No. 31 Sep-Oct 2009
For Volunteers, Donors and Non-profits
Not Just a Social Space Plugging into Web2.0
Donor Be Aware? Trial and tweak time for online donations
It Takes a (Green) Kampong Nadya Hutagalung: Green Warrior
Change is Healthy Willie Cheng encourages changing guards in non-profits
Selective Inclusion? H. O. M. E & Bridget Lew
contents rs, Donors For Voluntee
fits and Non-pro
No. 31 2009 Sep-Oct
Not Just a Social Space
.0 into Web2 Plugging
Change is Healthy
encourages Willie Cheng non-profits guards in changing
Donor are? Be Aw time Trial and tweak ions donat for online
It Takes) aKampong (Green alung: Green Nadya Hutag
lusion Selective Inc H. O. M. E
ON THE COVER Users of Web2.0 “join” social groups with community platforms for a satisfying sense of belonging and ownership towards ideas and causes. How is this exciting 24/7 universe evolving for social causes? Page 8
SALT No. 31 Sep-Oct 2009
The Brave New Frontier – Donor Beware?
LETTER FROM SALT
NEWS BRIEFS A wrap-up of events, programmes and activities in the People Sector.
PEOPLE SECTOR PEOPLE Never shy of controversy, Bridget Lew has tirelessly campaigned for the legal and humane rights of migrant workers, some 30 per cent of our workforce.
Online fundraising is a less regulated environment, but a highly engaging personal space to click on, give and champion a cause. What of the impact – and the snags?
WALK THE TALK Never “off duty”? The National Library Board’s volunteers get smart, physical and creative with books and deeds.
NEW SALT The feisty Kids Inclusive Sports Club welcomes children – with or without disabilities – to pursue healthy and fun activities together.
Illustration by Foo Siew Huey.
SHAKERS & MOVERS
SALT & PEPPER Willie Cheng sounds a warning to beware the “chums at the helm” syndrome. He argues against constitutional changes in non-profits to protect themselves against “takeovers”.
Model and VJ-turned environmental activist Nadya Hutagalung, turns a family conviction on eco-living into a wider green platform using the power of new media.
SALT KIT There is value in “screw up”. Admit it and learn from it. The truth is all organisations screw up. The least screwed-up wins. Jack Sim examines the high performance potential of understanding the role of errors to create a culture of learning.
18 FOUNDATIONS PLUG IN Quiet conviction drives Jet Li, the international film star and founder of One Foundation. And the Banyan Tree Global Foundation champions a “middle way” for businesses to be responsible social players.
22 Sep-Oct 2009 S A LT •
L E T T E R
F R O M
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 email@example.com. 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 Adeline Ang Michelle Bong Angele Lee
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
his issue we explore the use of the power of the internet, specifically the use of Web2.0, to engage Singaporeans more effectively. Online engagement is fast becoming mainstream; an imperative, not an optional extra. The Net Generation – those born in the 80s and 90s – today consider the virtual world as an extension of their real world. They are transforming how the entire society is connecting with one another. The young form a very important stakeholder group for us, and we need to start engaging them now. Web2.0 is, of course, not just about engaging the young, but also about using a highly cost-effective means of reaching out to all Singaporeans. It allows charities – most of which cannot afford pricey above-the-line advertising or the deep PR expertise to get their stories out in the traditional media – to be able to get their voice out there with regularity. All it needs is a desire to communicate and connect with the hearts and minds of stakeholders, and an authentic voice. In particular, we have yet to tap on the promise of online fundraising. NVPC is currently working to launch Singapore Gives (SG Gives) sometime soon. This will be a completely revamped version of the Online Donation Portal, which is currently run by the National Council of Social Service, which will be retired. The purpose will be to use new technologies so that giving can be more informed, engaged and enjoyable. The broader hope is that charities become better at engaging donors. As donors become increasingly sophisticated and keen for more accountability from charities, the relationship between donors and charities should rise beyond a transactional one. Here, beyond giving relevant information about how their donations are being spent, charities can also do more to connect donors to the needs in the community. When donors can see the difference that they are making, they will be motivated to give and do much more.
Printed by Fabulous Printers MICA (P) 153/01/2008 ISSN No. 17933-4478 To advertise, please call Cynthia Tay at tel: 6292 4456 Email: email@example.com
Laurence Lien Chief Executive Officer National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre
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N E W S B
A WRAP-UP OF HAPPENINGS AROUND SINGAPORE
Popular Taiwanese band Mayday at birthday celebrations for Mr Fook Kim Min (front row left, red T-shirt) and Mr Loy Chye Kum, residents of Geylang East Home for the Aged.
Mayday P in Geylang
opular Taiwanese band Mayday lent support to the SMRT Silver Tribute Fund by visiting the Geylang East Home for the Aged, a beneficiary of the SMRT Silver Tribute Fund which aids senior citizens. The band was at the home on 28 July to introduce the SMRT Silver Tribute Fund mascots as well as to help raise awareness of needy grannies and grandads across Singapore. The on-going Silver Tribute Fund encourages donors to give of their time and make contributions of any size. “Even if it’s just an hour a week or a $1 donation, together we can change the lives of the elderly in need and the families and communities that care for them,” said Mr Khoo Hean Siang, SMRT Senior Vice President of Engineering & Projects Chairman of its Corporate Volunteer Programme Committee. The elderly residents at the Home performed a self-choreographed welcome dance to two Mayday hits as the band members arrived. The band toured the home and were introduced to its elderly programmes. They also celebrated the birthdays of two of the home’s residents, Mr Fook Kim Min, 64, and Mr Loy Chye Kum, 61. Established in 2006, the SMRT Silver Tribute Fund has raised close to $2 million for more than 5,000 needy elderly and their caregivers from 10 voluntary welfare organisations. To donate, visit www.smrt.com.sg.
SG CARES GOES “LIVE” AT RUN S’PORE
bout 5,000 runners turned up for Run Singapore, a charity run organised by Singapore Cares, or SG Cares. The run is one of several events marking the 10th anniversary of the President’s Challenge. Just before the flag-off, Guest-of-Honour President S R Nathan, officiated at the “live” commissioning of SG Cares’ national volunteer portal on 6 September at City Hall, declaring SG Cares open for business. SG Cares is a new NVPC initiative that provides flexible volunteer opportunities for community service through its real time online portal at www.sgcares.org. The route for the non-competitive run followed the official track of the Marina Bay Circuit for the 2009 Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix. Close to $1 million was raised by the charity run through corporate contributions, pledge cards, sponsorship-in-kind and registration fees pegged at $25 each. The funds raised will go to 10 adopted President’s Challenge beneficiaries. The crowd, comprising of businesses and non-profits, family groups and friends, joined in the community bonding event to celebrate the spirit of volunteerism. The youngest participant was Lara Pedersen-Jones aged one year and four months and the eldest, 82-year old Mr Tan Soo Cheng. The largest single team was the 607-strong contingent from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.
Flag off! TV personality Nadya Hutagalung, President S R Nathan and Lawrence Leow, President, Association of Small & Medium Enterprises and Co-Chairman for Run Singapore Organising Committee.
COMMUNITY BUILDING BLOCKS
E Big grille grins from BCA volunteers painting the grilles at SAVH gates.
very little helps. On 31 July, 16 staff from the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) scrapped, plastered and painted the Gents restroom, fences and railings at the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped (SAVH). Volunteers came fully prepared in work gear, equipped with rags, and patched up holes and leveled walls on a hot and humid day. BCA began
its first volunteer work with SAVH in February this year, starting with a makeover of the office premises. The project proved a hit with staff and BCA recently formalised its corporate social responsibility programme after contributing time, skills and cash towards various causes over the years. Now, a two-day volunteer leave scheme is in place. To date, BCA has raised $8,000 for SAVH.
Sep-Oct 2009 S A LT •
CAPITAL IDEA, KDK!
reezy relief from the heat and humidity in the form of fans for 100 low-income seniors living in one and two room flats in the Central district, came from Capital Distributors, the sole distributor for KDF fans. Capital partnered the Central Singapore Community Development Council (CDC) Bright Homes programme and students from the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ) Secondary School (Toa Payoh) for the 1 July event. The Central District has the highest concentration of seniors in Singapore. Some 500 needy senior citizens received fans from Capital Distributors. The first 100 residents in Toa Payoh took home their KDK fans at a birthday celebration to honour their age, and to mark KDK’s centennial milestone. Mr Jeffrey Lim, Managing Director of Capital Distributors, joined Mr Zainudin Nordin, Mayor of Central Singapore District on doorto-door visits to immobile seniors in the district. Volunteers from KDK, CHIJ and Central Singapore CDC buddied other seniors at the birthday lunch and also helped to deliver the installed fans to seniors’ homes. The students also performed familiar Chinese songs and musical pieces to entertain the seniors. The remaining fans will be distributed by volunteers to four other locations under the Central CDC District. “The less privileged such as our needy seniors, need a lot more assistance to improve basic living conditions,” said Capital’s Mr Lim “Singapore’s hot and humid weather makes this project very timely,” he added.
