Manpower constraints make it tough for charities to fight trust deficit

The authors of the Doing Good Index 2018 said that charities or social delivery organisations need to do more to address the "trust deficit" and spread awareness of their work (Welfare groups need to build up public trust; June 22).

However, they did not clarify what exactly constitutes this "trust deficit", and offered few practical recommendations.

It is also not constructive to call on charitable organisations to do more without understanding their manpower and resource constraints.

A key argument in the report is that because the Singapore Government is already doing a lot - with the 250 per cent tax reduction for donations in Singapore, for instance - the social delivery organisations therefore have to step up.

The assumption in other words, it would appear, is that the organisations have to make use of what is already available.

Both co-authors called for these organisations to measure their work, to make information available and to communicate the impact of their work.

Two counterarguments ought to be considered.

First, while both government and philanthropic resources may be available, they are more likely to be channelled into direct programmes or services than into support functions, ranging from research to fund raising to publicity.

Despite being already swamped with their day-to-day responsibilities to their clients, the social workers I have worked with are cognisant of evidence-based practice, and their agencies appreciate the value of needs analysis and programme evaluation. But manpower and resource constraints are pervasive.

Second, there is the challenge of recruiting skilled staff to execute these support functions effectively.

Faulting the social delivery organisations or non-profit organisations for not attracting the best and the brightest is not necessarily fair, if the structural problems are left unaddressed.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2018, with the headline 'Manpower constraints make it tough for charities to fight trust deficit'. Print Edition | Subscribe