Measures to ensure responsible use of online donations

They will be in place when fund-raisers for individuals are hosted on national platform

Singapore's national online donation platform is introducing new measures to ensure that money raised is used responsibly. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER
(From left) ROHI board member Mr Mark Wong, case worker Ms Sharifah Alhabshee, board member and founder Mr Danny Yong, executive director Ms Sharmin Foo, board member Mr Abdul Jabbar Bin Karam , case worker Ms Eileen Tay and board member Mr Kenneth Kan.

Singapore's national online donation platform is introducing new measures to ensure that money raised is used responsibly, following debate over crowdfunding efforts that garnered six-figure sums.

This will start by the end of the year when - which is run by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) - begins hosting fund-raisers by non-profit group Ray of Hope Initiative (ROHI) on behalf of individuals.

ROHI will assess a beneficiary's needs after reviewing his bills and whether he gets financial aid from other schemes. It will then decide how much money needs to be raised and set up the campaign page for him, typically within a week of being informed of the case.

Donations are given to beneficiaries in instalments. Where possible, ROHI pays bills directly to the billing organisation - such as a hospital or school - or gives shopping vouchers, so donations are used for the intended purposes.

If the amount raised exceeds the target, excess funds go to other ROHI beneficiaries whose fund- raising targets are not met.

ROHI currently has these measures in place for the campaigns run on its own website and crowdfunding platform SimplyGiving.

The move to tighten oversight of public donations to individuals on crowdfunding platforms comes after several online appeals have raised up to nearly $1 million.

Such drives have prompted the Government to say it will step in to clarify what it says may be misleading or incomplete accounts when people ask for money.

NVPC digital innovation director Andy Sim, in a Forum letter in The Straits Times today, wrote: "We recognise the advantages of allowing donors to give directly to beneficiaries. However, more should be done to ensure that these donations meet the intended needs."

In reply to ST queries, he added: "From time to time, some individuals who have suffered a sudden crisis or have unplanned needs write in to, asking if we can help them. We would then recommend a related charity that they may contact to fund-raise on their behalf.

"This approach tends to be limiting as charities often are already occupied by their own fund-raising and other programmes."

NVPC's tie-up with ROHI will allow individuals to approach the latter to raise funds on their behalf, while having a wider reach online.

Campaigns on, including those for individuals, can now be set up only by registered charities. But NVPC said it made an exception for ROHI, which is working towards being one, as it has an established aid application process to assess effectively the needs of the individuals.

ROHI, a member of the National Council of Social Service, was set up in 2012 by Mr Danny Yong, a co-founder of investment firm Dymon Asia. Its six-member board of directors covers administrative and operating costs - including wages of three salaried staff. Donations go to beneficiaries.

Up till last month, it has assessed about 260 cases, of which about 35 per cent were "rejected", usually due to incomplete information, among other reasons.

Dr Doreen Tan, 63, co-founder of a beauty and wellness company, has donated to five campaigns on ROHI's website since last year.

She said: "I think ROHI's approach of managing donations is good. I like how excess donations are used to help other people in need."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline Measures to ensure responsible use of online donations. Subscribe