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No. 27 Jan-Feb 2009

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SALT No. 27 Jan-Feb 2009

Chimp Champ in Urban Singapore One extraordinary woman’s research on chimpanzees created a global movement for positive environmental change. The Jane Goodall Institute Singapore office took off when it received an NVPC New Initiative Grant. Check out its first AsiaNEW Pacific Conference in June. INITIATIVES

DEPARTMENTS 2

LETTER FROM SALT

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NEWS BRIEFS A wrap-up of events, programmes and activities in the People Sector.

GRANT RECIPIENT

ON THE COVER The recession blues are only just starting to nip. The forecast is not pretty and charities and nonprofits are urged to belt up and prepare for the bumpy ride ahead. BRAEMA MATHI considers the mandatory safety-belt landscape and the opportunities in this recession. Pages 10-16

SALT SHAKERS AND MOVERS

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Nothing like a Very Important Passion you can pass on – volunteer by volunteer. The VIP Group continues to flourish and grow volunteers by providing human “help kits”. After 27 years, the informal group defines “strength in numbers”.

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PEOPLE SECTOR PEOPLE Recession or not, Alvin Lim is determined Bizlink Centre doubles its efforts to link businesses with services provided by the disabled.

The Hunt for Red Hot Ideas Arguably Asia’s richest ideas award, the Lien i3 Challenge is dangling a $1 million purse prize for brilliant non-profit ideas that can create positive social impact. Is a Singapore winner out there? Page 9

VOLUNTEER PROFILE

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WALK THE TALK The smartware wired into the Infocomm Accessibility Centre is from Microsoft. This sensible grouping of like-minded partners has spawned a one-stop IT school for people with disabilities.

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SALT AND PEPPER Board Member of WE CARE Community Services, Desmond Lum, challenges the community to take notice of the growing numbers of varied addiction cases in Singapore families.

A Matter of Stamina Unlike a sprinter, the long distance runner plans a focused race towards the finish line. Ang Bee Lian, CEO of the National Council of Social Service, charts the course for heightened demands on social services in challenging times.

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24 Land for a Good Idea

SALT KIT Trust your staff with making decisions instead of obsessing over Key Performance Indicators. Jack Sim argues strongly for both managers and staff to take ownership of their work – and how they work.

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SCENE AND SEEN

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SALT TIPS

Need space for your non-profit to grow? Here’s an unusual land use proposition – and it’s almost free to the smartest idea bid

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S A L T

SALT is a non-profit magazine with a managed circulation for members of non-profit organisations, grantmakers and companies in Singapore. Those interested in receiving a copy, please email salt@nvpc.org.sg. We regret that the print run prevents fulfilling all requests. International readers please email subscriber requests and mailing details. There will be an annual postage and handling charge for all international subscribers.

MANAGING EDITOR Laurence Lien

EDITOR Monica Gwee

CONTRIBUTORS Michelle Bong Desmond Lum Braema Mathi Wong Sher Maine

PUBLISHING CONSULTANT AND MEDIA REPRESENTATIVE Epigram SALT is published quarterly by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre 6 Eu Tong Sen Street #04-88 The Central Singapore 059817 Tel: 6550 9595 Fax: 6221 0625 Website: www.nvpc.org.sg Email: salt@nvpc.org.sg Copyright is held by the publisher. All rights reserved. Production in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The views and opinions expressed or implied in SALT are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher. Printed by Fabulous Printers MICA (P) 153/01/2008 ISSN No. 17933-4478 To advertise, please call Cynthia Tay at tel: 6292 4456 Email: cynthia@epigram.com.sg

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he bad news on the economic front is steadily increasing and shows no signs of abating anytime soon. The social impact of the downturn will no doubt, be felt by many non-profit organisations, whether in the form of increased difficulties in fund-raising or in increased workload of non-profit agencies. It is in times like these that we are each called to exercise leadership in ways that we can – in diagnosing the type of challenge that must be addressed, in mobilizing people to face these challenges, and in generating creative responses to progress forward. With this in mind, NVPC is launching the inaugural Social Leadership Singapore Programme 2009. This is an experiential and intense leadership programme to develop the leadership capacity of non-profit leaders. You can read about this programme on our website. In this SALT issue, we address head-on, the issues as well as opportunities that a recession brings. It is probably better to be over-prepared than to be under-prepared. But I think being prepared should not just be about trying harder to get our fair share of resources. It should also be about us investing in changes that can make each of our organisations stronger for the future and more effective in addressing the most pressing social needs. We can probably also try to work more creatively and collaborate actively with others. Many issues are too complex for us to tackle alone or even in small groups. We should partner other non-profits, as well as those outside the sector, working together and sharing scarce resources. It is also an important time to invest in better donor management, which can help us retain existing donors. At the same time, we should not focus only on the most urgent social problems and the needs of social service organisations, critical as they may be. We should continue to invest in charities whose work will impact on the long-term well-being of Singaporeans, for example, in the arts, the environment and sports, just to name a few. Many of these charities also provide respite from the crisis and can help to keep our optimism up. Last but not least, this is also a great time for each of us to reflect on our personal lives, and see if we need to recalibrate our values or re-focus on what we find personally meaningful and fulfilling.

Laurence Lien Chief Executive Officer National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre

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Reproduced with permission from ACRES

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A WRAP-UP OF HAPPENINGS AROUND SINGAPORE RSA volunteers brighten up the AWRC.

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ickets were $100 a pop, but community volunteers at SMRT roped in more than 1,400 generous companies and members of the public for a charity screening of the blockbuster James Bond film, “Quantum of Solace” in November 2008. The screening at Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, raised more than $87,000 for the SMRT’s ongoing Silver Tribute Fund. The brainchild of SMRT chief, Ms Saw Phaik Hwa, the fund, started in October last year, finances programmes for the elderly including physiotherapy, and support assistance for caregivers. It has since raised $170,000 through a series of fundraisers including monthly flag days and donation booths at SMRT stations and bus interchanges. SMRT staff continue to donate both cash and volunteer hours. Over 5,000 elderly beneficiaries and their caregivers are helped through the Fund including Ang Mo Kio Family Service Centres, the Singapore Leprosy Relief Association Home, HCA Hospice Care – Home Care Service and the Geylang East Home for the Aged. The Silver Tribute Fund ends in March 2009.

Happy givers at the charity film, “Quantum of Solace”.

SEMBCORP INDUSTRIES’ PLEDGE TO ASSISI HOSPICE

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embcorp Industries made the end of 2008 especially warm for the Assisi Hospice – it pledged itself as Assisi’s sponsor for the next three years. Some 50 Sembcorp volunteers are involved in a broad programme of active improvements through volunteer time and sponsorship at the hospice. The company donated $58,000 for various activities, including a cheerful Christmas party for the patients and a facelift for quiet, therapeutic areas in the hospice garden.

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Tang Kin Fei, Sembcorp Industries Group President & CEO, accepted a token of appreciation from a young Assisi patient during the festive celebrations attended by over 300 guests, patients, their families and friends. The Guest-ofhonour was Mr Hri Kumar Nair, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh. Tang Kin Fei, Sembcorp Industries Group President & CEO (left) and Guest-of-honour Hri Kumar Nair, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh at Assisi’s Christmas party, with a young Assisi patient.

SUN AND ACRES FOR ANIMALS

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ome 24 volunteers from the Royal and Sun Alliance insurance company braved the mud to help out at the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) Wildlife Rescue Centre at Jalan Lekar. This is the first time the company is volunteering at the centre’s 2-acre site. For two days on 18 and 19 November, the volunteers set up an organic garden to grow food for rescued animals. They also made a "Pledge Tree" for children to hang promises made to the animals during public visitor days. The tree will now be a permanent feature. ACRES also conducts educational talks in schools, alerting students not to keep wild life as pets. To cap off a feel-good day outdoors, the volunteers made over the interior of the Education Centre with a bright new coat of paint.