From left: Mr Jeffrey Lim, Managing Director, Capital Distributors and Mr Zainudin Nordin, Mayor of Central Singapore District and delivering a KDK fan personally to a senior citizen.
A Decade of City Sunshine
From right – Mr Kwek Leng
hen your company’s volunteer club turns 10, Joo, City Development's it’s time to work! Staff volunteers at property group MD, Mr Chia Ngiang Hong, Group GM and Ms Goh Ann City Development’s City Sunshine Club celebrated Nee, Chief Financial Officer rolling up their sleeves and a decade of community service with a series of projects. pitching in to paint a mural On 15 August, volunteers marked community and staff day designed by a CDL staff. for a “Sunshine Makeover” when staff refurbished the Man Fut Tong Nursing Home in Woodlands and the Children’s Aid Society in Clementi. The two-week project was capped by a lunch at Cheng San Community Club when the projects were completed. The latest refurbishments are a culmination of community projects City Development embarked on this year to mark the volunteer club’s milestone. Other projects include the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day (2 May) and the innovative “Eat-infor-Charity” staff fundraising project in July involving staff, company-wide. Staff raised over S$7,000 from a four-day “Eat-in” campaign which management matched dollar-for-dollar.
City Development staff volunteers painting in basket ball courtlines at the Children’s Aid Society.
JUST BROTHER-LY AUCTION
Bidding in earnest at Brother’s charity auction.
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tarting bids for two “special deal” Brother printers began at $10 at the Brother Charity Auction to raise funds for the Asian Women’s Welfare Association (AWWA) on 31 July. Twenty Brother laser and multi-function inkjet printers were up for grabs with the full proceeds donated to AWWA. Brother has adopted AWWA as its charity and is involved in helping youth to take up healthy sports instead of engaging in risky activities. About 40% of Brother’s staff volunteer in the AWWA programme. Then, there’s Brother’s Plant-10-Trees Campaign. For every four used Brother ink cartridges purchased, Brother is donating $1 towards its tree planting project. With every $200 accumulated, a tree will be planted. Brother has set a goal to plant 10 trees by the end of this month.
ore than 140 undergraduates from the Singapore Management University focused on balloon “engineering” and creativity to bring smiles to underprivileged children. Project Balloons Of Bliss (BOB) capped a month of befriending and fundraising activities for children from En Community Services Society and Bethesda Care & Counselling Services Centre. SMU’s Tritouch ConneXion community service group displayed three huge animal balloon sculptures after three days of blowing, twisting and assembling some
S 10,000 balloons. The Finale Balloon Display at Jurong Point Shopping Centre on 25 July featured a “Wonders of Animals” theme. Spanning an average height of two metres, balloon animal sculptures were chosen to represent the children’s traits of confidence, diligence and patience. Student volunteers also visited the children to better understand their needs in friendly play and interaction. Donation tickets at $2 each were sold to raise funds and to introduce the public to the work of the beneficiaries. Project BOB raised over $34,100 to benefit the children through various programmes.
T I P S The “KSA” Approach for Quality Volunteers There is no short cut in developing quality volunteers. Training is a vital investment. LAM MOY YIN argues for a good “identity kit”. Volunteers are as precious a human resource to many non-profit organisations as paid staff. However, if not properly trained, they may create more problems for NPOs. Inadequate training is a constant gripe with NPOs often citing a lack of allocated funds for this purpose. Consider the “KSA” approach to identifying volunteer training needs: 1. What knowledge (K) must the volunteer possess to be effective on the job? 2. What skills (S) are needed to be effective? 3. What abilities (A) are necessary for the volunteer to be effective? A job description can determine the KSA for each volunteer position. The clarity of the job descriptions impacts on the understanding of the KSA, so volunteer programme managers should involve staff who design or best understand the volunteer positions in this approach. Application forms, screening interviews and orientation can also identify volunteer “fit”. Volunteers greatly appreciate the NPO’s efforts to train them well. The result is better volunteer work quality, less volunteer supervision and better volunteer retention! There is no short cut in building a quality volunteer pool. Training is a vital investment for volunteers. ✩
Wonder of Animals" – giant balloon sculptures by SMU volunteers.
Green Run at Semakau
Running for a cleaner, greener, more sustainable Singapore.
orty-three corporations (up from last year’s 29) have pledged S$359,000 to support environmental and charitable groups at this year’s Semakau Run, jointly organised by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and MediaCorp. Organised as part of the Clean & Green Singapore programme, the annual Semakau Run symbolises the close partnership between NEA and business and public communities in their common goal of long-term sustainable development for Singapore. On 8 August, NEA marked the 10th anniversary of Singapore’s only offshore landfill with a commemorative book, “Habitats in Harmony: The Story of Semakau Landfill”. Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, unveiled the book at the 3rd Semakau run, proceeds of which went towards the work of environmental and charity groups. The book traces the natural history and development of Semakau Landfill, entirely created from the sea space at a cost of more than $600 million, and the world’s first-of-its-kind offshore landfill.
