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Governance is a continuous journey for charities
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Opinion

Governance is a continuous journey for charities

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John Doe
A man and woman proudly display an award at a charity transparency and governance event, symbolizing their recognition for outstanding achievements.

By Trillion So

EARLIER this month I attended the Charity Transparency and Governance Award dinner organised by the Charity Council. It was a proud moment for the charities that received the Charities Transparency Awards (CTA) 2019, which ranged from small, medium to large, all 67 of them.

I sit on the board of Community Foundation Singapore (CFS) and chair its Audit and Risk Committee (ARC). CFS received the CTA for the Large Category and Special Commendation Award (SCA) 2019 for Governance and Management.

As the ARC chair of CFS, I felt a sense of achievement; at the same time recognising that this could only be done with the focus and team work between management, staff, board and board committee members. As a winner in the Large Category, CFS was up against many worthy, well-established organisations with a bigger staff strength. This shows that good governance, transparency and management, can be achieved by everyone, as long as the right ingredients are present.

There is no one magic ingredient.  Some key considerations are:

Consider the size, age, purpose, funding model and future growth plans of the organisation first;

Which aspects of good governance are critical now, and which will become important in three years’ time?

Identify skills, resources and people needed to effectively implement new or changed governance and management processes/systems; and

Plan and coordinate any changes within appropriate timeframes – a practical timetable for phasing in new practices is better than hasty reaction

Corporate governance is a journey towards building trust and confidence with key stakeholders, alongside having a mindset of acting with integrity. The beauty of a journey is that you never stand still. You will strive for continuous improvement and enhancement. Improved governance will result in improved public image and transparency, which then motivates the community to give more time and money, and ultimately increase the benefits of the beneficiaries.

Reflecting on CFS’s journey, the board members are of diverse backgrounds and set the right tone from the top. Management takes all recommendations from internal auditors and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) very seriously.

I recall one of the reviews by MCCY a while back revealed that CFS did not have an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) framework. Management immediately embarked on a project assisted by an external consultant to adopt ERM.

With the ERM, it is very clear which are the top risks, what can be done to mitigate the risks and whether any new risks have emerged so that actions can be taken to reduce the risks. It was not a one-off effort, but a continuous and purposeful deployment of ERM, up to today, which yielded results. The Audit Committee then transformed into the ARC from that point onwards, to ensure there is focus on both audit and risks. This is just one example of the continuous enhancement culture that is important for good corporate governance.

What’s next for the charities after receiving the CTA 2019? How do they continue on this corporate governance journey? What should they do differently?

One area that will disrupt business as usual for charities is: new technologies and the digital economy. Charities are starting to use Blockchain technology to ensure donors’ monies are spent on the right programmes and right recipients, including visibility and impact monitoring. Board members of charities need to think about their digital strategy and the risks involved in going digital.

CYBER RISK

Cyber risk is very real and can destroy the reputation of a charity and negate the good work it is doing, bringing it to a standstill if not properly managed. As an audit partner, I have noticed that cyber risk is fast becoming the top risk in most organisations. The Code of Governance issued by the Charity Council requires charities to build up their image to be consistent with its objectives and so charities will have to think of performing vulnerability assessments and penetration tests where applicable.

If charities tap on this area, they will increase productivity and enhance governance. Charities can harness the power of data analytics to perform continuous monitoring, gain insights and highlight areas to investigate. For example, in the area of procurement and payments, insights such as duplicate payments, split payments, early or late payments, and similar bank accounts between vendor and staff, will be red flags worth following up. The beauty of data analytics is that it combs through 100 per cent of the data and can be done continuously. Once set up, it can improve efficiency and effectiveness of internal controls, and is a great tool of oversight.

However, most charities would not have the expertise to start a data analytics programme and it may be costly too. I echo what Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said in her speech at the Charity Transparency and Governance Awards. She mentioned that charities and the community should collaborate to serve Singaporeans better, and to engage new partners and harness community resources.

There is a call, therefore, for people with technology, digital, data analytics and cybersecurity skillsets to step up and volunteer in the charities sector to help make a difference. Perhaps the CSR programmes of corporates should include placing their people with such expertise to sit in charity boards or committees, as well as collaborate in the partnership with charities and government.

I also hope that the recipients of the CTA Awards pay it forward by mentoring other charities in the corporate governance space, and for larger charities to play a bigger role in the charities sector, especially in the technology and digital space to enhance the corporate governance more efficiently and effectively.

The writer is partner at PwC Singapore and board member of Community Foundation of Singapore, where she also chairs its Audit and Risk Committee 

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited

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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

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

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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Events

Inspiring thoughts from our anniversary speeches

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John Doe
A lady giving a speech at a podium

At CFS’s 10th anniversary event, it was the perfect moment to reflect on the sea of change in the philanthropy landscape over the past decade. But what lies ahead? Our three distinguished speakers – Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Catherine Loh, CEO of CFS, and Laurence Lien, Chairman of CFS – all struck home the point on philanthropy’s potential for growth in Singapore – through driving impact via new giving channels, collaboration and innovative approaches.