Smart Recycling I

Photo credit: Melvin Koo

Photo credit: Sembcorp Industries

Guest-of-honour, MP for Yio Chu Kang, Mr Seng Han Thong (right) presenting a token of appreciation to the volunteers from the Yio Chu Kang Nurture Programme Group, with FairPrice Group CEO Tan Kian Chew (left).

t’s hard to think how high a waste pile 1.6 million used textbooks would build. That’s the number of used books NTUC FairPrice has collected over 26 years for its phenomenally successful Used Textbook Project. Over 120,000 students have benefited from the donation of these books. The latest drive was from 12-30 December last year. All NTUC FairPrice supermarkets and hypermarkets were involved as donation points. A record 150,000 used textbooks were donated and the books were distributed in two stages to priority registered needy students on 6 December and to the public on 9 December 2008. A total of 11,500 people snapped up the textbooks. For the first time, NTUC FairPrice worked with four Community Partner schools, involving over 200 student volunteers who helped with the sorting and distribution. The partner schools were: Yio Chu Kang Secondary, Swiss Cottage Secondary, Saint Anthony’s Canossian Secondary and Zhang De Primary School. To close the smart circle, all uncollected textbooks were sent for recycling.

BEYOND ACHIEVEMENT

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ver 300 people filled the Spring Singapore Auditorium on 12 December 2008 to recognise the academic efforts of the children and youths of Beyond Social Services. The graduation celebrations capped months of hard work from the students ranging from K2 Kindergarten, Primary 6 and N/O Level students. Jointly organised by Spring and Beyond, the ceremony included live performances by the Beyond Choir and children from the Healthy Start Child Development Centre. Later, the families were treated to a buffet dinner and rushed to snap pictures in the designated photo-taking corners. Teo Nam Kuan (right), Group Director, Quality and Standards & President of Sports & Wellness Committee SPRING Singapore, presents certificates and gifts to a proud graduate, Isa Bin Mohd Said.

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The More, the Merrier

Want to volunteer but not sure how? Take a tip and ask the VIPs. After 27 years, the informal Volunteers Initiator Persons (VIP) group, relentlessly continues to grow Singapore’s volunteer pool by working together. MICHELLE BONG reports.

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ould-be volunteers looking to start a new group and do their bit for their special causes will be happy to know there’s a very hands-on and very human “help kit” available. The Volunteers Initiator Persons (VIP) workgroup’s unique ethos is simple and effective: “strength in numbers”. If ever there was a poster-child organisation representing the consolidation of individual strengths and expertise within the people sector for a common good, this 27-year old (and still going strong) workgroup would be it. VIP initiates, facilitates and inducts more people into volunteerism through sharing personal volunteering experience and inspirational stories.

“ As long as we feel we can help to create avenues for people to volunteer, we will come together to make it happen.” Poh Hwee Hian is VIP’s co-chairperson. She says their 21-member strong group comprises business and sales executives, teachers, civil servants, management staff, technical officers and finance managers in their early 20s to 50s. “Most of us met and came together through various volunteer networking events such as workshops and forums or were introduced to the group by other volunteers,” says Poh. “We were already volunteering individually but we wanted to contribute more by encouraging others to take that first step to becoming a volunteer. As long as we feel we can help to create avenues for people to volunteer, we will come together to make it happen.” Their modus operandi is simple: when

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Volunteer Orientation sessions. The group has also rolled out talks, seminars, exhibitions, carnivals, volunteer exchange overseas programmes and ad-hoc projects such as wheelchair donations to the destitute elderly of Ghana, Africa. One of VIP’s bright ideas is the from right: Poh Hwee Office Hour Volunteers programme, they hear or are informed Second Hian with VIPs at a retreat. which targets homemakers, retirees, about Voluntary Welfare shift workers, the self-employed and anyone Organisations (VWO) wanting to set up with available time during daytime office a new group, and if they find that they hours to volunteer with volunteer organisahave the capacity to help, VIP gets into tions that operate only during office hours. action. They leverage on their individual “With more people expected to be networks and personal experiences to in-between jobs over the next couple of reach out to potential volunteers through months, this is definitely an area where recruitment and training. people can make good use of the free time This involves sharing what it takes to on their hands. Many volunteer groups carry out the volunteer’s role, a vital step and non-profits will be glad for the that prepares new volunteers for what additional help!” Poh says. they might expect. VIP members become VIP’s efforts have successfully estabthe bridge between the VWO staff lished volunteer structures in at least 10 and new volunteers. In a nutshell, VIP different organisations, including Hong focuses on helping new volunteers learn Lim CC Senior Citizens Club, Bright Hill how to serve effectively. Evergreen Home, Sree Narayana Home This, they say, complements the efforts and the Salvation Army Library Enterprise. of VWOs or non-profits who “tend to Not surprisingly, VIP’s efforts clinched focus on the task of helping their benefithe Singapore Youth Award 2005, the ciaries”. VIP members handhold new volunhighest youth accolade commending young teers considerably. To sustain the effort, people who open new horizons in their VIP goes beyond establishing the core exemplary service to the community. group of volunteers – they also help identify “We believe in our vision and are potential leaders. Once the project is deeply aware that it is a great privilege to underway with core leaders in place, VIP be able to give, to serve and to contribute withdraws and allows the core group to our part in helping to transform lives,” manage their own volunteer resources says Poh. and self-renewal efforts. When and “We see ourselves in the business of where necessary, they provide guidance. planting the seeds of volunteerism. If we VIP works out of the National Voluncan plant 10 today, we will plant 10. If teer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) we can’t plant 10, then we will just plant premises, helping the national body with one. Every single seed may blossom into volunteer orientation. Team meetings are a great volunteer leader in time to come. held on weekday evenings. There are activiThat keeps us going!” ✩ ties and events – such as NVPC’s bi-monthly


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Mr Matchmaker

Recession or not, Alvin Lim is determined to continue helping people with disabilities find suitable employment, financial independence and greater self esteem. By MICHELLE BONG.

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t was the last, personal hurdle and once Alvin Lim cleared it, his vision and mission solidified. After 20 years in the corporate sector, holding key positions in large Japanese, American and Korean multinational corporations, Lim had acquired the Singapore markers of success – the cool home, the sleek car, club membership, sound credit and all the other trappings. He then decided to join Bizlink Centre Singapore (BCS) full-time. The charity links people with disabilities to supportive individuals and corporations offering employment. Lim, the soft spoken father of four children aged eight to 15, has been the chief executive officer of Bizlink since 2006. His conviction is simple: people with disabilities can work and should be assisted to work, and to integrate into mainstream society. He saw how he could use the leadership and management skills honed from his corporate career, to lead others in a community goal to find work for the disabled who are able to work within a supportive atmosphere.

“ On average, each ‘abled disabled’ in Bizlink’s sheltered workshop can productively contribute about $10,000 a year to the economy.” Bizlink operates under the credo that jobs provide, not just income to people with disabilities, but they also mean independence, dignity and integration into mainstream society. The disabled have various degrees of abilities that may be tapped to fulfil job requirements through open, supported or

sheltered employment. But Lim is clear on this point: “Many people with disabilities working in supported and sheltered employment, can only get employed with the immediate and tireless help of the community at large,” he said. Back in 1985, the then Ministry of Community Development (MCD) revealed that among 4,385 “persons with disabilities” surveyed, 2,416 (55.1%) were unemployed. A year later, MCD and the then-Singapore Council of Social Service (SCSS), jointly set up a project to establish employment programmes for persons with disabilities. And in 1995, Bizlink Centre Singapore Ltd was formally incorporated as a charity. Today, Bizlink is professionally manned by a team of psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers who assess the vocational skills of clients to improve their opportunities with a job match. A free employment placement programme seeks jobs for clients. Those who aren’t ready to work in commercial companies are directed towards valuable work contributions in a sheltered workshop. Vocation assessment, employment placement and sheltered workshop programmes are fully funded by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the National Council of Social Service through the Community Chest. “I was surprised to see that there were many misconceptions about people with

disabilities, and often the abilities of these clients seem to be buried, even to those working within the social space,” Lim noted. “I wanted to change these misconceptions.” Under his leadership, Bizlink endeavours to showcase the abilities of the “abled disabled”, proving how they can make a difference to companies even as they enjoy financial independence as contributors to society. On average, each of the clients in Bizlink’s sheltered workshop can productively contribute about $10,000 per annum to the economy. Lim concedes that the effect of the economic uncertainties in the year ahead is already kicking in. “This downturn differs from other recessions we have seen, but the business world and the social space remain very much intertwined,” Lim pointed out. “We have seen more disabled people coming to us for job enquiries. It is a busy time for us,” he said. But a crisis is the best time for action, and Lim urges volunteers who can contribute their time and expertise to continue coming forward to support the disabled as Bizlink steps up efforts to promote employment related programs. To make employment a sustainable cause for many more, Bizlink is exploring the possibility of forming a non-profit Social Enterprise entity – separate from the charity. This entity would cast a wider net to help persons with disabilities, the elderly, the mentally challenged, ex-convicts and single parents. He believes this will help reduce business risks and costs to business owners while creating more jobs for this needy group. “You have to know where your calling is, and put your heart into it,” he said. ✩

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Enabling the Disabled

A one-stop IT school for the disabled provides trainees with job-ready skills. Just six months into term, WONG SHER MAINE checks out Microsoft’s $1 million gift and its renewed commitment.

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his is the vision: A one-stop shop where people with disabilities in Singapore can gather to receive IT training so they can find jobs in the computer field. Enter software giant Microsoft with cash and software. The idea first took shape in 2007 when the Singapore chapter of Microsoft worked together with the Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) to set up a centre at the society’s Tiong Bahru headquarters, to provide computer training for the disabled. “The technology we have means we are in a unique position to help these people,” said Wee Choo Hua, Microsoft’s Director of Corporate Affairs. “Microsoft’s mission is about enabling businesses and people to realise their full potential,” he added. Why the SPD? At the time, the society was already working on a government initiative to provide structured IT training for the disabled. Microsoft proved the perfect partner.

“ Even against this economic backdrop, we won’t scale back on our efforts and we have a few more projects in the pipeline.” The initiative grew – as the Infocomm Development Authority, the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) and the National Council of Social Service joined in to become partners. The result was the Infocomm Accessibility Centre, or IA Centre. The centre was officially launched in July 2008 by MCYS Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

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workers and contributing members of our community,” said Mr See Cher, SPD President, at the launch of the IA Centre. Visually impaired Mr Francis Chua, 56, who was retrenched 3½ years ago from his administrative job and has been jobless since, has just undergone Disadvantaged but not useless, three months of training Since then, the IA a trainee at the IA centre. at the IA Centre. There, Centre, which serves those he picked up new skills in manipulating with physical, developmental, visual computer charts, preparing PowerPoint or hearing-related disabilities, is on presentations and earned himself an schedule with a $12.7 million development industry-recognised computing certificate. plan over the next three years. Microsoft, “I’m not useless. I may be disadvanas a corporate partner, has pumped in taged but I am capable,” said Mr Chua. $1 million. “I’m trying to get back into an office A fifth of the amount is dedicated career and I certainly feel more equipped to providing scholarships to disabled with what I have learnt.” trainees who may want to pursue further To date, over 200 people have underindustry certification, polytechnic gone training at the centre and of those, diplomas or university degrees in IT. 10 of them have found jobs. Mr Chua is Microsoft also creates the training curriculum and provides the all-important not yet one of them. It may not seem an impressive software. These tools include programs statistic but no one is disheartened at the which allow the physically disabled to IA Centre. “It is an encouraging response dictate commands to the computer, and as we had started slowly. The centre was for the visually disabled to hear onscreen only officially launched last July,” Mr text. They are precisely what enables the Wee explained. trainees to be just as adept as their ableMr Wee suggests current economic bodied counterparts in computer work. Among the useful skills trainees pick challenges may have had direct impact on job opportunities. But he emphasised up are word processing, how to manage a that the state of the economy would database, prepare a presentation, digital not affect Microsoft’s support of the imaging, web animation and graphic design. IA Centre. “Every person with disability should “Even against this economic be equipped with minimal basic IT skills backdrop, it’s important to give back the so they can understand today’s working community. We won’t scale back on our language and the current digital world. efforts and we have a few more projects With other skills and opportunities, they in the pipeline,” said Mr Wee. ✩ can participate in our society as full-fledged


$1 Million Purse in Ideas Challenge Singapore’s biggest “ideas award” for non-profits is dangling a cool $1 million for the Lien i3 Challenge. This is arguably Asia’s first serious ideas challenge for non-profits. Is there a Singapore winner out there?

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he Lien Centre for Social Innovation is putting its money where its mouth is: a $1 million prize bag to propel powerful non-profit ideas onto a genuine flight path. A partnership between the Lien Foundation and the Singapore Management University, the Lien Centre officially launches its Lien i3 Challenge this month in its extensive search for the three “I”s – Innovation, Impact and Implementation in a social project from the non-profit sector. It’s an intriguing challenge full of endless possibilities towards that “big idea”. For starters, the landscape is deliberately left wide and largely undefined. Here’s a tip: the panel of judges is looking for an original, hopefully, big idea with clear execution and sustainability. “It has to be innovative – that’s the crux of what the Challenge is. But there are all kinds of innovations – big and small,” said Sharifah Maisharah Binte Mohamed, the Lien Centre executive responsible for the Challenge. “We want to go for the ones that make the bigger difference, so a key criteria is impact.” And here are some pointers: a creative idea may be an existing one not very well done currently. Or it could be something entirely new whose time has come, but which requires both resources and some considered “coaching” to take flight. How do you, for example, take a social project several steps further by gearing up so that a specific programme or a non-profit cause held back by resources, can flourish and move onto a more powerful level? A part answer: join forces and work with someone else, another group or another driven and inspired individual already ploughing the same productive field. “There are great ideas, crazy ideas, wishy washy ones. The real value of the ideas is in their practicality and the implementa-

tion. We didn’t want to burden the judges and applicants with a whole list of criteria,” Sharifah added. “We believe there are many good ideas out there, and we don’t think we can come up with all the ideas,” said Chairman of the Lien Centre, Willie Cheng. “Most quality ideas need to be thought through and consolidated into an action plan, so we will be looking out for these original and actionable elements in the proposals in Stage One.” “We have tried to keep the requirements pretty broad and open. This gives everyone the opportunity to come in. As for productivity – we’re asking for a two-page summary of the idea and we will tell you whether you get to the next stage,” said Mr Cheng. The i3 Challenge is open to any individual, group or organisation, preferably, but not exclusively, within Asia. However, the idea or programme must, primarily, benefit one or more communities in Asia. The requirements of the challenge also encourage creative ways to work in teams, what Sharifah describes as “friendly rivalry”. “The scope is broad on purpose. We welcome all ideas, big or small, it really depends on the depth of the projects proposed. That usually means people working together to make something bigger and better and with significant impact,” she noted. Too often, non-profit groups jostle and collide with one another on the same playing field, frequently duplicating programmes and projects. In a bid to defuse egos and focus on thinking bigger, better, best in terms of concepts, resource planning and action, the Challenge hopes to dislodge the sometimes petty jealousies and “blind spot” tendencies many non-profits get trapped into in their bid to survive or compete for funding. Impact is another way of saying “looking for returns”. And the judges are not

simply seeking better performance numbers, but analysing the skills imparted and the lasting reach of the project on the people it involves. The prize money is meant to provide scale, scope and implementation for the winning social project. But it’s not necessarily a case of winner takes all. If the top contender does not need the full $1 million for the project, the prize purse will be spread over more than one winning idea. The implementation time frame is one full calendar year following the prize award. Progressing in three stages, the i3 Challenge has a 31 March 2009 deadline for a two-page proposal submission. By August, the judges will have their shortlist. At this stage, some “coaching” may kick in to fine-tune submitted proposals. Shortlisted contenders will also receive $1,000 to develop their ideas further before a final round of judging in September. THE DEADLINES ARE: Stage 1: Idea Outline 31 March 2009 Stage 2: Idea Development 31 August 2009 Stage 3: Idea Implementation From October 2009 THE JUDGING PANEL: Willie Cheng, Chairman, Lien Centre for Social Innovation at SMU Paul Chan, former Managing Director, Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific Pte Ltd Robert Chew, former partner, Accenture and Vice-Chairman SATA Chris Cusano, Director, Ashoka Entrepreneur-toEntrepreneur Program (E2E) in Asia Lee Poh Wah, Chief Executive Officer, Lien Foundation Peter Khoo, Vice President & Head, Editorial Projects/English and Malay Newspapers Division, Singapore Press Holdings Limited Thomas Menkhoff, Practice Associate Professor of Management, Singapore Management University Tan Chee Koon, Board member, National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre Tan Chi Chiu, Physician of Gastroenterology, Gleneagles Hospital, and Vice Chairman, Make-A-Wish Foundation Kevin Teo, Founding Partner and Director, Volans

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BELT UP, PLAN YOUR ROUTE This recession is no time for hand-wringing or inertia. All signs point to a timely review of non-profit practices and services. BRAEMA MATHI surveys the landscape and considers the opportunities for positive change.

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These certainly seem like bleak times. People have lost large sums in their nest eggs, companies are struggling to retain staff, people are losing jobs, some costs are still rising and governments are hard-pushed to right the economic crisis. Just into 2009, the news isn’t all bad – for now. The charity sector is still receiving donations and while many may have begun to feel uncomfortable, there is still time to belt up and prepare for leaner times ahead. Consider the findings of a recent survey conducted by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). Conducted between November and December last year, it sought to assess how the non-profit sector was coping following the turmoil in financial markets in the last few months of 2008. One key finding in the survey: nine in 10 organisations have yet to cut back on programmes even as they braced themselves for the expected shortfall in donations. Most welfare charities are managing a marked rise in clients looking for help with rent and utility payments, employment and money problems. However, almost all the survey’s non-profit participants expected donations to fall by between 25 and 75 per cent in the six months ahead. GET LEAN, GET FIT So, for now at least, fingers are off the panic button. Generally, the non-profit sector is aware cost-cutting scenarios are going to be the immediate reality. That means planning.

“ There is an urgent need for the non-profit sector to be better prepared to deal with this crisis.” Laurence Lien, Chief Executive, NVPC PC

At the Lions Befrienders, which runs a Befrienders and an Outreach programme for 3,500 elderly clients, some hard-nosed decisions were taken to park their charity dollars in the right places. “We only spend when absolutely necessary,” said Jennifer Yee, Executive Director at Lions. “For example, we sold our van even though that gives us greater convenience. We rationalised the parking and insurance cost as quite a hefty sum to pay.”

Almost all the non-profits surveyed recently by NVPC expected donations to fall by between 25 and 75 per cent in the year ahead..

The non-profit now rents vans for events and its transport needs for clients and staff. These “operational audits” are one way non-profits can start responding to challenges ahead. Internal audits on services and practices will require quite a brutal examination of resources and service deliveries. Each organisation has to make hard objective calls on what works best for them. In the case of Lions, they decided against moving out of their current premises into rent-free office space provided by certain shopping malls for non-profit use. “We decided to stay put because our current location below a HDB void deck, although less comfortable and prestigious than an office in a shopping mall, still costs us much less. The Service & Conservancy charges at the malls are not exactly cheap compared to what we are enjoying at the void deck,” Ms Yee explained. She points to a culture of prudence within the Lions Befrienders – keeping costs low and maximising on resources

already available. Operating on an annual $1.7 million budget, the organisation has a list of other measures to cut costs to maintain its two main programmes. These include even smaller economies such as opting for thinner paper for reports, printing only in black and white, and forgoing the hardcopy printing of the annual report. And of course, the group will increase fund-raising efforts. “We keep our eyes peeled for grants and do not mind the paperwork of writing proposals seeking donations. We are also prepared, in the worst case scenario, to eat into our reserves, which will last only a year,” said Ms Yee. REFLECT, THEN PLAN The new Chief Executive at NVPC, Laurence Lien, commends such re-evaluation of resources, practices and services from non-profits, and credits those who are actively planning their route forward. He predicts that the direct impact of this crisis has only just begun. “There is a silver lining in such a crisis. People have lost a lot of wealth. Jobs will be lost. There is likely to be a spiral effect. We will need to prepare our sector to become more pro-active and stay ahead of this curve, and not wait till the charity dollar shrinkage hits us,” said Mr Lien, previously Director of Governance and Investment at the Ministry of Finance. “It’s a time to reflect, become introspective and assess the role of the organisation, cut back on what we may not be doing as effectively, and focus on core areas of work. They will need leadership,” he said. Mr Lien offers non-profits three recession-smart guiding principles: Quality over quantity: Do less, which involves a harder scrutiny on how effective the organisation’s work has been and the effectiveness of existing programmes. Charities should cut down on programmes that are less impactful. Work creatively and collaborate with others: Do better, with less. This could mean experimenting with new strategies, or working at plans to enhance the contributions of time and resources volunteers bring to the organisation. Jan-Feb 2009 S A LT •

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Explore sharing resources with other non-profits to save on costs and resources. In extreme cases, a smaller non-profit may even consider merging with stronger ones. Manage key stakeholders, especially donors: Become more effective at fundraising by diversifying donor sources and investing in a better donor management system. Be unafraid to try new fundraising strategies, eg, online donations and converting volunteers into donors and fundraisers. THE BIGGER PICTURE But the bigger challenge is to drive home the message that this financial meltdown is deep, longer-lasting, and with an impact felt across the board. Mr Lien wants the message of the severity of this crisis to hit home

In October 2008, The Resource Alliance and The Management Centre, an international consulting firm, developed a survey report which suggested these guidelines and tips for non-profits during a downturn. The strategic and tactical decisions made by charities will have more influence on their fortunes than the recession itself. Charities have more control than they think they do, so long as they focus on the fundamentals of their programmes. Do not panic and focus on the long-term.

Board members and senior management need to understand the current financial data and stop making unrealistic expectations.

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“In this kind of mood, it would be good for agencies, especially those with very similar causes, to do more collaborative fundraising.” Ang Bee Lian, Chief Executive, NCSS S

Work like a for-profit organisation and accept reduced short-term growth in service expenditures to gain increased longterm growth. Develop messages, themes and scripts around why you need your donors now more than ever, and offer downgrading or payment holidays for donors who might otherwise not give or cancel their gifts. Strengthen current partnerships to weather the storm rather than look for new ones. Look at what you do best and focus on that before trying a new tactic. Examine where your money comes from and concentrate on high-yield activities. Focus on the big areas— regular giving and major gifts. Drop all other marginal or unprofitable activities that won’t provide significant long-term benefits.

so that all sectors are better prepared. He says the scenarios for an economic recovery do not now just include being a U-shaped model, but also an L-shaped one. This suggests a prolonged period of stagnation on the horizontal. “There is an urgent need for the non-profit sector to be better prepared to deal with this crisis, ahead of its time,” Mr Lien pointed out. Singapore cannot be spared in this crisis. In a Business Times report, Dr Tony Tan, Deputy Chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, warned that the results of any economic adjustments “could take a couple of years and could be very painful”. Global unemployment figures and the costs of business failures continue to rise. Against this backdrop, the nonprofit sector is vulnerable. Corporate

Invest time, intelligence and money in massively improving the donor experience with the charity. Remind donors that they are wanted, needed and appreciated. The survey was conducted online last April, with respondants from North America, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia and the Middle East. A total of 94 out of 100 fundraisers responded. Care was taken to avoid any American or European bias. For more information, visit the Association of Fundraising Professional’s website: www.afpnet.org.

The Management Centre is a global management consulting firm working exclusively with nonprofits with offices in the UK, USA, Australia, Singapore, Brazil and Mexico. The Resource Alliance is a UK-registered charity whose mission is to build fundraising capabilities of the nonprofit sector worldwide.


funding will be badly hit, given grim performance results worldwide. Foundation funds and private donations from individuals are also affected as investment and disposal incomes shrink. Without dismissing the serious mood, Ang Bee Lian, Chief Executive of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), suggests both perspective and action. “With all difficult times, we must still hold on to a sense of hope. That is derived from our understanding of human nature. We find in tough times, that we always have additional capacity within,” Ms Ang believes. “Some people actually give a lot more during difficult times. In this kind of mood, it would be good for agencies, especially those with very similar causes, to do more collaborative fundraising,” she recommends. Indeed, a 40-year study on how economic crises affects the charity dollar in America, suggests donations ring in almost disproportionately to the economic difficulties people face. In a recent article in “Giving USA Spotlight” (Issue 3, 2008), the study analysed charity giving statistics between 1967 and 2007. It found the average rate of change in giving in the US during a recession, fell only by 1 per cent after adjusting for inflation. Even in the worst recession year for giving in the study period, 1974, contributions fell only a total of 5.4 per cent. The average growth in giving between 1967 and 2007 was 2.8 per cent. During the years without a recession, giving increased an average of 4.3 per cent. The study revealed that Foundations, the biggest contributors to the American charity pie, averaged a giving rate of 4.3 per cent over 40 years. During recession years, this fell by only 1 per cent on average. Corporations on the other hand, gave 1.8 per cent less in the lean years than their average 3.2 per cent giving rate.

