Funding for charities not a straightforward matter

PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES

Mr Edmund Khoo Kim Hock's list of recommendations for charities - including offering more attractive remuneration and having an adequate training budget - notwithstanding, the challenge of funding is not a straightforward matter ("Ways charities can tackle funding squeeze"; Tuesday).

Many non-profit organisations do not enjoy long-term government support or corporate sponsorship, but reliance on either will present problems, too.

Reliance on institutional funding may raise questions about the independence of the organisations and, as a result, limit the innovation or disruptive potential of the programmes.

The imposition of performance indicators, for instance, could also limit the flexibility and scope of the organisation.

And despite the growing traction of corporate social responsibility, securing corporate funding is difficult if the causes are perceived to be not as mainstream.

Moreover, while the overall donation sum has increased in Singapore, distribution remains a problem.

Therefore, the suggestion to enhance the fund-raising abilities of staff and volunteers is sound, but it is often overlooked by charities, which may prefer the stability - despite the aforementioned shortcomings - of institutional or corporate funding.

For sustainable sources of independent funds, non-profit organisations must be more transparent with their performance and impact, proving to the public that causes or programmes are worthy of support.

In addition, through community involvement programmes or service-learning initiatives in schools, some youth have pioneered creative campaigns for fund raising.

Leveraging these endeavours can, thus, present advantages for organisations seeking stable sources of income.

This is in line with moves by the National Council of Social Service to help charities with weak or no fund-raising capabilities.

Continued reliance on traditional sources of funding - with their implications - could become an impediment, and limit the services or trajectories of charities for the future.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Funding for charities not a straightforward matter'. Print Edition | Subscribe