That's how much donors gave to charities in 2006
Watchdog's report shows past scandals fail to erode generosity of givers
By Theresa Tan & Esther Tan
CHARITIES in Singapore earned $5.45 billion in 2006, a big jump from the $4.97 billion they drew in 2005.
Large, one-off donations - like the $100 million from the Khoo Teck Puat Foundation for a new hospital in Yishun - were a major reason for the rise, the Commissioner of Charities (COC) said in his annual report for last year.
The report, released yesterday, put paid to a popular perception: that donor fatigue, especially in the light of scandals involving big- name charities, had taken hold. In fact, individuals donated about 40 per cent more to Institutions of a Public Character (IPCs): $255 million last year, compared to $184 million in 2006. IPCs are charities that are allowed to give donors tax exemptions, such as the National Kidney Foundation.
The lion's share of the $5.45 billion earned in 2006 - 82 per cent - went to 65 large charities. Mainly religious groups, tertiary education institutions and health bodies, these outfits form a minuscule portion of the 1,890 charities here as of last year.
The New Creation Church, for example, told The Straits Times that its income from April 2006 to March last year was $42.8 million, compared to $40.1 million from April 2005 to March 2006. By contrast, about half of the charities here had annual incomes of under $250,000 in 2006.
The success of large charities in drawing big sums is due to their fund-raising machinery, brand name and other factors, say observers.
The surprise in the report, though, was the largesse shown by ordinary Singaporeans. Many charities had worried that there were just too many groups fighting for Joe Average's donation dollar, and that they would lose out. Just two weeks ago, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged more Singaporeans, especially those with means, to give to charities.
Chief executive of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre Tan Chee Koon said last year's robust economy may have contributed to increased giving.
She added: 'The good news is that we are moving towards a more informed giving public that is able to look beyond individual charities that got into trouble to the larger body of those that are focused on doing good well.'
IPCs received about $820 million in tax-deductible donations last year, up from $535 million in 2006.
Besides attracting more individual donations, IPCs also drew more support from companies, which gave $565 million last year, up from $457 million in 2006.
Charities derive income from donations, government grants and service fees, among other things.
The report also detailed work done by the COC to beef up the sector. Three groups - Children of Singapore Foundation, Children's Leukaemia Foundation and Club Sunshine - were shut down after 'serious irregularities and suspicious transactions in the administration of these charities were found'.
A probe into financial irregularities at the Ren Ci Hospital & Medicare Centre resulted in criminal charges being filed against its former head, Buddhist monk Ming Yi, and two others a fortnight ago.
Last year, the COC and its partners held governance reviews of 56 charities, aimed at helping them improve the way they are run.