Charity groups can apply for up to $900,000 in grants each to become better at what they do

SINGAPORE - The Tote Board has set up a $10 million grant to help charities boost their operational capabilities.

Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, launched the Tote Board Non-Profit Sector Transformation Initiative - Organisation Development Programme on Thursday (Nov 8).

The money will be given to 10 non-profit organisations (NPOs) and each will get up to $900,000. The money can be used to hire external consultants or staff to improve internal processes and capacities or to boost their IT systems, among other things.

Ms Sim said: "With a proliferation of causes that resonates with donors and greater competition for the charity dollar, the definition of success for well-run non-profit organisations is also being reshaped."

She said that charities globally are thinking hard about doing their work in the most cost-effective, sustainable and accountable way possible. In Singapore, charities are also doing the same, for example, by tapping new technology and collaborating with other charities to improve their services, she added.

Mr Fong Yong Kian, the Tote Board's chief executive, used the analogy of a balance scale to describe how charities are using their resources.

On one end lies the group's internal capacity, for example through its human resources and IT systems, to deliver services. On the other end are the services it provides.

"For a lot of NPOs, the scale may not be a balanced one. Perhaps out of necessity, it is common for an NPO to devote most of its resources into programmes to serve beneficiaries, putting most of the weights on one side of the scale, leaving the other side of the scale in drastic need for catch-up," said Mr Fong.

Hence, the grant is set up to help charities boost their organisational capabilities and systems to enable them to go from "good to great", he said.

The Tote Board, a statutory board, is using the Business Excellence framework, an internationally recognised industry benchmark for excellence, to help charities climb to greater heights.

It is Singapore's largest grant giver. The money, from lotteries, horse races and other games, is given to a wide variety of causes. In its last financial year, ended on March 31 this year, it disbursed $469 million in grants.

Mr Samuel Ng, chief executive of Montfort Care, a charity, pointed out that there has been a lot of effort to boost competencies of social service sector staff, but there has not been enough resources poured into organisational development for charities.

"I think the fund is very much needed," he said.

Charities can apply for the grant from Thursday to Jan 7 next year.