Giving mental health a boost – why it matters
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Giving mental health a boost – why it matters

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When the pandemic hit, seemingly overnight, daily routines and livelihoods were forever changed. Children could no longer play outdoors; youths saw lost time with friends, school, graduations and more; while adults straddle an ever-changing array of challenges – from coping with loss of work to additional care-giving duties. 

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Meet Singapore’s newer philanthropic foundations: They give millions, seeking to spark social change

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Lew Chee Beng (left) founded the Lew Foundation in 2015, while Chua Thian Poh and his siblings set up the Chua Foundation in 2015.

Self-made businessman Lew Chee Beng, 73, is giving away a substantial part of his fortune through a foundation. Since he founded the Lew Foundation in 2015, it has donated more than $12 million to charitable causes. Mr Yeo Puay Hin, the foundation’s executive director and Mr Lew’s son-in-law, said of his father-in-law: “He came from humble beginnings, so it’s about gratitude – to give back to society and helping those who are disadvantaged.”

The Lew Foundation was the 16th-largest philanthropic foundation here, giving out $2.8 million in donations in 2019, according to a recent report on the largest foundations here. Mr Lew, who has four children, built his wealth from a range of businesses, such as Soon Huat Goldsmith and pawnshop chain Shing Heng Group. The foundation’s main focus is to help the vulnerable elderly and young people, and it does so through supporting healthcare and social services serving these two groups. For example, it is supporting about five nursing homes, fulfilling Mr Lew’s late mother’s wish of setting up a nursing home.

The Lew Foundation is one of the newer foundations listed in a recent report by Soristic Impact Collective, a consultancy, that shed light on the largest philanthropic foundations here in terms of expenditure. The research found that foundations set up by some of Singapore’s richest men are among the top 10 biggest givers out of the 91 foundations here. The Lee Foundation, founded by the late rubber tycoon Lee Kong Chian in 1952, topped the list, disbursing $52 million in donations in its latest financial year. 

In total, the 91 foundations spent over $264 million in their latest financial year to support a variety of causes, from education and healthcare to people with disabilities and environmental causes. And beyond the big bucks the foundations are giving away, what is noteworthy is that about 40 per cent of the 91 foundations were registered as a charity since 2011, a Straits Times check found.

Soristic’s principal consultant Pauline Tan said the growing number of the very wealthy here and a growing interest in philanthropy are driving the rise in the number of foundations set up in the past decade. There is also a growing ecosystem to support philanthropy, she said.

This includes the Asia Philanthropy Circle, a platform for Asian philanthropists to collaborate and address social problems, and The Majurity Trust, which provides philanthropic advice and grants.

Among those registered as charities in the past decade are corporate foundations, such as Keppel Group’s Keppel Care Foundation and Changi Airport Group’s Changi Foundation. The Keppel Care Foundation was ranked 13th on the Soristic report, while Changi Foundation took the 20th spot.

Then, there are individuals who made good in life who set up foundations in the past decade.

They include the Chua Foundation (29th) and the TL Whang Foundation (57th). Property magnate Chua Thian Poh, founder of Ho Bee Group, and his siblings set up the Chua Foundation in 2015. The TL Whang Foundation, registered as a charity in 2019, was started with donations by Mr Whang Tar Liang and his family. He is the younger of two brothers who built up Lam Soon Group, known for its consumer goods such as the Knife brand cooking oil.

How philanthropy is practised here has changed, with more foundations and donors looking beyond giving out cheques to seeking to create a real impact or bring about social change. Many of them are a lot more invested in the projects they fund, from being involved in the design of the programme to measuring its impact, said those interviewed.

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) chief executive Catherine Loh said: “Donors are becoming more focused on strategic philanthropy, as opposed to outright charity. They see their donations as social investments that will bring about social change.”

“As such, they are more willing to provide longer-term support and willing to give a longer time horizon to allow change to occur.”

