Cultivate culture of giving regularly: Desmond Lee

Minister also calls on firms to work with social service agencies to offer them skills

Mr Desmond Lee noted that donors prefer funding programmes that directly support beneficiaries, instead of investing in the agencies that deliver these programmes.
Mr Desmond Lee noted that donors prefer funding programmes that directly support beneficiaries, instead of investing in the agencies that deliver these programmes.PHOTO: TEMASEK TRUST

Society should cultivate a culture of regular giving over a sustained period to support social service agencies helping the vulnerable, through good times and bad, and companies should collaborate with them to offer their skills.

Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee made this call at the Temasek Trust Conversation yesterday to corporates and Singaporeans to go beyond monetary donations.

Temasek Trust is the philanthropic arm of Singapore investment company Temasek.

Speaking at the event, which focuses this year on forging innovative ways for philanthropy in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Lee said this could be done by tackling existing key gaps in today's giving landscape. He said many donors prefer funding programmes that directly support beneficiaries and shy away from investing in the capabilities of the agencies that deliver the programmes.

"While we have started looking into the ways we can tackle these existing gaps, the Government alone does not have all the answers. We invite corporate partners to journey alongside us and develop more innovative and sustainable ways of giving," said Mr Lee, who is also National Development Minister.

He commended Singaporeans for giving generously during the pandemic, with more than $100 million donated to the Community Chest, Sayang Sayang Fund and towards Covid-19-related causes from January to August.

Companies have also stepped forward, he said, citing Temasek Foundation, which collaborated with the Education Ministry and Early Childhood Development Agency to distribute face shields and hand sanitiser to 650,000 children and teachers.

Ground-up efforts have also provided aid in the crisis, said Mr Lee.

But he noted that the giving landscape is uneven, and unmet needs remain. Social service agencies are facing funding challenges for recurrent long-term programmes and getting fewer volunteers.

"Long after Covid is subdued, social and healthcare needs will continue to grow and become even more complex, so we will need to make sure that public spending, philanthropic giving, as well as volunteerism, combine forces to drive even better outcomes than they do today," he said.

"Giving trends must do likewise, go beyond 'silos' and evolve accordingly to better meet these new complex and interlinked needs."

The event also included a chat with Temasek International executive director and chief executive Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, moderated by Mr Warren Fernandez, editor of The Straits Times and editor-in-chief of the English/Malay/ Tamil Media Group of Singapore Press Holdings.

They discussed the importance of collaborative philanthropy, with organisations coming together to share resources, pool expertise and catalyse ideas to solve real-world challenges for the community.

PSA International group chief executive Tan Chong Meng shared how agencies came together to repurpose 10 Singapore Expo halls into community care facilities.

There was also a panel discussion hosted by The Majurity Trust executive director Martin Tan on new ways of giving and helping others during the pandemic. The panellists were Asia-Pacific lead of Marija Ralic, Mediacorp chief executive Tham Loke Kheng, Ninja Van Singapore co-founder and chief executive Lai Chang Wen and Vintage Radio SG co-founder and Radioactive managing director and co-founder Aloysius Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2020, with the headline 'Cultivate culture of giving regularly: Desmond Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe