Big fight, small pie

Tough as NGOs compete for donations

Funding is always a challenge for any NGO - more so if you are associated with sensitive issues, said executive director Bryan Choong of Oogachaga, a counselling agency whose clients include gay and transgender individuals.

"Internationally, LGBTQ- (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning) related causes are poorly funded," he added.

"The fact that we're an NGO operating in a high-income country makes it less likely for foundations to consider our funding requests."

With more groups fighting for a slice of the donor pie, conflict tends to arise.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare charity Save Our Street Dogs, said: "This is especially so where money is involved and passionate volunteer groups with strong opinions have to share limited resources.

"People sometimes become very competitive as they try to up their profile."

Dr Siew almost gave up rescuing strays earlier this year after detractors jostling to be top dog within the animal welfare circle branded him a racist and accused him of misappropriating funds.

Said Associate Professor Eugene Tan: "The complainant could be motivated by a desire to gain more recognition and support, financially or otherwise.

"There are also bragging rights in being acknowledged as the leading civil society organisation in a particular field."

While some competition can be healthy in pushing the cause further, Dr Siew feared it can backfire.

"Such fighting may lead to the group crumbling and cause external parties forming a bad impression of civil society in general."

That is why Mr Choong felt there must be mutual trust and respect, despite diversity in opinions.

"No one owns a social cause." he said. "Activists or NGOs before us paved the way to make it smoother for us now and our role is to make it easier for the next person or group."

Prof Tan said: "Some people believe civil society won't undermine their own counterparts. Instead, they point to those on the other side, such as the Government. While the authorities do have vested interests, groups have to recognise that the space they operate in is restrictive.

"That has always been the framework in Singapore."

No one owns a social cause. Activists or NGOs before us paved the way to make it smoother for us now and our role is to make it easier for the next person or group.

- Mr Bryan Choong, executive director of Oogachaga, a counselling agency