Sep-Oct 2009 S A LT •
Not Just National Lip Service
Some 800,000 (or 30 per cent) of our work force comprises migrant workers. Bridget Lew has tirelessly campaigned for the legal and humane rights of these workers. The numerous incidents of atrocious worker abuse in affluent, educated Singapore, fuels her passionate conviction. She tells MICHELLE BONG the state should support work in this area with funds, and offer resources for ‘safety net’ services.
.O.M.E President and founder Bridget Lew has never been shy of controversy in her fight to protect migrant workers from citizen indifference, state apathy and general avoidance of the outrageous consequences when employers wield total economic power over hapless workers. As a tireless crusader for the rights and well-being of Singapore’s legion of migrant workers, Bridget Lew is the people sector’s most vociferous and passionate voice yet. Five years since she helped to set up the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (H.O.M.E), she remains steadfast in “building a culture of welcome where no man, woman or child is a stranger and we are family”. In fact, very much the national creed. Today, H.O.M.E has helped 5,000 migrant workers. Its milestones include establishing a Resource Centre for research, education and legal services; regular paralegal workshops to inform migrant workers about legal protection laws, processes and services; and outreach through media advocacy and counselling group presentations. Bridget has also ensured that those seeking refuge at H.O.M.E’s shelters in the Little India and East Coast areas attend computer or English Language lessons, enjoy personal workshops and participate in recreational outings held at least once every three months. Her first three years as President were devoted to “trouble shooting in response to the crisis-driven needs of migrant workers”. More recently, her role involves strategic networking, fund development and corporate communications. Priority challenges, she shares, are funding and sustainability. She cannot
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our demand for a mandatory weekly rest day for domestic workers, so victims of atrocious acts can report offences and receive assistance and counsel, instead of being compelled Bridget (front row, orange teeto suicide and unsafe escape rely on the government or shirt) with her charges from H.O.M.E on a Sentosa outing to methods from an employer the Community Chest for celebrate Easter Sunday. or agent,” she pointed out. help (since she helps migrant “I know of a domestic worker who workers and not Singaporeans), but she climbed out of the window of a 23rd has been aided by like-minded members floor apartment in a daredevil escape, of the community – among them fortunately she was not hurt. Another fell Chairman of the Chen Su Lan Trust, Rev from the third story when she jumped Dr Yap Kim Hao. from the balcony to flee her employer – Said Bridget: “For me, we have been breaking her legs and her spine.” able to get funding to keep us going for These scandalous life stories and the last five years simply because of my unmet needs in affluent and educated personal conviction to live and do what is Singapore undoubtedly drive Bridget just and right. But having enough [funds] Lew. “I believe Singapore needs to souljust for a year makes it difficult for us to search whether is it right to withhold a plan forward.” weekly rest day for a domestic worker, “We need greater support from the to pay her a measly salary for work, to State. Given that 30 per cent (some transport foreign workers in trucks like 800,000) of our work force is made up of cattle, or to deport foreign workers back migrant workers, the state should support home penniless,” she said. “We need to our work with funds, and offer resources feel angry and outraged by such injustice to respond to those who need our ‘safety and atrocities, and act accordingly.” net’ services. The work of Voluntary Welfare “The cause moves me because it is Organisations (VWOs) contributes to the about justice and peace. Our world and social landscape in a significant way, and community will truly experience peace H.O.M.E needs that space under the sun only if there is justice for all. Migrant among State-supported VWOs,” she stated. workers the world over are discriminated The government can also help with because they are powerless and at the legislation. Currently, Singapore excludes mercy of foreign intermediaries who domestic workers from the Employment exploit their vulnerability and poverty,” Act, which protects labour rights. “I do not she pointed out. see any valid reason for discrimination In a Singapore constantly against domestic workers and excluding boasting of how much it has evolved them from workers’ rights according to into a desirable global city, “this cause international labour standards,” Bridget is about fundamental rights to freedom, said emphatically. justice and security.” ✩ “The local authorities should endorse
Volunteering the Written Word The National Library Board’s volunteers never seem to go “off duty” where books and community are concerned. ADELINE ANG peers into what happens during and after office hours.
