New fund launched to help start-ups in the social service sector

A panel discussion at the launch of the Lam Soon New Horizon Fund on April 22, 2022. PHOTO: THE MAJURITY TRUST

SINGAPORE - New start-ups in the social service sector, which struggle to land financial support because of the lack of a track record, can now get a helping hand from an incubator fund launched on Friday (April 22).

The Lam Soon New Horizon Fund, managed by philanthropic organisation The Majurity Trust (TMT), will provide seed funding of up to $150,000 over three years for each of the selected grantees.

The funding, which comes from a donation of $1 million from registered charity TL Whang Foundation, is unrestricted, which means the start-ups can propose any use of the money to suit their on-the-ground needs.

They will also receive guidance and support from the TMT Mentor Network, made up of leaders from the National Council of Social Service's social service fellowship programme. Master classes related to topics such as leadership, financial sustainability and impact measurement can be tapped.

TMT's director of philanthropy Charles Tan said: "Currently, non-profits in the start-up phase struggle a lot on their own because they are new and don't have a track record yet. It's much harder to find donors as well as backers in the initial period and so they lack that critical incubation support in their formation period and growth journey."

Six non-profit start-ups are in the first batch of beneficiaries, including elder support initiative Kampung Kakis that matches volunteers to elderly people.

Its co-founder Mae Tan said: "Every day, thousands of stay-alone seniors are struggling with isolation and need help with their daily activities. When our volunteers go over to the elderly's homes, this could be the only form of social interaction.

"With the fund, we are hoping to scale up our efforts and reach out to more elderly and neighbours in need."

One possibility being explored is starting medical escort services for those who cannot turn up for appointments on their own.

The other start-ups advocate for causes like mental health, intellectual disabilities and support for migrant workers.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, speaking virtually at the launch of the fund on Friday, said many Singaporeans stepped up during the pandemic to help those in need.

He said: "Many new non-profits are founded by young people. This is a really positive sign that the next generation wants to engage and contribute to society.

"Having new players in the social impact ecosystem also means having new talent, skill sets and innovative solutions to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow."

The next grant call for the fund will be held in the last quarter of this year.

Eligible non-profit or ground-up start-ups have to be less than three years old, raised less than $250,000 to date, and have a good track record of serving the vulnerable. They must also have at least one founding member committed to joining full time.

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