Charities urged to gain donors' trust with more transparency

At the awards ceremony last night were (from left) Commissioner of Charities Ang Hak Seng, Touch Community Services' Pastor Lawrence Khong, Care Corner Singapore's Mr Benjamin Ong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Gardens by the Ba
At the awards ceremony last night were (from left) Commissioner of Charities Ang Hak Seng, Touch Community Services' Pastor Lawrence Khong, Care Corner Singapore's Mr Benjamin Ong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, Gardens by the Bay chairman Theresa Foo, Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee, New Hope Community Services' Pastor Andrew Khoo, Assisi Hospice's Ms Anita Fam and Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Permanent Secretary Yeoh Chee Yan. A total of 41 charities received the Charity Transparency Awards, six more than last year.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Charities need to step up and be more transparent in their operations to give donors more confidence in them.

This was the call from Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of the Charity Council, which last night handed out awards to 41 charities to celebrate their practices in being transparent. This meant six more charities received the Charity Transparency Awards than last year, when the awards were introduced.

But Mr Ee said that the 41 groups make up a minority of all the charities assessed for the awards.

Without revealing the total number of charities assessed, he told The Straits Times: "While we wish for a higher number to make the grade, we have set the bar very high in the first place. That the majority of charities are not on this list is not cause for alarm and it doesn't mean they are hiding things. It means that they need to improve their disclosure, so that donors have greater confidence in supporting them."

Mr Ee added that many have run their charities well, but lag behind in transparency. One reason is a lack of resources, he said.

This year's winners include small charities such as Help Family Service Centre, Nature Society and Muscular Dystrophy Association (Singapore). The medium-sized charities that were honoured include the Kidney Dialysis Foundation, Singapore Swimming Association and Singapore Repertory Theatre, while winners among the large charities include Assisi Hospice, Association of Muslim Professionals and Singapore Children's Society.

All registered charities - from social service and sports to religious groups - are automatically assessed once they meet the award's eligibility criteria. These include the charities having operated for at least three years and having gross annual income of not less than $50,000 in the preceding financial year.

There were 2,247 registered charities last year, but it is not known how many met the eligibility criteria. Charities are judged on how much they disclose on their websites, for instance, as well as their annual reports and financial statements.

Those in the charity sector said small charities with a few staff or those relying heavily on volunteers may not have the manpower to compile the details of their operations and processes and to disclose them.

Theresa Tan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2017, with the headline 'Charities urged to gain donors' trust with more transparency'. Print Edition | Subscribe