CFS enables donors who pledge at least $200,000 to set up a donor-advised fund. It manages the money, advises donors on the needs in the community and disburses the funds according to their wishes.

At the Quantedge Foundation, set up in 2015, its three full-time staff engage its community partners and beneficiaries to understand their needs, identify programmes to support, and assess the outcomes achieved.

Mr Suhaimi Zainul-Abidin, the foundation’s director, said: “We believe that philanthropy is uniquely positioned to take on calculated risks with innovative, untested approaches to solving social issues, so as to encourage experimentation by the social sector, demonstrate the viability of new ideas and drive longer-lasting change.”

Senior staff of Quantedge Capital, an investment management firm, donate annually to the Quantedge Foundation – “giving more in years when business is good and bonuses are high, and less in leaner times”, he added.

The foundation’s core focus is improving social mobility.

He said: “If we do not, collectively as a society, recognise that this is an issue that we should pay particular attention to, we may well sleepwalk into a stratified, divided society in the future.”

For example, Quantedge Foundation initiated talks with the Singapore Management University and Singapore University of Technology and Design to co-design and seed-fund an initiative, where financially needy Singaporean students will get a full financial aid package that makes their entire university education tuition free.

It also worked with a charity, Playeum, to pilot a series of science, technology, engineering, arts and maths workshops as an after-school developmental programme for children from lower-income families.

Since it was registered as a charity, the Quantedge Foundation has disbursed $7.4 million in grants and committed to giving another $8 million or so more.

The Soristic report ranked the Quantedge Foundation 22nd on its list, disbursing $2.3 million in grants in 2019.

Mr Suhaimi said: “In today’s knowledge-based, technologically driven capitalist society, the winners win by such a large margin that it is not quite right to keep all the gains without sharing some with the wider community.

“One of our hopes is that wealthy individuals, families and companies will find resonance in what the Quantedge Foundation is doing, and in time, give back to the society in their own way.”

If you have an interest in strategic philanthropy or would like to start a donor-advised fund with us, 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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Our Annual Report 2023 is now available for download

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CFS Annual Report 2023

We are excited to share the release of the Community Foundation of Singapore’s (CFS) Annual Report for 2023.

With the overarching theme of ‘Creating a Better Tomorrow Together’, the report highlights the work done to inspire and facilitate strategic giving to benefit our local community. We showcase the enhancements we have made to our service offerings, governance standards, and operational efficiencies over the past year. It stands as a testament to CFS’s unwavering commitment to proactively identify and address emerging community needs, and our experience and expertise that enables us to drive tangible impact.

Here are some key highlights from the Annual Report 2023:

A Year of Steady Progress:

Against a backdrop of slower economic growth in 2022, donations remained high and our rolling three-year average continued on an upward trend. Our community of dedicated philanthropists continued to grow. Through strategic partnerships with corporations such as Accenture, Endowus, and other institutions, we harnessed a wealth of expertise to amplify our impact. 

The past year marked a significant milestone, with 47 new donors establishing 27 Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs). Their generous contributions allowed us to allocate $16.8 million in grants to 212 organisations spanning diverse causes, demonstrating the incredible power of collective giving.

In collaboration with the Agency of Integrated Care (AIC), we launched the FUN! Fund, a community impact fund focused on improving the well-being and happiness of our seniors through innovative programmes designed to infuse fun into their lives.

Making a Greater Impact:

In 2022, CFS took significant strides towards ensuring outcome-driven grantmaking. Our grant framework now places a strong emphasis on measurable change, ensuring greater impact for both our donors and charity partners.

Throughout the year, CFS’ Centre for Applied Philanthropy (CAP) played a pivotal role in fostering collaboration across public, private, and community sectors to address complex social challenges. This collaborative approach will gain even more momentum in 2023.

With sustainability advocacy being one of our key focal areas, we strengthened our ESG framework. This involved aligning our programmes with the United Nations’ Social Development Goals, a move that underscores our commitment to making a lasting positive impact.

