Guidelines to be issued to commercial fund-raisers

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (far left) presenting the Charity Governance Award for charities in the large category to Ms Theresa Goh, chairman of Sata CommHealth, at yesterday's award ceremony.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu (far left) presenting the Charity Governance Award for charities in the large category to Ms Theresa Goh, chairman of Sata CommHealth, at yesterday's award ceremony.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF CULTURE, COMMUNITY AND YOUTH

Code to ensure donors can give confidently and willingly with no undue pressure

The Commissioner of Charities is coming up with a set of guidelines for commercial fund-raisers so that donors can give without feeling undue pressure.

These fund-raisers, also known as third-party fund-raisers, often ask for donations on the streets.

The move, announced by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday, comes in the wake of a record donation of $2.9 billion in the 2016 financial year, up from $2.7 billion a year before. The 2016 figures are the latest available.

To be called the Code for Commercial Fund-raisers, it will be co-developed with major commercial fund-raisers here, said Ms Fu at the Charity Transparency and Governance Awards held at Gardens by the Bay. It will state three core principles in commercial fund-raising - legitimacy, accountability and transparency, she added.

A spokesman for the Commissioner said the Code will guide the fund-raisers on their responsibilities and conduct so that "donors can give confidently and willingly with no undue pressure".

The co-development of the Code is similar to that of the Code of Practice for Online Charitable Fund-raising Appeals, which was launched in January to help ensure appeals on crowdfunding sites are genuine and that fund-raisers are accountable for the donations received.

No launch date has been given for the new Code but it will be made public "soon", said the spokesman.

The new Code was welcomed by people in the charity sector who said some who solicit for donations on the streets can be very pushy.

They also noted that commercial fund-raisers take up to 30 per cent of the donations raised. This is the maximum allowed in accordance with the 30/70 fund-raising rule, which stipulates that the fund-raising expenses cannot exceed 30 per cent of donations raised in the year.

Mr Alfred Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Children's Society, which does not hire commercial fund-raisers, is wary of the cut these fund-raisers take. "This may be seen as being overly commercialised or profiteering," he said.

Homemaker Angelina Ong, 42, who has given to charities through commercial fund-raisers, said that, when asked, many do not disclose the commission they get.

"It's an ethical question as donors hope that as much as possible of their donation dollar will go to the charity's beneficiaries," she added.

Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee said the Code will give all commercial fund-raisers a common framework for their conduct and practices, so that everyone will know "what is the right thing to do".

Meanwhile, 47 charities won the Charity Transparency Award yesterday, an increase from 41 last year and 35 in 2016, when the award was first given out. About 800 were assessed for it this year, said the Charity Council, the award organiser.

All registered charities are automatically assessed when they meet the award's eligibility criteria. These include being in operation here for at least three years and having a gross annual income of not less than $50,000 in the preceding financial year. The steady rise shows more charities are increasingly aware of the importance of transparency and accountability, said a Charity Council spokesman.

The winners include large and well-known charities such as Ren Ci Hospital and National Kidney Foundation. Others are medium-sized and smaller groups such as the Singapore Association for Mental Health, Viriya Community Services and Art Outreach Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2018, with the headline 'Guidelines to be issued to commercial fund-raisers'. Print Edition | Subscribe