SINGAPORE - Singaporeans gave generously to charity as online donation platforms collected record sums last year despite the protracted Covid-19 pandemic's toll on jobs and finances.
Giving.sg received a record $95.5 million in donations - the largest sum collected since it was started by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) in 2010.
The $95.5 million is a 2 per cent increase from 2020 and is more than double the $35.8 million collected in pre-pandemic 2019.
Some 625 charities use Giving.sg to raise funds and it is the leading national digital giving platform.
The record donations last year were driven by a rise in virtual giving during the pandemic, said the NVPC on Wednesday (Jan 19).
There were more than 4,800 fund-raising campaigns on Giving.sg last year, a 21 per cent jump from 2020, and 6 per cent more non-profit groups used it to raise funds last year.
On Dec 31, the site collected close to $3.5 million - the largest sum collected in a single day.
There are only a few online donation sites here and another crowdfunding platform, Ray of Hope, collected $4.4 million in donations last year.
This is roughly the same amount collected in 2020 but it was 10 times more than the $408,000 collected in 2019.
One fund-raiser took the lion's share of donations at Ray of Hope last year - when the public donated close to $3 million to help a Singaporean toddler afford the world's most expensive drug for his neuromuscular disease.
The public also gave generously to affected groups, such as migrant workers, especially when the pandemic first started, its general manager, Mr Tan En, said.
In 2020, Ray of Hope started to work with informal groups run by volunteers, such as the Covid-19 Migrant Support Coalition and ItsRainingRaincoats, that wanted to do good during the crisis.
Ray of Hope runs checks on these groups before hosting a fund-raising campaign for them on its site. It also holds the donations raised for the causes these groups are soliciting for in its bank account and pays the vendors directly, as these informal groups are not registered as official entities and do not have a bank account in the group's name.
Mr Tan said: "This way donors know that the funds go to exactly what the campaign intent was. We are the only platform that does this - so that these groups can focus on doing good instead of worrying about handling donor funds."
Give Asia, another online donation platform, said it saw an average growth in donations of about 1.5 times year on year since 2017, without giving details of the sums raised each year.
Co-founder Pong Yu Ming said Give Asia has collected about $99 million in donations for nearly 17,000 campaigns since it was started in 2009.
Mr Pong said that donations fell in the first few months after the pandemic started in 2020, but picked up after that.
He said: "What we then saw was great kindness, with individuals donating more than ever."
Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow Justin Lee pointed out that there was a flurry of ground-up initiatives to help those affected by the Covid-19 crisis, such as migrant workers, leading to larger donations during the pandemic.
Dr Lee added that in-person fund-raisers such as charity dinners and flag days were either cancelled, scaled down or modified to virtual formats due to the safe management measures. Hence, more donors could have moved their giving to online platforms, he said.
NVPC deputy chief executive Tony Soh said the NVPC is committed to helping charities adapt to the challenges arising from the pandemic and transform.
To help charities tide through this challenging period, Mr Soh said that the transaction fees on Giving.sg will continue to be waived until March 31 this year, allowing charities to receive 100 per cent of the sums donated.
Research administrator Koh Shuwen, 44, said she donated more money to various charitable causes during the pandemic through sites like Giving.sg, as she became more aware of the needs in the community.
Dr Koh said: "Giving.sg is backed by the NVPC and so that gives me a vote of confidence. It is also a very convenient platform for donating."