Don't make it difficult to give
To ease fears of online donation appeals, fund-raisers should perhaps give details for verification
The authorities have both applauded and expressed concern over online fund-raising appeals.
These ground-up initiatives can come in the form of an appeal for donations on crowdfunding platforms, or informal drives that collect donations-in-kind. Run either by non-profit organisations (NPOs) or Facebook groups, the beneficiaries are usually individuals in heart-rending circumstances.
Little wonder donations can sometimes soar to six-figure sums - studies have found people respond more to charitable pleas that feature an identifiable beneficiary, compared with a large and vaguely defined group with the same need.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development has been scrutinising these appeals.
Its spokesman told The New Paper: "There have been cases where the fund-raisers or the beneficiaries present inaccurate or incomplete information online to raise funds."
Should such initiatives give way to charities with proper governance?
Recent announcements show the Government is looking for a stronger hand in the area.
The National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre introduced changes to its portal Giving.sg. Currently, campaigns set up on Giving.sg can raise funds for only registered charities. By the end of the year, it will work with NPO Ray of Hope Initiative to help individuals in sudden crises.
Giving.sg now also encourages donations in kind by letting charities post wish lists.
Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee has voiced concerns over the exploitation of generosity, which may lead to the public's scepticism towards truly worthy causes.
Easy access to public donations through crowdfunding may also weaken our work ethic or the important role of family support, he added.
But such initiatives occupy a special place in the fund-raising ecosystem. For instance, they help tide over individuals who are pending approval for financial assistance schemes but need money urgently.
These ground-up groups also offer things money cannot buy. For instance, volunteer outreach programmes organised on Facebook group Project Act of Random Kindness help give a sense of community for the elderly who live alone.
Online fund-raising appeals, including those by NPOs and individuals, are now regulated under the Charities Regulations 2012 if they target the community here.
The proposed amendments, if passed in Parliament, will allow the Commissioner to suspend any fund-raising appeal if he has reason to suspect it is not properly conducted.
But over-regulate, and charitable giving becomes less spontaneous, Singapore Kindness Movement general secretary William Wan pointed out, emphasising the need for a balance.
One way this can be achieved is to have fund-raisers provide all the necessary details that donors can verify and make informed decisions on who to donate to, said Dr Wan.
Donors TNP spoke to welcomed transparency, but many feel that giving is ultimately based on "good faith and trust".