Singapore

More giving to charity despite weak economic outlook

Technology allows donors to track who benefits from their giving

More money is pouring online into Singapore's national charity portal Giving.sg, with donations doubling in the past two years to cross the $100 million mark.

The amount is a milestone for online donations, which is becoming an increasingly important source of fund-raising for charities here.

At least two online platforms have seen significant increases.

One is the government-backed web portal Giving.sg. It has raised $50 million since its inception in December 2015, a sum its predecessor, SG Gives, took five years to collect - from 2010 to 2015.

The other platform is crowdfunding site Give.Asia, set up by students of the National University of Singapore.

Its spokesman said $10.8 million was collected this year, more than double of last year's $4.5 million.

The sharp increases suggest digital giving is gaining traction and donors are more open to the concept of giving online.

Mr Andy Sim, director of digital innovation at National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), which runs Giving.sg, said: "Technology has enabled us to transform the traditional transactional relationship to something that is more meaningful as donors can now track their own giving journey at a glance on Giving.sg.

"This helps build an affinity and attachment to causes they support."

Donors on the Giving.sg portal can, at the click of a mouse, see who benefits from their donations and what their money is used for.

For example, the page for the Share-A-Pot campaign by Caritas Singapore Community Council explains that a $20 donation can provide 10 bowls of soup for senior citizens.

At the same time, the charities can also keep donors up to date with news on campaigns and videos of their activities.

Charities are chuffed by the online boost as it shows the promise in reaching out to potential donors, even though the lion's share of donations is still from traditional means such as fund-raisers and volunteer outreach.

NVPC's survey on individuals giving their time and money to causes said a record $2.18 billion were donated to charities last year.

But interviews with some charities earlier this month indicate 2017 may not be a bumper year.

Fund-raising groups like the Singapore Red Cross told The Straits Times they were struggling to meet their targets.

Beyond Social Services' executive director Gerard Ee said it is about $250,000 short of its target of around $1.8 million.

The charity helps poor children and youth.

Among the reasons cited are the nascent economic recovery and growing competition from crowd-funding sites that highlight plight of individuals.

Ms Ivy Tse of Halogen Foundation said the novel causes on some sites will impact traditional charities like hers. Halogen runs youth development programmes to build leaders and entrepreneurs.

But a Singapore Kindness Movement spokesman noted that "traditional charities can also tap on the possibilities of the online sphere".

He said this can be seen in the rise in donations on Giving.sg.

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