'Donate and stand to win a Mercedes'
New social enterprise's operating model comes under scrutiny by Commissioner of Charities
Donate, and you could win such prizes as a Mercedes-Benz car and perhaps even a condominium unit in a lucky draw.
This is the pitch by The Given Company (TGC), a social enterprise that was launched on Wednesday with the aim of helping charities raise money by offering prizes to incentivise donors.
However, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) said last night that it has not endorsed TGC's operating model and has drawn TGC's attention to the legislative requirements in the Fund-Raising Regulations and the best practices in the Code of Practice for Online Charitable Fund-Raising Appeals.
The COC, which comes under the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, added in its statement that it was looking into the matter.
It added: "In line with our Office's ongoing efforts to develop a thriving charity sector with high standards of accountability and transparency, we strongly encourage donors to be discerning to such online appeals and ask basic questions such as the purpose of the appeal; how will the donations be used..."
The COC also outlined the penalties for offences under the Fund-Raising Regulations and the Remote Gambling Act, which governs online donation draws and lucky draws.
Responding to the COC statement, TGC co-founder Charles Tan said: "We understand that our operating model is relatively new in Singapore."
He said the TGC has complied with all relevant legislative requirements, including written agreements with the four charity organisations listed on its online platform.
Mr Tan said that the funds will be fully accounted for, including all contributions made from TGC to the charity organisations.
The four partner charities are the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the Life Community Services Society, the Alzheimer's Disease Association (ADA) and The RICE Company.
In TGC's first lucky draw, 50,000 T-shirts are for sale for $20 each, with the proceeds going to the buyer's selected charity.
Each buyer will get a chance to win cash prizes ranging from $8 to $40 in a lucky draw. The grand prize is a Mercedes-Benz.
TGC also plans to connect luxury brands with registered charities and help them conduct donation draws online.
Mr Tan said subsequent draws may offer prizes such as a condominium unit but this is still in discussion.
"It is about giving people a small little nudge to do something that they are not doing frequently enough," he added.
"We hope to set them on a longer-term path of volunteering and philanthropy."
Mr Tan also said that TGC could take a 5 to 10 per cent commission on each donation in subsequent draws to cover costs.
He said TGC's fund-raising model is similar to that of charity raffle tickets, where part of the donation goes towards the cost of the grand prize.
TGC's partner charities see the platform as another way for them to reach out to more donors.
SPCA's deputy executive director Selina Sebastian said: "We have a lot of support from animal lovers out there, but we need to reach out to the others. I think this gives people another option to support our cause."
TGC is owned by Raffles Place Technologies and is a member of the National Volunteer and Philantrophy Centre's (NVPC) Company of Good programme.
However, some believe that using prize incentives to motivate people to donate is debatable.
Mr Gerard Ee, the chairman of the Charity Council, which advises the COC on key regulatory issues, said: "It doesn't make people compassionate and it is not sending the right message.
"The habit being cultivated is that of giving towards winning a prize. In the long term, it is not good for community building."
NVPC's director for knowledge and advocacy, Mr Jeffrey Tan, said: "At NVPC, we believe that giving can take on different journeys. However, ideally, the primary motivation should stem from an authentic caring mindset."
Marketing manager Sarah Thiam, 26, who donates up to $200 every month to various charities, also disapproves of the TGC model.
"People could just be motivated by the prize and donating becomes just a side effect," she said.