The potential of philanthropy lies in its capacity to bring about enduring, positive change. As we look back on the year and observe the significant impact made possible by the support of our donors, we find inspiration to continue our efforts. Our grants have helped to improve the lives of many, including refugees seeking to rebuild their lives, youths in need of mental resilience, disadvantaged students receiving evidence-based after-school tutoring, dementia patients receiving specialised care, marginalised job seekers receiving coaching and training, and nurturing the next generation of climate champions. 

Connect with Us: 

CFS is deeply committed to advancing strategic philanthropy, and positioning Singapore as Asia’s philanthropy hub. To achieve this, we actively serve as an Enabler, Steward, Convener, and Advocate.

We are eager to connect and collaborate with donors, charities, partners, and sector leaders to build a more compassionate, caring, and inclusive Singapore. To learn more about CFS or join us on our mission, we welcome you to get in touch.

For an in-depth exploration of the year’s milestones and the impact of our contributions to the community, click here to download your copy.

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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



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Lianhe Zaobao: More companies and individuals seeking professionals to manage their charitable funds

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新加坡社区基金会成立10年来,设立或管理的慈善基金从2008年的两 个增至今年2月的110个,而基金会筹获的善款也已达1亿元,发放的 款项达6000万元,惠及的慈善团体多达400个。

Song Huichun

随着国人对有效行善的意识提高,更多企业和个人善款捐赠者过 去10年来选择与专人合作,协助他们管理和发放善款给希望帮助的机 构或项目。

数据显示,捐赠者透过新加坡社区基金会(Community Foundation of Singapore)设立或管理的慈善基金从2008年的两个 增至2013年3月的47个,到了今年2月已增至110个,10年来增幅超过50 倍。

协助企业或个人捐赠者以可持续、妥善和具透明度的方式管理与 设立行善基金的新加坡社区基金会迈入第10年,多年来,基金会把捐 赠者与他们关注的相关慈善团体妥善配对,制定有效行善策略,让更 多有需要者受惠。

基金会总裁罗佩仪(50岁)接受《联合早报》访问并透露上述数 据时说,基金会成立之初希望做的是通过了解捐赠者关注的课题及行 善动力,协助发展出一套适合捐赠者的有效行善策略。

新加坡社区基金会在本地超过2000个慈善机构中找出适合捐赠 者资助的项目……找出不同群体的需求及捐赠者可提供协助的机会, 让捐赠者可更有效地施予援助,发挥更大影响力。”

罗佩仪说,在为捐赠者与慈善项目或机构进行配对时,捐赠者的 理念、兴趣、愿意承担风险的限度、拨款数额等都会影响基金会所做 的推荐。而基金会发挥的影响力,也随着更多国人了解以有效方式行 善何其重要后,逐年增加。

深入了解慈善机构运作 及善款影响力

基金会提供给本报的数据显示,截至2013年3月,基金会共筹到 5000万元善款,发放的款项约1200万元,惠及130个慈善伙伴。

而到了今年2月,基金会筹获的善款已达1亿元,发放的款项达 6000万元,惠及的慈善团体多达400个。

为了确保善款获得妥善运用,基金会也会深入了解慈善机构的运 作、领导班子、受惠人如何获益、财务状况、个别项目如何进行、有 多少资源、有没有执行能力等。基金会也会为捐赠者跟进汇报善款发 挥的影响力,以及使用后的结果等。

罗佩仪说:“企业一般上会觉得这样的模式很管用,因为他们必 须向股东汇报善款用途。”

她也说,基金会未来会继续透过讲座和活动接触更多群体,让各 方更了解基金会提供的服务。

运输业者发挥“专长” 让派发食物更有效


交通运输业者金钟集团(Goldbell Group)自2015年起成立金钟基金会,探讨如何在经营生意的同时尽社会企业责任,选择帮助真正需要帮助的人。



金钟基金会和新加坡社区基金会展开合作初期,计划每年拨出30万元行善,而慈善团体“爱心食品”(Food From The Heart)是金钟基金会资助的团体之一。






Link to stories: Here and here.