Here are three inspiring thoughts from the evening’s speeches:

Working together to build a caring Singapore.
The work at CFS contributes to SG Cares, because an impactful philanthropy landscape is a hallmark of a caring society, where those with resources give back effectively to help those in need. Collaboration is the way to go, and donors today are taking more initiative, and seeking more meaningful engagement opportunities. CFS is well positioned to seize these opportunities and provide the platforms.”
Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth
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Philanthropy will need to continue to evolve.
“While Singapore has progressed rapidly, the social challenges we face, from an ageing population to social inequality, have become more complex and interconnected. While the government tackles social issues on a large scale, there are always gaps that are in need of more support. It’s crucial for philanthropy to evolve to tackle these diverse issues within our community innovatively.”
Catherine Loh, CEO, CFS
Read more

There’s room to dream bigger and beyond.
“I hope that in 2028, we will see mini community foundations in our neighbourhoods, in places like Toa Payoh, Queenstown and Punggol. (I hope) that we have democratised giving. Giving is not only for the rich; everyone should and can give. I hope to see young adults start donor advised funds with us, at smaller amounts of commitment, and our collective funds grow with widespread contributions. I hope to see CFS raise $1 billion in donor funds, maybe not in 10 years’ time, but at some point in the future.”
Laurence Lien, Chairman, CFS
Read more

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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Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.

Stories Of Impact

Shining a light on early childhood literacy

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John Doe
a group of children sitting around a table with books

Our donors have long been a pillar of support for the charity SHINE Children and Youth Services, especially their Reading Odyssey. This programme builds reading skills and confidence in disadvantaged children. CFS is commemorating 15 years of giving and this story is one of a three-part series that highlights the strong relationships CFS has fostered with charities over the years.

While most children in Singapore are able to read when they start primary school, some have very limited literacy skills. This could be due to challenging personal circumstances or undiagnosed learning difficulties in their earlier years. The problem is that this limitation immediately sets them back from their peers academically.  

Reading Odyssey to the rescue

SHINE Children and Youth Services bridges this gap through a volunteer-supported reading programme called Reading Odyssey. The programme struck a chord with us at the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) and with several of our donors keen to support educational causes. It goes beyond nurturing skills like word recognition. It also builds confidence and hope for these children, who tend to suffer from low self-esteem. 

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

“Through CFS’s strategic efforts in garnering support from funders, the programme was able to partner with more community groups and agencies to expand its reach from four to seven communities in 2018,” notes Geraldine Low, Director of SHINE’s Educational Psychology Service. 

By 2022, this empowering initiative had grown to cover 13 communities, benefitting over 800 primary school students. It amassed a formidable pool of over 800 volunteers, who patiently guide the children with their reading, widen their exposure to genres and topics, and spur them to become lifelong learners. Reading Odyssey also draws on learning support experts to provide specialised guidance to children who may have conditions like dyslexia.

A partnership that works

It can be a challenge to seek support for children in the community with learning or reading difficulties that are ‘hidden’ and whose needs are easily misunderstood. We appreciate CFS who has been open and committed to journey alongside the team to seek clarity on needs and programme intervention, provide feedback, and actively position the programme to relevant funders.

CFS’s partnership with SHINE dates back to 2010, during our formative years as the nation’s first community foundation. The charity, founded in 1976, provides an array of services including educational psychology, school-based social work, therapy and mental health. To date, a total of 105 contributions amounting to over $5.5 million have been made by generous CFS donors. 

“The donations from CFS have provided a stable and reliable source of funding. This has allowed SHINE to continue operating and delivering vital services to children and youth without interruption,” says Geraldine, adding that the money has also helped SHINE develop new initiatives and explore innovative approaches to their programmes.

A common vision

The powerful work done by SHINE falls under one of our five focal areas for grant making: Accessing Quality Education. We believe holistic, quality education can help break the poverty cycle for low-income families and improve social mobility. We partner with a wide range of charities and educational institutions to help every child receive a good, well-rounded education. 

For donors who want to make a difference in early childhood education, we introduce them to programmes like Reading Odyssey, which advances child literacy as well as social inclusivity in Singapore.

“By pooling knowledge and experiences, initiatives that are evidence-based, culturally sensitive and tailored to the unique needs of the beneficiaries can be designed and implemented,” says Geraldine.

That is why SHINE hopes to continue working closely with CFS and to explore long-term funding strategies with CFS, so it can make even more of a lasting impact.

We are proud of our long-term relationship with SHINE and are committed to working with like-minded charities to create a greater impact on the lives of children in underserved communities under the CFS cause Accessing Quality Education. 

CFS is celebrating our anniversary throughout 2023—15 years of empowering donors to make a meaningful impact. Since our inception in 2008, we have received over S$292 million in donations in Singapore and disbursed over S$157 million in grants to over 400 charity partners.  

To discover how you can make a difference, please visit www.cf.org.sg/contact-us/get-in-touch/ 

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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
a group of kids in orange tees

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 https://www.cf.org.sg/sayangsayangfund/

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