The study highlights other possible parallels for Singapore. It points to social services showing a higher rate of growth in giving during recessions. But the arts, health and education, face a tougher time in wooing the charity dollar during such slowdowns. Indeed, in the US report, giving to education institutions show falls during recessions.

National generosity also cannot be underestimated in Singapore. During the 2001 recession here, charity donations increased by 17 per cent. During the 2003 SARS episode, donations rose by 34 per cent.

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“Singaporeans are giving by nature and have in the past, responded to previous downturns by giving more,” Mr Lien concedes. “But this time, we could be heading for a long and deep recession. It is important to keep the information flow strong and to inform donors of non-profits which are not doing so well, and encourage them to give to these groups,” he said. “We want to encourage donors to donate now, because they can make a bigger difference with each donor dollar now at a time when needs are increasing and when others may be cutting down on their donations,” said Mr Lien. REFLECT, FOCUS There are 1,900 charities and non-profits here. Although driven by committed and well-meaning individuals, the message to charities to “toughen up” must get through. The survival of their beneficiaries is at stake. For a small non-profit like the Eurasian Association, which manages two programmes for needy families and runs forums on parenting and self-esteem for its 17,000 members, the time has come to leverage on funding from government sources through the various schemes already on offer. While it taps on government funds, the Eurasian community and donors, the Association is keen to save costs by running skill-upgrading courses with other self-help groups also focused on helping their ethnic members. The Association is also planning on more serious fundraising for 2009. “We have not gone out in a big way to raise funds. Now for 2009, the year we have planned to do so, we will have to work harder to raise funds. We need to take better care of our elderly members whose families are no longer here to care for them,” says the Association’s President, Mr Edward D’Silva. ASK FOR GIFTS OF TIME It will be challenging for regular donors to maintain their donation levels. Those who can give, Mr Lien noted, need to give more. Companies, Foundations and individuals can also give more of their time to bolster the non-profit sector.

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A spokesman from transport company SMRT confirms the company is committed to matching the amount its employees raise for its two-year old Silver Tribute Fund aimed at supporting the elderly and their caregivers. To date employees have raised $170,000 for eight beneficiaries. This year SMRT donated more than $3.6 million in cash and kind to individuals and charity organisations. Major bank, HSBC, along with other banks, has felt the sting of the financial turmoil. But HSBC is committed to its Chinese New Year festivities for the elderly, and will uphold its donations to the Community Chest and the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund among other charity beneficiaries. The donations will be complemented with the bank’s formidable staff volunteer force who will continue to donate time and expertise through the bank’s Volunteers@ HSBC programme. Individuals, companies and businesses committed to their adopted charities may be reviewing charity budgets reluctantly. However, it provides an ideal climate for non-profits to ask for more volunteers, volunteer expertise and volunteer programmes. If people can’t give money, they may be more than willing to give more time. Volunteers are precious assets for non-profits during a downturn and their contributions should not be underestimated. For the more established nonprofits and charities fortunate enough to have reserves, this may well be the time to dip in. “Reserves are meant for a rainy day,” NVPC’s Chairman, Stanley Tan, said to guests at the annual NVPC Volunteerism Awards last November. “When a rainy day comes, we should be prepared to use reserves, if it is necessary,” Mr Tan urged the gathering of non-profits. He asked for a spirit of collective will within the sector in the face of challenges ahead. “It’s important that the government, the non-profits, and private donors all step up to help the people they care about.” ✩

“When a rainy day comes, we should be prepared to use reserves, if it is necessary...It’s important that the government, the non-profits, and private donors all step up to help the people they care about.” Stanley Tan, Chairman, NVPC

The writer is currently a consultant for the non-profit sector. A former Nominated Member of Parliament, she has been a volunteer for more than 20 years and is the current chairperson of MARUAH (Singapore Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights).


The news is good from three of Singapore’s family Foundations. All say there will be no cut back in funding or programmes. But while grants are set to increase in the year ahead, these Foundations view the recession as another reason to closely examine how well they give, and how well their grants are used by beneficiaries. Singapore’s most well-known family Foundation, the Lee Foundation, already noticed the rise in the number of funding appeals from charities towards the end of 2008. “Yes, we have been receiving more appeals and expect even more,” said Dr Lee Seng Gee, Chairman of the Lee Foundation. “And we will be giving more during this recession. But the priority will be for the welfare of the poor and needy, and for education,” he noted. There will be no grant or programme cuts “for deserving causes” at the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. “We budget based on annual donation and sustainable projects,” said Ms Yap Su-Yin, the Foundation’s Programme Director. “We remain focused and informed in our giving and keep to our ‘model’ to be a catalyst and driver – other than being just a donor. The donation is made with a clear understanding of how the money is best used to assist deserving causes,” she explained. In anticipation of the social impact of the recession, the Foundation recently commissioned a report, “Aiding Needy Students Better – A case study of Singapore and Hong Kong”, to analyse currently available assistance schemes and to identify areas of critical needs for the students. “This will help inform our giving in 2009, so that the Foundation’s donations remain focused and relevant. The report is ready and we are acting on it,” said Ms Yap. The findings are available on its website www.tanchintuan.com. The Lien Foundation also expects it will give more in 2009 than last year. “We have always been conservative in grantmaking,” the Foundation’s Chief Executive, Lee Poh Wah pointed out. “We have an operating reserve that enables us to steadily support the causes and communities we’re engaged with, despite the troubled economy,” he said.

The schedule of programmes the Foundation and its subsidiaries such as LienAid and the Lien Centre for Social Innovation, will go full steam ahead. “We are pretty tenacious and unflinching in the causes we serve,” Mr Lee says. “Our philanthropic activities are resilient, as we generally engineer projects at our own pace in areas that are ‘immune’ to recession - big intractable problems that are always present.” Mr Lee from the Lien Foundation views the current crisis mood as an opportunity. “We believe it’s during these bleak and uncertain times that some system changing ideas can take root. For us, we will harness IT to restructure & build stronger nonprofits, so they are able to provide more & better services with fewer resources,” he said. The five largest family Foundations in Singapore are the Lee Foundation, the Shaw Foundation, the Khoo Teck Puat Foundation, the Lien Foundation and the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. Based on 2007 financial statements, the top four had more than $450 million in cash reserves. – By Monica Gwee

We remain focused and informed in our giving and keep to our ‘model’ to be a catalyst and driver – other than being just a donor. The donation is made with a clear understanding of how the money is best used to assist deserving causes. Yap Su Yin, Tan Chin Tuan Foundation

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KEY FINDINGS NVPC SURVEY(JUNE – DEC 08) 42.9%

Expect More As Expected

25%

Expect Less by 25% Expect Less by 50%

14.3% 7.1%

53.6% Compared to same period last year Fall in Donations Dip by 25% Dip by 50%

25%

Dip by 75%

10.7% 0%

92.9%

No Yes

7.0%

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Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots

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ane Goodall is world famous, yet here, hers is perhaps, a name better known to students in schools offering the “Gifted” Programme. That may be because Jane Goodall is on the curriculum in elite schools. Globally, this extraordinary and courageous woman who compelled world attention with her research work with chimpanzees in East Africa, is a powerful influence on education and research on the environment. The Jane Goodall Institute Singapore (JGIS) office is the first and only one in South-east Asia and is the 25th office globally. The 26th opened after Singapore – in Africa. The first Asia office was established in Taiwan a decade ago, followed by others in China, Japan, Hongkong and Australia.

“ We struggle to get Singaporean volunteers. They say they don’t have the time, or they are unsure about Board responsibilities. The Westerners, they just say, ‘You want help? Sign me up!’ ” In March 2008, JGIS received a New Initiative Grant from the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), following a lengthy process in trying to set up here. Ms Goodall herself had visited Singapore at the invitation of the Ministry of Education as far back as 2004. The Institute was registered as a society in 2007, but it wasn’t until the NVPC grant that things finally took off, enabling the Singapore office to open for “advancing the power of individuals to take

Photo Credit: Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)

One extraordinary woman’s research on chimpanzees created a global movement for positive environmental change. There are no chimps here but the Jane Goodall Institute is firmly seeded in this urban city. MONICA GWEE checks out its roots and shoots.

