Charities no longer need a permit to raise funds in public from next year

The current rules requiring charities to obtain permits imposes an administrative burden, said Minister Edwin Tong. ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

SINGAPORE - Charities will no longer need to apply for a police permit before they raise funds in public from next year.

The move to scrap the permit is to reduce the administrative burden on charities, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong at the Charity Governance Conference on Thursday.

"We will make it easier for registered and exempt charities to raise funds through house to house and street campaigns, while making it safer for donors," he added.

The current rules require charities to obtain a licence from the police or the National Council of Social Service before they can raise funds, such as soliciting donations from house to house or via flag days.

This subjects the charities to "dual regulation" by two sets of laws - the Charities Act and the House to House and Street Collections Act.

Under the revised framework, registered and exempt charities, as well as permit-holders raising funds for foreign charitable purposes, need only disclose details of their fund-raising campaigns on the Charity Portal, the Commissioner of Charities' website, before they start public fund-raising activities.

"Donors can verify the legitimacy of these campaigns instantly by searching the Charity Portal, which is centrally controlled by the Commissioner's office," said Mr Tong, who was speaking at the two-day conference at the NTUC Centre in Marina Boulevard.

He added that the Commissioner has consulted widely with charities and the public on "how to improve the situation and make it more efficient and less resource heavy when charities raise funds".

In May, the Commissioner held a public consultation where it proposed to scrap the need for charities to apply for a house to house and street collections licence from the police when they raise funds in public.

Under the revised fund-raising regime, more disclosure requirements will be imposed on charities to ensure donors can easily check on the legitimacy of the fund-raisers on the Charity Portal.

In a statement on Thursday, the Commissioner's office said: "Enforcement action, where necessary, may be taken against improper appeals, failure to comply with the new disclosure requirements and/or wilfully providing inaccurate details."

The Commissioner said it will provide more details by the end of the year.

The move aims to strike a better balance between requirements imposed on charities and ensuring adequate information is available for donors to make informed decisions, the Commissioner added.

At Thursday's conference, Mr Tong also announced that the Commissioner will launch the Terrorist Financing Risk Mitigation Toolkit to help charities identify terrorist financing risks and mitigate them, among other things.

The toolkit is expected to be available by the end of the year.

Mr Tong said: "With greater cross boundary flow of funds, a charity can be exposed to terrorist financing and money-laundering risks."

While there are currently no such known risks, he said Singapore cannot be complacent.

He said non-profit organisations, including charities, have been identified to be at a medium-low risk of being abused for terrorist financing, according to Singapore's Terrorist Financing National Risk Assessment published in 2020.

Mr Asher Low, executive director of Limitless, a charity helping youth with mental health issues, said the move to scrap the permit is welcome news for small charities like his as it reduces the administrative load on his 16 staff members.

However, as a member of the donating public, he is worried that this may be abused by scammers pretending to raise funds for a charity when permits are no longer needed.

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