Crusaders of Compassion: Dr Ann Tan

She's the board director of the Halogen Foundation Singapore, which aims to create an entrepreneurial mindset in youths from underprivileged communities.

Crusaders of Compassion: Dr Ann Tan

Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Ann Tan has long been involved in NGO work. She was president of the Association of Women Doctors (Singapore) (AWDS) and the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO) for two years each, one after the other. In 2013, she joined Halogen as a board director, chairing both the sponsorship committee and Halogen gala dinner committee. Not surprisingly, the veteran is now well-versed in a three-pronged strategy for securing funds: fundraising through events, pitching to companies to adopt the foundation for their corporate social responsibility and applying for government grants.  

Tan has a “triple win” mantra for her voluntary work. “I make new friends with the people l talk to. I help them understand what Halogen is about. Most importantly, I hope to garner their support for us.”

She adds: “People want to know where their dollar or time goes. We can share Halogen’s compelling story, or invite potential donors to be part of our programmes prior to donating so they will be genuinely convinced to donate either their time or monies.”

Her approach has been successful so far. The foundation’s last gala dinner in August 2018 raised $540,000, “way above our target of $350,000 with a 22 percent expenditure for our fundraising efficiency ratio”. Tan’s committee tries to keep expenditure between 20 and 30 percent, but it’s tough given the costs of dinner and entertainment, among others. The fundraising efficiency ratio is made up of total fundraising expenses to total gross receipts from fundraising and sponsorships for the financial year. In order for donors to be eligible for tax deduction, fundraising expenses must be at 30 percent or less.

Apart from the gala dinner, the sponsorships committee pitched to several individuals and companies last year. Companies looking for new charity organisations to adopt have pledged $50,000 to $100,000 each.

Every year, Halogen’s management team comes up with an annual budget for its operations. The numbers correspond to the youth numbers and are calculated by working one’s way up through each cost on the project work breakdown structure. The gala is one of Halogen’s fundraising initiatives for a year’s programmes for 13,000 youths.

So what’s the impact of $378,000, which is what’s left from the gala after deducting expenditure? Dr Tan explains it simply: It sponsors 378 youths for a year-long NFTE programme. 

NFTE is short for Networking for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which is designed to “activate the entrepreneurial mindset in youths from underprivileged communities”. 

The 60-hour NFTE programme culminates in the NFTE Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (NYEC) for shortlisted students to pitch their business ideas to judges from various industries. The winner gets to represent Singapore as its Global Young Entrepreneur at the NFTE Global Showcase in New York City the following year. 

Some creative ideas by past participants have included mobile cafes and a speciality shop for designer bow-ties.

For next year’s gala dinner, Tan hopes to channel the money raised to programmes for underserved youth, to help them build self-esteem and entrepreneurial and leadership mindsets, while equipping them with  lifeskills to thrive in whatever they do. Together with her team, she is also working on a book project, featuring young enterpreneurs who have made it big, to inspire the youths.

This story first appeared in the July issue of A.

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