Many giving funeral condolence money to charity

Around $44,000 channelled via Singapore Casket-SG Gives partnership this year

A screenshot of the Heaven Address memorial page for Mr Loh. The page allowed family and friends to donate to the family’s appointed charities. -- PHOTO: HEAVEN ADDRESS
A screenshot of the Heaven Address memorial page for Mr Loh. The page allowed family and friends to donate to the family’s appointed charities. -- PHOTO: HEAVEN ADDRESS

WHEN Mr Loh Ngiap Kwang died suddenly from a heart attack in January, his shocked family members rushed to make funeral arrangements and held vigil at the wake for four nights.

Though family members intended to give some of the condolence money, or "pek kim", to the needy, they had neither the energy nor the presence of mind to do so.

"It was the last thing on my mind, though we wanted to remember our dad by giving back this way," said daughter Evangeline Loh, 33.

However, the grieving family was spared the trouble.

Their funeral company, Singapore Casket, had tied up with the country's largest donation portal, SG Gives, which allows donations to be made to charities through an online memorial page.

Through Mr Loh's memorial page set up on the Heaven Address website, family and friends could not only light a virtual candle or joss stick for the 67-year-old, but also click on a link to donate to the family's appointed charities - the Kidney Dialysis Foundation, Lions Home for the Elders and Man Fut Tong Nursing Home.

The link redirected them to the SG Gives portal, where they could donate straight to the charity using their credit cards or Internet banking.

Since the partnership between Singapore Casket and SG Gives began in January, around $44,000 in donations have been channelled to 20 partner charities, as at the end of last month.

Though there are online memorials of clients from other funeral companies on Heaven Address, online donations can be done only for customers of Singapore Casket.

Stakeholders say the practice of donating to charities instead of, or on top of, the usual "pek kim" is gaining traction.

"Some tell their relatives to donate to us directly, while others collect pek kim and pass the money to us," said Singapore Children's Society executive director Alfred Tan.

The organisation is one of the top three charities to garner the most donations - more than $7,000 - through the online initiative.

The Singapore Children's Society also sends its staff down to oversee donation boxes during wakes, Mr Tan said.

Singapore Casket senior manager Calvin Tang said more are channelling donations to charity because families are getting more affluent, and some have no need for "pek kim", which is usually used to defray funeral expenses.

"There are also some Chinese beliefs that if you give to the needy, it can help the deceased have a smoother journey after death," said Mr Tang.

That is why Singapore Casket and the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), which runs SG Gives, decided to leverage on technology to offer a simple and efficient way of facilitating donations.

"Technology now creates more opportunities to do so efficiently and more sustainably to a cause or charity preferred by the families of the deceased," said Ms Patsian Low, director of the philanthropy division at NVPC.

"This also helps those who are not able to pay their respects in person to remember their loved ones from a distance."

About 2,000 of Singapore Casket's clients, which works out to 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the families it has been working with, have chosen to set up online memorials, which are free and can include pictures and videos, since it joined the Australian website Heaven Address in 2009.

Almost half of them add the link to donate on their pages.

To increase its reach, SG Gives will also partner Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors and Mount Vernon Sanctuary early next year to offer their clients the online option of donating to charity via Heaven Address.

Regular online donor Tan Lay Ping, who has given more than $20,000 in online donations to various charities over the years, said she is likely to give more to bereaved families if the condolence money is turned over to charities.

The 44-year-old manager said: "Normally, I give $50 to $100 in pek kim, but if it is given to charities, I will give more as I have set aside a budget for charity every year."

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