There are 385 active volunteers in the R&S groups here. Another 2,000 students volunteer in different capacities. The Singapore American School has the largest pool of active volunteers at over 200. The school’s highly successful recycling project is now a working model taught to other schools. Jane Goodall with volunteers In June, Dr Goodall will informed and compas- from Raffles Girls School. personally launch the Institute’s sionate action to improve first Asia-Pacific Conference in Singapore. the environment for all living things”. “We hope this will become the catalyst Dr Goodall’s mission strikes a chord for activities among the Asian offices,” among many student volunteers here. Hartung said. The three-day conference Richard Hartung is President of JGIS. The will coincide with the 150th anniversary Seattle native moved here in 1992, after of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. various work stints in Asia. He runs AsiaPay The conference will also gather R&S Solutions, a consulting firm focusing on groups throughout Asia, and it will sponsor credit cards and payment products and 16 nominated students and target 250 his position at JGIS is a voluntary one. students in all. “The message we give out is to “There are 38 to 39 environmental constantly improve the environment for groups here, what do we want to do animals and people,” he said. “Jane spends differently? We have global best practices, much of her time lecturing and encourtemplates and work plans for green aging young people to make a difference projects and local and global networks to in their world.” offer. Locally, even the different groups There are already 16 school volundon’t talk to each other, so we hope teer groups here including an Early Years the June conference will help start the Montessori pre-school group and one at the dialogue,” Hartung said. National University of Singapore. These The June event is JGIS’s first major volunteers are all proud Roots & Shoots fundraiser. Hartung admits it has been (R&S) members. The R&S groups are a easier to tap into the expatriate community Jane Goodall “badge” in over 100 countries for non-school volunteers. worldwide and they have captured the “We struggle to get Singaporean imagination and creative drive of students volunteers,” says Hartung. “They say they working on community projects. don’t have the time, or they are unsure Each R&S group creates three about the responsibilities of Board projects a year. Ideas vary widely from membership. The Westerners, they just recycling awareness and lower energy use say, “You want help? Sign me up!” ✩ tips for HDB residents in Pippit Road, to an “animal” project at the Bukit Timah For information on the JGI AsiaNature Reserve, and sensory nature trips Pacific Conference and dinner in June in to Pulau Ubin for the blind. Singapore, email hartung@starhub.net.sg

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We Recover Together

One in five families here is affected by someone else’s addiction problems. And it’s not just drugs or alcohol. DESMOND LUM, board member of WE CARE Community Services, challenges the community to wake up and take notice of the growing numbers. BY

DESMOND LUM SENIOR PORTFOLIO MANAGER L I O N G LOBAL I NVESTORS L TD

Salt and pepper shakers from a private collection.

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revention is better than cure. This is certainly true in the case of addiction. At this time of unemployment and financial anxiety, heightened pressures weigh heavily on many in our community. For those suffering from or affected by addictive diseases, the tension must be peaking. A RAND study in the United States calculated that for every $1 spent on the treatment of addictions, society saves $7 in terms of costs of detention time, family welfare, and school support services among other benefits. Many addicts and their loved ones simply don’t know where they can turn to for help without feeling condemned or embarrassed by their situation. This is why I agreed to volunteer with the nondenominational WE CARE (Centre for Addiction Recovery and Education) Community Services as a Board member. Our organisation focuses on an often hidden and privately shameful area labelled addiction issues. One in five families here is affected by someone’s abuse problems. These include one or multiple forms of addiction including internet gaming, chatting or pornography, gambling, alcohol, smoking, sex, compulsive eating, drugs and even shopping. These figures don’t include the more “accepted” form of addiction – work. We focus on addiction as a disease that is treatable. WE CARE finds it has been providing more programming, more crisis intervention, and more crisis counselling to both recovering addicts and their families. WE CARE was originally under the

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auspices of the Community Addictions Management Program at The Institute for Mental Health. In 2008, we became an independent community service serving people suffering from addictions and those affected by these illnesses, especially families of addicts. Registered as an IPC charity, WE CARE adopts a communitybased approach towards recovery. It is important for both the addict and society at large to recognise that addictions are treatable conditions like any other chronic medical condition such as diabetes or asthma. Like these chronic conditions, if left untreated in the early stages, the eventual cost to society, families and the individuals, can be huge.

“ For every $1 spent on treatment of addictions, society saves $7 in terms of detention time, family welfare costs, and school support services.” WE CARE is the only free-standing community outpatient facility that is entirely devoted to the treatment of addictions. We operate a counseling component and a drop-in center and a 24-hour Helpline for addicts, including family member of addicts. We also provide programmes for three halfway houses, a monthly family programme, skills training and relapse prevention, and individual and family counseling. Crisis intervention is another important part of our services. Over 200 people a month use our counseling and programme services. The WE CARE Centre at 620 Tiong Bahru Road, is close to the Redhill MRT. It houses

nine different recovery support groups – depending on the type of addiction – for addicts and their families. All programmes are provided by trained counsellors. Over 500 recovering people including family members attend these support groups monthly. Many of our services are free, others are funded through donations and grants. The Centre also offers a 6-day a week, drop-in spot where families and those in recovery can gather to chat, have fun, go on-line, watch TV, or even have a meal or a quick cup of coffee. There are monthly activities for families, and festive gatherings, barbecues, lucky draws, and games for the children. This supportive environment encourages sustained recovery. There is always concern for an addict’s family members, especially children. Growing up in an addiction household – whatever the addiction – is a set up for a lifetime of pain and it may lead to more addictive disorders. We offer talks on raising resilient children, especially those being cared for in troubled homes who are a greater risk for addiction problems including inhalant abuse, gambling and internet abuse WE CARE has an annual budget of $350,000, with 25% funding for programmes. The balance comes from public donations. Our Centre is highly specialised, but we do need volunteers. We are growing, and excited. We believe that the addicts among us must recover together with the community. We are a place of Hope. Drop by, come meet us! ✩ Helpline: Call 64715346 Mon-Fri, 9am–6pm. For talks in schools or organisations, contact 64715344 or log on to www.wecare.org.sg for more information.


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“Light touch” management brings out the best in staff in a small organisation. JACK SIM argues his case for “freeing up” his staff with decision-making trust.

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hen we ask who owns a company, the owners often say the shareholders. But is that true? Like everyone in Singapore, I own some Singtel shares. But I don’t really feel like an owner of that company. I still have to queue up like everyone else at the Hello Shop. I can’t make decisions about the direction of the company. My status is one of an outsider. So what constitutes ownership? My father worked for a grocery shop for 37 years as a shop assistant drawing a last salary of $350 a month. He was a very loyal worker despite the low pay. In the 1970s, the HDB lifts frequently broke down. As there were no lift landings on every floor, on festivals like Chinese New Year, my father delivered heavy wooden crates of glass-bottled drinks climbing up to 10 storeys by foot, throughout the day, everyday. As he grew older, he sometimes slipped and fell, ending up in hospital. Each time, he’d try to get out of hospital quickly to return to work. One day after a serious fall, I tried to persuade him to retire. He said he couldn’t because his boss was old and the boss’ son disinterested in running the shop. “But this is not your business,” I told him. “You just work there. You don’t own the company.” I will never forget his reply. He said, “I’ve worked 37 years in this shop. If this is not my company, whose company is it?” I was shocked. I realised that ownership of decisions is even more powerful than ownership of shares. What my father gave to his company was 37 years of his life. Others may have thought his job a lowly one, but he took great pride that he opened and closed the shop everyday from 7am to 10pm; ordered stocks, tallied accounts, made home deliveries and delivered the

“ Ownership of decisions is even more powerful than ownership of shares.” earnings to the boss. He ran the whole show and actually enjoyed his job. People think that they go to work for money. When NS men apply for jobs, I often ask what motivates them most. They say it’s the pay. But when I ask them why they don’t sign on as regular soldiers which pays better, they always give a long list of negatives about the army – none of them about pay. When I started my business at 25, I enjoyed close relationships with my highly motivated staff. As the business grew, I accepted some government grants and engaged management consultants to create systems. Strangely, as the number of systems grew, I began to lose more good staff. I wondered why. When KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and management controls

alienate the trust between you and your staff, it’s not helpful. Rules-based, heavy management is impersonal and more useful for out-fits that are so large, the top manager doesn’t know the names of his staff. I returned to the relationship model and ignored the academic-type models of management. I’ve found “light touch” management brings out the best in staff in a small organisation. By the time I retired from the active operation of my business and handed it over to my General Manager, he took full ownership and managed the company with a free hand without my interference. He owns no shares in the company. But he owns all the decisions. Now when new staff start work at the World Toilet Organisation, they’re often shocked at the complete trust given to them immediately to make decisions within their scope of duties. When they cannot delegate decisions upwards, they became the bosses in their own right. This ownership allows them to use all their initiatives and their entrepreneurial drive to be creative and mission-driven. It also gives them immense job-satisfaction not available elsewhere. People want to feel great about themselves. You need to give them the right to decide, the right to make mistakes, and the duty to overcome obstacles themselves to deliver results. Let them discover their own capacities by allowing them to use all the talents they have. Don't block them. Most of all, to get staff to work well, you need to let them know you trust them. When there is a strong sense of belonging together, people become mission driven; fear and politics disappear; trust takes over and everyone is energised. ✩

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A Matter of Stamina

In a world that notices and applauds sprinters, the long distance runner plans his own focused race towards the finish line. Ang Bee Lian, CEO of the National Council of Social Service, tells MONICA GWEE crises offer timely opportunities for change.

