Charities to receive support to build digital capabilities and strengthen regulatory compliance

(From left) Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants president Kon Yin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, Commissioner of Charities Ang Hak Seng and Law Society Pro Bono Services deputy chairman Kelvin Wong at the MOU signing at the Charity Governance conference on Sept 23. PHOTO: MCCY

SINGAPORE - Charities will receive support to boost their digital capabilities, and strengthen regulatory compliance and transparency, with a number of initiatives to be rolled out later this year.

They include a new toolkit, to be rolled out in November, which is aimed at helping charities embrace digitalisation as support for their corporate and administrative functions.

Speaking on Wednesday (Sept 23) at the Charity Governance conference held virtually, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said the Charities GoDigital Kit is one of three initiatives to support charities in strengthening their capabilities amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Describing charities as the glue that holds Singapore together, Mr Tong said they play a key role in civil society, with much of the work they do benefiting the most vulnerable segments of the society.

"Much of your work is in fact critical to our national drive to build a more caring and inclusive Singapore," he told about 500 charity representatives and partners at the event.

Mr Tong also announced a revised Charity Transparency Framework, which will be published next month.

He said that transparency, as with accountability, is key in building trust with donors and stakeholders.

"The more well-governed a charity is, the more confidence a donor will have in that charity."

"This framework serves as a guide to help charities define their policy and approach to transparency... It will outline good disclosure practices, and help charities communicate better to their stakeholders," he added.

The framework was launched in 2015, with the revision announced last year.

In a statement, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said the framework has been re-designed to suit charities of different sizes. The revised framework will be published on the Charity Portal and the Charity Council website.

Mr Tong also announced that four more organisations will be helping to strengthen charities' regulatory compliance and effectiveness from Sept 23. These shared services partners will assist charities at low or no cost.

The four are the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, Law Society Pro Bono Services, the Institute of Internal Auditors Singapore, and Shared Services for Charities.

With the latest addition, there are now 11 such organisations which assist charities from accessing IT solutions, to recruiting talent and the filing of annual reports and financial statements.

The two-day conference, held virtually for the first time, is organised by the Securities Investors Association (Singapore) with support from the Charity Council.

Mr Tong said that the past few months have not been easy, and the charity sector has also been affected, but was heartened to know that many have adapted to Covid-19 requirements.

To aid digitalisation efforts, charities can tap the Voluntary Welfare Organisations-Charities Capability Fund.

In his speech, Mr Tong highlighted some charities that have benefited from going digital, noting that arts charity Ding Yi Music Company has been engaging audiences online through staging an online concert on Facebook.

He added that the ministry will continue to work with partners and provide resources to strengthen capabilities of charities and build a "more thriving and resilient" charity sector.

In his speech, Commissioner of Charities Ang Hak Seng said charities should not only look at increasing donations, but also spend time to improve productivity - with every dollar saved being a dollar more for beneficiaries.

"We also want you to deepen your professional core - I always say, do what you do best, outsource the rest," he said, adding that working with the shared services partners would allow charities to focus more on their activities and programmes.

Chairman of the Charity Council Gerard Ee said he understands that it might be tempting for charities to put achieving good governance and transparency at the back of their minds during this challenging period.

"However, it is more so during these times that charities need to increase the confidence in their donors, to share with them the good work that charities are doing, and to garner more support for your efforts to help beneficiaries."

He urged charities to not compromise good governance and high standards of ethical behaviour during this period, so that they can be sustainable and resilient.

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