More companies and individuals seeking professionals to manage their charitable funds

In the 10 years since the Community Foundation of Singapore was established, the number of charitable funds set up or managed has increased from two in 2008 to 110 in February this year. The donations raised by the foundation have also reached $100 million, with $60 million distributed, benefiting up to 400 charities.
Song Huichun

As awareness of effective charitable giving increases, more corporate and individual donors have spent the past 10 years choosing to collaborate with dedicated professionals to help them manage and distribute charitable funds to the institutions or projects they wish to help.

According to statistics, charitable funds created or managed by donors through the Community Foundation of Singapore increased from two in 2008 to 47 in March 2013 and further increased to 110 in February this year. In 10 years, it has gone up more than 50 folds.

The Community Foundation of Singapore, which assists corporate or individual donors to manage and establish charitable funds in a sustainable, appropriate and transparent manner, is reaching its 10th year. Over the years, the Foundation has properly matched donors with the charities they care about, formulating effective strategies for good practices to benefit more people in need.

When CFS CEO Catherine Loh, 50, accepted the Zaobao interview, she disclosed the data above and added that the Foundation’s initial hope was to help develop a set of donor-friendly products by understanding donors’ concerns and the motivation to do good.

The Community Foundation of Singapore has identified programmes that are suitable for support from more than 2,000 charitable organisations in the country by identifying the needs of different groups to provide opportunities for assistance so that donors can more effectively provide assistance and make greater impact.

Ms Loh said that when pairing donors with charitable projects or institutions, the donor’s ideas, interests, willingness to take risks, the amount of funding, etc. all influence the Foundation’s recommendations. The influence of the Foundation is also gradually increasing as more people understand how important it is to be effective.

Learning more about charity operations and the impact of charitable funds

According to the data provided by the Foundation, as of March 2013, it had raised a total of $50 million in donations, with $12 million grants given out, benefiting 130 charitable partners.

In February this year, the donations raised by the Foundation reached $100 million, with grants amounting to $60 million, benefiting up to 400 charities.

In order to ensure the proper use of donations, the Foundation has an in-depth understanding of charity operations, leadership, impact on beneficiaries, financial status, how individual projects are run, how much resources they have, and whether they have executive capabilities. The Foundation also follow up with donors to report on the impact of charitable donations, as well as the outcomes.

Ms Loh said: “Companies generally feel that this model is very useful, because they must report to shareholders on the use of funds.”

She also said that in the future, the Foundation will continue to reach out to more groups through lectures and events so that all parties can better understand the services provided by the Foundation.

Transport operators use their expertise to make food delivery more effective

Transportation companies have not forgotten their professional role –  using their expertise and money to help non-profit organisations to effectively distribute food to those in need.

Transportation company Goldbell Group established the Goldbell Foundation in 2015 to explore how to conduct social responsibility while running their business and helping those in need.

Alex Chua, 38, Executive Director of Goldbell Financial Services Pte Ltd, actively led the Goldbell Group in fulfilling its corporate social responsibilities. During the interview, he said that prior to collaborating with the Community Foundation of Singapore, the Goldbell Group generally gave back to society in sporadic ways. If there’s an opportunity, they help, there was no structure for doing good.

In the year after the Goldbell Foundation was established, a member of the Community Foundation of Singapore who knew his father William Chua reached out to them. Since then, through guidance provided by the Community Foundation of Singapore, they have a philanthropic plan and goals, helping causes of their choice.

In the early stages of the collaboration between Goldbell Foundation and the Community Foundation of Singapore, it plans to set aside $300,000 a year to support charities, and charity Food from the Heart is one of the groups funded by the Goldbell Foundation.

Mr Chua said: “After several interactions with the organisation, I discovered that my concept of personal goodwill is in line with their management concept. In particular, they approach partners to donate food to the people they want to help, rather than spend money to buy food.”