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ng Bee Lian charts her work goals in five-year chunks, she reckons that’s the amount of time it takes for the impact of changes in leadership and collective effort to genuinely take form and scale. Since she took over as Chief Executive Officer of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) in June 2007, Bee Lian’s long distance race plan is only just warming up. Ms Ang, the former Director of the Rehabilitation, Protection and Residential Services Division of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports, has achieved an impressive and exciting track record in various areas of social service. In her last post, she led a team of over 300 staff to greater heights in delivering rehabilitation and protection services.

“ I’m generally optimistic, I’m drilled to be a long distance runner. I realise I’m less of a sprinter. I know that if you can finally turn the corner, a new scenery emerges.” At NCSS, she leads a team of 250 staff and they manage an annual funds flow of over $180 million from the government, the Singapore Tote Board and donors. NCSS is a key fund administrator for social services in Singapore, and supports the work of the Charities Unit as one of its sector administrators. The current climate of heightened retrenchment, bankruptcy, struggling families, chaos and uncertainty, has

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certainly increased the case load for NCSS and staff at social work agencies. Already, there is a shortage of social workers at the many Family Service Centres around Singapore, a direct result of more people coming forward in need. “To me, when there’s a disruption of the normal, there are opportunities to try things out, to do things differently and better,” Ms Ang pointed out. She volunteers that help systems “could afford to be more flexible”, especially in demanding times. She refers for example, to ground complaints that many social services around the country, operate only during office hours. She believes operating hours at some busy Family Service Centres for example, are something within management control, so if a 6pm closing time for an especially busy Centre misses the mark, well, the people in charge can change it. “We have to listen to the ground and try to adjust parts of the operations, we can

jig some parts of the organisation to be more flexible. So we can close at 8pm, or open at 7.30am for specific days. After all, many of us have breakfast meetings at that time, so maybe some can open at 7.30am if we find people may want to come. The point is, to try things out,” she said. This willingness to try to say, “Yes” rather than “No”, is backed by a canny sense of what it would take to nudge a trial run for a project or procedure into an operational success. Take the Social Service Hub@Tiong Bahru, a new service concept Ms Ang, well, race-trained to the finish line. Opened on 1 January this year, the hub is the first large scale co-location of several welfare agencies into one shared open office on the third floor of Tiong Bahru Central Plaza. Seven Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWO) will share the rent-free 10,000 sq ft hub allocated by the mall’s developer for non-profit use. The hub will serve a wide range of beneficiaries from children-at-risk, to people with disabilities and low income families. The VWOs located there are: the Children’s Cancer Foundation, Students Care Service, Fei Yue Community Services, Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre, Special Needs Trust Company, Centre for Enabled Living Limited and CITY Community Services. The hub couldn’t have been more timely. With support from the Tote Board, the seven agencies will share minimal maintenance costs for the common space and facilities including meeting rooms,


training facilities and office equipment. The loft-like space with its partitions, provides privacy and space autonomy, yet encourages service synergies. Ms Ang hopes that working closely together in the same space will mean more cross-referrals for services so beneficiaries can use the hub for several services at one time. “I’ve dreamt of doing this for a long time. It’s meant a lot of work for us, but it’s all worthwhile. There should be more of such co-locations. This is the kind of thing that really makes me excited – the execution to make it happen. With so many parties involved including the building management, architect and many others, it required a lot of artistry!” she laughed. It’s not hard to see that the art of building consensus and collective action is this CEO’s preferred strategy. Selling the hub concept to the VWOs was a value-add proposition. Ms Ang surmised correctly, that all the players involved would conclude 1+1=3 and pitch in. “The outcome must be driven by the 3,” she said simply. “It’s the valuecreation thing.” Well, you can’t create anything among people without communication and engagement, two of Ms Ang’s daily work vitamins. And she loves “show and tell”, it’s the essence of her mentoring outlook. “I always spend time to explain to staff, to show them how to apply concepts. Training gives you principles, the application is a challenge for many people. You have to provide the context and connect with the realities people face on the ground,” she noted. “Yes, I’m hands on,” she said matterof-factly. “I tell staff, when you say ‘Yes’ within the guidelines, move speedily. When you say, ‘No’, please let me know when there is an appeal, don’t just say no. I work with them to see if more information, for example, will enable us to say, ‘Yes.’ Staff now know how to take that second step. If they don’t know, I’ll show them.” This follow through means that when staff say “No”, they really mean it. And

the distinctly un-bureaucratic approach to say yes more often than no, may surprise some who may have their own challenges with some NCSS procedures and processes. NCSS staff now subscribe to the “work to say yes” culture and champion it. The NCSS remains a complex entity, playing multiple and seemingly conflicting roles as fundraiser, regulator, promoter of best practices and a social service driver. By and large, Ms Ang considers the “80% more enabler and 20% regulator” role workable and “not a problem.”

“ To me, when there’s a disruption of the normal, there are many opportunities to try things out, to do things differently and better.” She cites the case of the fund governance issue that erupted at a wellknown charitable agency last year. Adverse media on its fund management unearthed management oversights. “We were down on the ground coaching them all the way. Now, their governance has improved five fold. If we had just whacked them, what does that do to the sector?” she asked. The CEO’s role at NCSS has also become more complicated. And more exciting. Ms Ang says NCSS will need to develop partnerships with other professional fields such as law and marketing to provide access to skills and talents needed in programmes. Attracting – and retaining good people – is a constant challenge. Natural attrition, disillusionment, frustration and a high burnout rate are realities, especially among frontline social workers and social service professionals. The social service sector is always hiring, seeking Ms Ang’s “4 Cs”: competence, conviction, courage and compassion. She believes many such people are already serving in the sector. “When we have more who understand what is needed

to succeed in the leadership positions in the sector, we will have choices,” she said reflectively. “We must believe that we have the power and the ability to help people reach their full potential through our collaborations. When we are doing our best, administration is not a comfortable job,” she paused. “At our very best we are enablers and risk-takers. We must have a sense of conviction about our ability to enable change.” Because she has built her career in social service and bumped along the road traveled by many others who worked alongside with her, the Social Work and Psychology graduate fully understands the realities out in the field, and the pressures within the sector. “I sensed that I could lessen the frustration that we often hear in the sector about not getting the right support in an early and timely manner. After all, this is a sector that has a lot of energy, and the challenge is to organise the various requests and match them with the resources,” she said. The NCSS ensures that critical social services are provided. Changing needs require new responses and some newer services the Council has helped start up supported by other ministries, include schemes to help plan for the financial needs of the disabled, palliative care and early intervention programmes to prevent the deterioration of problems. It’s just the opening chapter of a very long book. “I’m generally optimistic. I’m drilled to be a long distance runner. I realise I’m less of a sprinter. Maybe that’s why I stuck around for so long in this sector. I know that whatever difficulties and challenges you are facing, you know that if you can finally turn the corner, a new scenery emerges,” she said, with the calm of a seasoned warrior’s insight. Ang Bee Lian is just on the first leg of her long distance run. She’s pacing fresh and rolling out strategy, one show and tell at a time. ✩

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SCENE&SEEN D S Lee Foundation Salutes Nurses at Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award 21 November 2008, Singapore Conference Hall, Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award

From left: Ms Chew Gek Khim, Deputy Chairman, Tan Chin Tuan Foundation, Dr Della Lee, Chairman, D S Lee Foundation, Dr Khaw Boon Wan, Minister for Health and the top 2008 winner of the Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award, Mdm Soonthrammal d/o Nalappan, Principal Assistant Nurse, Institute of Mental Health.

