A Time of Giving

What Does Singapore’s Philanthropic Landscape Look Like These Days?

Catherine Loh, CEO of the Community Foundation of Singapore, weighs in during a time when we ought to give even more.

What Does Singapore’s Philanthropic Landscape Look Like These Days?

Anchor Image: Catherine Loh

What drives Singaporeans’ spirit of giving?

Singaporeans are generous. They think deeply about how to create giving that will improve things and impact lives. Whether their interest is in traditional causes or specialised areas of focus, donors appreciate when foundations like ours vet charities and programmes so they can be assured their giving is effective.

How has the pandemic affected donations?

The response has been tremendous from private individuals as well as corporate donors — we have far exceeded our initial target of $500,000. We started the Sayang Sayang Fund in February that goes to transport vouchers and appreciation funds for frontline healthcare staff (including ancillary staff like cleaners and security), as well as community partners and charities supporting vulnerable communities such as senior citizens and low-income families. [Update: As of 19 May 2020, donations and pledges to the Sayang Sayang Fund have exceeded $6 million.]

There are many ways to give back — what’s one you’d like to see more of?

Legacy giving. More than a third of donations since our inception have been to legacy funds, and they are used to support causes across different sectors, such as health, education, research, arts and social services. We seek to encourage more of such planned future gifts because it’s more than just a donation from a person’s assets after death — they mark important moments in life and honour the achievements of a loved one.

What are some recent trends in philanthropy?

As more people recognise the complexity of social issues and the need for many helping hands, giving together is fast gaining traction. Donors are beginning to understand that collaboration enables them to create and impact greater than what they can achieve as individuals. The Mind the Gap 200 fund we helped to set up in 2019 with a group of 10 donors is an example. Also, more women are getting engaged in philanthropy. In 2009, only 14 percent of our donor funds were started by female donors, but that fi gure rose to 65 percent in 2017 and 2018. As more women become empowered to give, they will continue to give to causes close to their hearts.

This story first appeared in the May 2020 issue of A Magazine.

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