Prior to promoting more effective collaboration through the Community Foundation of Singapore, the Goldbell Group has already rented two trucks with freezer equipment to Food from the Heart to facilitate the delivery of perishable foods.

Now Goldbell Group has promised to fund Food from the Heart for three years to support the operation of the truck fleet as well as the operating expenses required to transport food to beneficiaries.

As a result, Food from the Heart is able to better budget and plan its operations to ensure that those in need can continue to receive food assistance during the period the Goldbell Group is funding.

In addition to supporting Food from the Heart, Goldbell Group has also funded a number of individual projects, including environment projects, and providing help to young people.

Photo: Lianhe Zaobao

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Stories Of Impact

Learning Initiatives for Employment (LIFT): Transforming Lives for the better

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At just 18 years old, Jeevan never imagined that he would find himself resigned to his fate in life.

“Three years ago, I dropped out of school, did some things, and ended up on probation. At that point in time, I thought that this would be the end for me – this is how it’s going to be for the rest of my life,” recalls the young man.

Despite repeated rebuffs from many employers, things took a turn for the better after Jeevan was accepted into Bettr Barista’s Holistic Training programme.

Bettr Barista’s Holistic Training Programme is committed to equipping vulnerable individuals from marginalised groups with skills to be employed and stay employed. Through the programme, they are trained not only in practical skills as a barista, but also in interpersonal skills to integrate back into society.

“I went to 20 interviews in two months, but they all rejected me because of my probation. It was tough until I came to Bettr. I didn’t expect to get accepted and I was mentally drained after all those rejections. When I was accepted, I was quite happy and really looking forward to it as something that could change my life.”

As a result of going through two months of BB’s Holistic Training programme, Jeevan is currently employed at Five &2 Bistro.

Changing lives for the better, even for those who are resigned to their fate – this is the mission of Bettr Barista, whose programmes are aimed at turning the lives around for marginalised groups and equipping them with holistic skills to get and stay employed. These groups include youth-at-risk like Jeevan, persons with disabilities, persons recovering from mental illnesses and disadvantaged women.

Improving the lives of the marginalised since 2011

Bettr Barista and Project Dignity are two of the social enterprises partnered with the Learning Initiatives for Employment (LIFT) Community Impact Fund (CIF), spearheaded by the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS).

Since 2011, 135 participants have enrolled into Bettr Baristas Holistic Training (HT) programme, which saw an increase from an average of 12.6 to 40 trainees every year after it began receiving funding from LIFT.

The HT programme is an intense two to four months full-time work-and-study programme, which provides training ranging from emotional self-awareness counselling and workshops in Professional Coffee Education, to soft skill development and employment readiness.

By December 2020, a 65% graduation rate is expected from the cohort of 40 participants from April 2019 to October 2020, in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The remainder of the cohort which did not graduate faced extenuating circumstances, with an unsupportive home environment cited as one of the key challenges faced by the participants.

18 of the graduates have already found employment with BB’s referral partners, in sectors such as Social Services, Family Services and Probation & Community Rehabilitation.

Giving dignity to the intellectually disabled through culinary arts

Project Dignity’s Train-and-Place programme helps equip marginalised individuals with practical skills to gain and sustain employment through a 22 day vocational Food and Beverage (F&B) On-Job-Training programme.

Those who participate are disadvantaged individuals with intellectual disabilities and mental health issues. They learn about aspects of working in the F&B industry, such as basic food hygiene and quality control procedures to prepare ingredients and serve customers.

As of October 2020, the programme outcome reports a high completion rate of 94% from the 50 participating trainees, with 76% gaining employment after completing the programme. Additionally, 22% of employed participants remain employed for a sustained period of at least three months, with six trainees remaining employed for 12 months or more.

The 38 trainees who were employed received a salary which ranged from $500 to $1,600. Trainees who completed the programme but were not able to receive employment cited extenuating circumstances from challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and nursing home restrictions

If you would like to support someone in their journey towards sustained employment opportunities, please visit our donation drive on Giving.sg.

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