Ms Chew Gek Khim, Mr Eric Teng, Chief Executive, TCTF and Dr Della Lee.

The Tan Chin Tuan Nursing Award for Enrolled Nurses was the brainchild of Dr Della Lee, Chairman of the D S Lee Foundation and Mdm Lim Swee Hia, Group Director, Nursing at the SingHealth Group. The national level award was established by Dr Lee in 2005 to spotlight the contributions of Singapore’s enrolled nurses, and to honour the memory of the late philanthropist and banker, Tan Sri Tan Chin Tuan. Now in its third year, the award has provided professional recognition and specialist training to its top winners and merit winners. Aimed at recognising excellence in nursing, cash prizes are used towards training programmes and all winning nurses receive a gold Florence Nightingale medallion and certificates to mark their work achievements.

Enrolled nurses, who typically shoulder the bulk of frontline nursing, are nominated by their supervisors for the award. A panel of judges selects the winner and approves a training course – paid for by the prize – for the winner each year. Dr Della Lee, wife of Lee Foundation Chairman Dr Lee Seng Gee, has made it tradition to host the annual awards ceremony on Tan Sri Tan’s birthday – November 21. Last year’s event at the Singapore Conference Hall was attended by over 600 guests including Guest-of-Honour Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan; Dr Tan Kheng Lian, Chairman, Tan Chin Tuan Foundation and members of the Tan family; Prof Tan Ser Kiat, CEO of the Sing Health Group; nurses from the various hospitals, and members of community and charity groups and well wishers.

Every Footfall Counts at Roche 1 December 2008, MacRitchie Reservoir, Roche’s Children’s Walk

Every footfall counts at leading healthcare company Roche. Nearly 100 employees walked five kilometers at MacRitchie Reservoir on 1 December in the sixth global Roche Children’s Walk. The $16,500 raised was donated to the Singapore Children’s Society, Club Rainbow and AIDS orphans in Malawi. “Our walk demonstrates Roche’s commitment to ensure sustainable support for the communities in which we work," said Roland Diggelmann, Roche Diagnostics’ Asia Pacific Regional Head. His Singapore staff joined 14,000 others from 100 Roche sites worldwide to walk the symbolic five kilometre distance children in Malawi have to walk daily to get to school. Over S$6.3 million has been raised through the walk globally since 2003 to help AIDS orphans in Malawi.

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First row from left: Alfred Tan, Executive Director, Singapore Children’s Society and Koh Choon Hui, General Manager, Roche Pharma (S). First row from right: Gregory Vijayendran, President, Club Rainbow and Roland Diggelmann, Head of Asia Pacific, Roche Diagnostics.


Profitable All Round 8 October 2008, NVPC, Book Launch

All proceeds from the 8 October 2008 book launch of Doing Good Well: What Does (And Does Not) Make Sense in the Nonprofit World went to the charity, Caritas Singapore. Author Willie Cheng, former chairman of NVPC and former NVPC Chief Executive, Tan Chee Koon, were on hand to provide the context for the book’s genesis: the concepts and paradigms articulated in the book all began at NVPC during Mr Cheng’s tenure as he engaged in vigorous dialogue with the non-profit sector and its players. A crowd of over 150 from the nonprofit and corporate sectors attended the cheerful evening at NVPC premises in Eu Tong Sen Street. The author signed copies for the charity sale of books after dinner.

Photo credit: Clinton Global Initiative

Autograph session with the author.

Clinton & S’pore’s Toilet Champ Join Forces December 2008, Hong Kong, Clinton Global Initiative Meeting

It was a busy 2008 for Jack Sim, founder of the homegrown non-profit, the World Toilet Organisation (WTO). At the high profile Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in Hongkong in December 2008, Sim gathered with the likes of Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to focus on commitments to pressing social issues. Sim’s pledge: WTO commits to providing better sanitation for the 2.5 billion people without toilets. The CGI is a powerful networking arena and Sim met many potential partners “including celebrities and foundations to non-governmental organisations”. Mr Clinton created a half hour window from his packed schedule to personally talk toilets

“Poop” champion Jack Sim, World Toilet Organisation founder and former US President Bill Clinton support clean toilet goals.

with Sim and to discuss wide reaching fundraising ideas. WTO now has 151 member groups in 53 countries and a staff of seven. Sim is a volunteer and not salaried. Sim was on the CGI’s Public Health track and he spoke on Nutrition and the Food Crisis, highlighting the link between sanitation and nutrition loss through worms and diarrhoea, targeting opportunities in the marketplace for the poor ,and extolling excreta as a valuable resource for fertilizers.

All delivered with his infamous humour. Last October, Jack Sim was also named by Time Magazine as one of its Heroes of the Environment 2008, an annual global list of “people who are changing the world”. This month, he became a Visiting Scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's Institute of Water Policy. He also sits in two of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Councils (Water Security and Social Entrepreneurs councils).

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Land For a Clever Cause A

river runs through it, and it’s been zoned for agricultural use, but this generous 11-acre plot of land just a 30-minute hop from the Johor Causeway checkpoint, is up for an unusual non-profit bid. The irrepressible Jack Sim, founder of the non-profit World Toilet Organisation, owns the land and is generously offering the site for non-profit use. The empty, unused plot is on the roadside of Sungei Tiram, 10km from Tiram Town in Johor. A small river surrounds the back of the flat site and small shops and a Chinese temple flank it. The site was formerly used by a concrete casting factory, and has water and electricity access. There is permission to build one structure on the plot, but it can be of any size. “It’s ideal for a long house structure on stilts,” says Jack. “Or some kind of farming suitable for the area,” he adds. “They used to grow limes here.”

The landowner next door has an orchid farm, but Jack is open to any viable non-profit venture making its home on his land. The main criteria: a solid proposal and work plan, and a full-time resident on the premises when the structure is up to prevent squatters and “bad elements” from taking residence. Rental can be creative. Jack will accept “traditional” rental – to be agreed between the non-profit and him, or suggestions for “in kind” rent in lieu. For example, if an arts group decides to establish a series of studios, the rent-in-lieu could be in paintings, sculpture or art pieces. Jack is happy to entertain innovative proposals on a win-win basis. It’s the idea that counts. If you have a non-profit proposal you think will benefit from using this piece of land, send your case to: jacksim@ worldtoilet.org. Include details of your non-profit objective and how the land use will help serve the community or your organisation’s cause. Watch this space! ✩

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T I P S Making the Ask

Fundraising is art and skilful technique. CHEW KHENG CHUAN, former Vice-President, Endowment & Institutional Development at the National University of Singapore, and his team raised over $750 million for NUS over six years. He is also chairman of the arts non-profit, The Substation. Here he shares the direct approach with donors when asking for a donation gift. ★ When you “Make the Ask”, remember: Your prospect cannot read your mind. You want them to give? You have to ask them, explicitly, and best, for an explicit amount. If you give a range, unless it is done in the right way and corresponds to various gift levels that will achieve different impacts, the normal response from the prospect is to automatically start and end with the lowest end of the range mentioned. This not very satisfying or professional. ★ Here is a forehead-slapping observation. One of the most consistently common reasons an overwhelming number of donors give to the question, “Why did you give to (a particular project or cause)?” is this answer: “ Because I was asked!” In other words: no talk, no money. ★ After you have received the gift, you have to Steward the donor. This positively seals the giving experience and its aftermath with happiness for having made that decision to give. Each organisation has to develop its own special Stewardship methods and protocols. ★ And then the cycle begins again, and yes, with the same donor! We can keep returning to the same well. The most successful fundraisers do that, continuously, repeatedly, with care, competence, and gratifying success. People not used to fundraising believe that once you’ve asked someone, and that person has responded with a gift, that’s it. And they think they certainly shouldn’t return to the same person for a very long time to ask again. Yet every marketing person knows that the best time to sell to someone is just after they have bought something! The buyer is filled with a great sense of satisfaction for having made that buying decision. Why do you think the term “Retail Therapy” exists? ★ Figure out what is a “decent interval”, then ask the same person again, perhaps for a larger amount! ✩ This extract was from a presentation made at the Second CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) Asia Pacific Conference held in Hongkong December 3–5, 2008.

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