en/business-insights/insights/how-singapore-is-becoming-asia-s-family-office-hub.html 
  3. Richard Newell (March 2022) New study sees Singapore as top family office hub – Asian Investor https://www.asianinvestor.net/article/new-study-sees-singapore-as-top-family-office-hub/476226 
  4. Milken Institute (June 2021) Philanthropy in a Family Office https://milkeninstitute.org/article/philanthropy-family-office
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Stories Of Impact

S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund – Providing students with the needed leg-up

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Growing up in a poor family, the late former President of Singapore Mr S R Nathan knew what it was like to struggle with school and making ends meet.

In his teens, he dropped out of school, ran away from home and tried to eke out a living amidst troubled times. While working, he continued his education and was eventually awarded a bursary that enabled him to graduate with a Diploma in Social Studies from then University of Malaya.

“Those of you who have read my memoir will recall – my youth was a very troubled one. Left to despair over my fate, I realised that life was not always fair. Coming face to face with all sorts of hardships, it was the unexpected help from some unknown person that my life turned for the better,” said Mr Nathan.

In 2011 when Mr Nathan published his memoir ‘An Unexpected Journey: Path to the Presidency,’ he established the S R Nathan Education Upliftment Fund (SRNEUF) to help students by providing them with the financial assistance to keep them in school and enable them to pursue their tertiary education. Mr Nathan firmly believed that education was an important social leveler which provides students from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to seek a better life for themselves and their families.

Managed by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), the fund supports programmes like the Institute of Technical Education (ITE)’s Monthly Financial Assistance Scheme (MFAS) which provides needy students with allowances for transport and meals to lessen their financial burden and allow them to focus on their studies.

Mike Goh, a former beneficiary of the MFAS at ITE and currently a student at Republic Polytechnic, began working in his early teens to support himself after both his parents fell severely ill. Recounting the challenges of juggling his academic studies with work, Mike expressed, “If I did not have time to work, the allowance from the fund had helped me manage day by day, and I’m really thankful for that.

Raised in a single-parent home, Yasmin Raihanah Bte Shahrin, a student at ITE College Central, expressed gratitude for the timely support from the fund, “Initially when I started my studies at ITE, I was worried. My mother’s income was not high, and I had to rely on my work income to support my daily expenses. With the award, I felt relieved because I could pay for my school necessities and food.”

The fund also awards bursaries and scholarships to students from local polytechnics and universities. Ding Jian Han, an awardee of the 2018/19 S R Nathan Music Scholarship, was an aspiring composer at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore. Jian Han, who plays the violin, piano and clarinet, credits the support from the fund for enabling him to pursue his passion in music.  “My father passed away when I was young, but I was fortunate to be awarded scholarships so that I was able to help my mum and pay for my school fees,” said Jian Han.

Since 2012, the fund has disbursed over $3 million to support more than 1,500 ITE, polytechnic and university students by providing bursaries, scholarships as well as monthly financial assistance. In 2019, the fund will be establishing the S R Nathan Student Grant at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, as well as the S R Nathan Book Prize and the S R Nathan Special Assistance Scheme at ITE.

Mr Bobby Chin, Chairman of the SRNEUF Grant Advisory Committee said, “Thanks to the vision and generosity of our late former president S R Nathan and the on-going support of donors, we have extended our reach significantly over the last seven years. With CFS’s continued trusted facilitation, the SRNEUF will continue to play a crucial role in helping our youths overcome difficult circumstances in their schooling years, go on to pursue their dreams and forge a brighter future for themselves and their families.”

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Events

Singapore Tatler: CRIB X CFS Legacy Building And Impact Series

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Investors and like-minded philanthropists invited by CRIB and the Community Foundation of Singapore gathered at Grand Park Orchard for a panel discussion on November 1, where father-daughter duos Richard and Rebecca Eu, and Keith and Sharon Chua shared their insights and personal anecdotes towards charity and legacy building. The event culminated in a cocktail session as guests indulged in canapés and drinks at the bar, over conversations with old friends and new. Read more.

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