Grant for charities to adopt tech solutions expanded to cover more areas: Grace Fu

Club Rainbow turned to online donation platforms Giving.sg and Give.asia to start fund-raising campaigns. PHOTO: GIVING.SG

SINGAPORE - The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the need for charities to adopt technology in meeting their operational needs and in raising funds.

The VWO-Charities Capability Fund's Info-Communications Technology Grant will hence be expanded in scope to provide charities with more support in adopting digital solutions, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Tuesday (June 23).

The grant, applicable for small and medium-sized charities, will now also cover digital solutions in new areas such as volunteer management, donor management and remote working.

Successful applicants will receive up to 80 per cent financial support for such costs, capped at $30,000, till March 31, 2022.

Charities can begin applying for the grant from the third quarter of 2020.

Ms Fu urged charities to make use of the grant to embrace new technology and digital tools.

"Behind every crisis lies an opportunity. Covid-19 has given us the opportunity to innovate and develop new skills."

"For charities, learning and innovating allow you to continue your operations, develop your capabilities, and deliver services to those who need them," said Ms Fu, who was delivering the opening speech at the In Conversation With The Commissioner Of Charities Webinar.

The webinar was co-organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the Law Society Pro Bono Services, with more than 500 participants from social service organisations and charities here.

In her speech, Ms Fu cited several examples of charities that have been tapping technology during this period, such as Filos Community Services, which has been conducting virtual tuition for its students from lower-income families through online platforms Zoom and Google Meet.

"Filos' virtual tuition programme has received positive feedback. Filos is working on expanding their volunteer base to cater to more requests for this service," she added.

Club Rainbow (Singapore), a charity catering to children with chronic illnesses and their families, turned to online donation platforms Giving.sg and Give.asia to start fund-raising campaigns, after having to postpone their usual cycling fund-raiser due to the pandemic.

The online fund-raising presence helped the charity to collect about $50,000 a month in donations since March this year, said Ms Fu.

Silver Ribbon Singapore is also among organisations harnessing technology, such as moving its free counselling services online.

One of its clients, Ms Linda Chua, 42, who has bipolar disorder, had her monthly 30- to 45-minute sessions, previously held at one of the centres in Hougang, moved to the Zoom platform in April.

Ms Chua said that her counsellor was able to host the session well online, hence she has no qualms with the change in format.

"My counsellor continued to help me to manage my emotions, and pace myself in my treatment," said Ms Chua, who is unemployed.

During the webinar, Commissioner for Charities Ang Hak Seng spoke about a broad digitalisation plan for charities.

He said that in pursuing digitalisation, charities must also be prudent.

"If you go into tech blindly, you are committing future resources to keep the systems," he said. Hence charities should look for technology that is "cheap, good and fast".

Dr Ang also said that charities should look to share data and solutions to utilise resources efficiently.

Ms Fu said 2020 had brought about unprecedented challenges for everyone, as well as additional demand for social services.

She said: "Take this crisis as an impetus to review your programmes and activities against the changing environment and needs.

"To ensure sustainability of your charity in the longer term, have open and honest conversations with your board, and prioritise the programmes that can deliver the greatest impact to the community."

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