y any measure, a 63.5% staff volunteer rate spread over 20 volunteer programmes is impressive. But consider this: volunteer work at this organisation counts towards one of several “Key Result Areas” under its Staff Performance Management Programme. And staff whose volunteer duties take place during office hours, can take time out from that allocated to them for attending courses or personal development activities instead of applying for annual leave. The National Library Board (NLB) kicked off its Corporate Volunteerism Programme in 2001, and momentum has built steadily. Management support for the various volunteer initiatives has paid off. In 2008, the 63.5% staff volunteer rate across the varied programmes, provided service to more than 1,200 needy children, senior citizens and disadvantaged people. “In 2008, over 18,000 bowls of rice were raised for over 40 Volunteer Welfare Organisations (VWOs) and welfare homes,” noted Mrs Kiang-Koh Lai Lin, Chair of the NLB’s Corporate Volunteerism Programme.
“ We believe that everyone has the right of access to library materials.” The library also receives requests from organisations for special book donations for the needy. “Almost 100,000 volumes of used books were donated last year to 150 welfare homes and organisations during the annual Charity Book Donation and the Special Book Donation Projects for the needy,” she added. On the recycling front, the NLB launched its first Book Exchange in April
we had sufficient time to organise the layout and display the books properly,” Mrs Kiang-Koh recalled. “To manage the crowd on the day of the Book Exchange, we capped a limit on the number of books to be exchanged at 30 books per person. There was also clear layout of the books, with different sections catering The joy of books at NLB’s first Book to different segments of this year when members Exchange at the library’s plaza. the public, so the crowd of the public were asked to was spread out throughout the display drop off their own used books at public area,” she added. libraries all over Singapore. In return In another initiative, NLB staff use for each book donated, they received a their particular professional skills to share coupon allowing them to choose a book expertise in setting up libraries and reading on Book Exchange day (25 April), at the rooms for community organisations. NLB plaza of the National Library Building. leverages on its expertise by establishing “This encourages Singaporeans to reading corners or rooms in different adopt an environmentally-friendly lifecommunities, such as a reading room at the style and make green practices, such as Singapore Indian Development Association. recycling, part of their daily lives,” Mrs “These community reading corners Kiang-Koh said. bring the library to those who otherwise The wider benefits were also aimed may not have the opportunity to visit a at promoting a self-sustaining learning library,” explained Mrs Kiang-Koh. community by encouraging people to Volunteers also assisted the Sunshine read and share with each other. Best of Welfare Action Mission Home and the all, the Book Exchange project enabled Handicaps Welfare Association to set up people affected by the current economic libraries. The hands-on work was from downturn, access to more reading the ground up, starting with the basics materials for free. on how bookshelves should be laid out, The collection drive in the run-up to to teaching the staff and volunteers in the Book Exchange day brought in an astondifferent organisations how to properly ishing 57,000 books – more than double categorise and display the books. the original target. The sheer volume of “We believe that everyone has the books collected for the Exchange required right of access to library materials,” Mrs much of the library’s professional planning Kiang-Koh said. “We seek to reach out to and organisational skills. those we think are ‘under-served’ and make “We transported all the books to the information accessible to everyone.” ✩ NLB Building beforehand to make sure
Sep-Oct 2009 S A LT •
Entry into the 24/7 universe of Web2.0 with all its bells and whistles can be almost immediate. Users throw in their two-cents worth to “join” social groups with community platforms, satisfying a feeling of belonging, and a sense of ownership towards ideas and causes. ANGELE LEE browses the exciting – and still uncharted – universe of Web2.0 social causes.
hether or not you consider yourself part of the Internet Generation, chances are you logged onto the World Wide Web recently. The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) revealed in 2008 that 80% of households in Singapore own at least one personal computer at home, and 76% of us have internet access. More than just a piece of equipment, the home computer is a portal to a whole new world in cyberspace. But this is no parallel universe that netizens are delving into. Instead, doors are opening to communities right here in
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Singapore, as the burgeoning online social network scene brings like-minded people together. Just a decade ago, it was often a chore trying to identify others with similar interests in very specific areas, but in an astonishingly short time, the Internet is now connecting individuals and organisations in a very personal way. Take WhoLivesNearYou.com, a local initiative at building better community relations. For whatever reasons (“You have been in your neighbourhood for the past five years and you don’t know who your neighbours are”, or, “You want to know
the girl who waits at the same bus-stop as you”), you have a good chance of discovering, and linking up with someone living close to your home. If it sounds a little far-fetched that people can be so easily connected, you only have to remember that Singapore is one of the most wired countries in the world. The use of the Internet for communication cuts across all demographics. Even if, as expected, the 15-24 age group tops the internet user list, an impressive 40% of 50-59 year olds are also trawling the net. This presents an extraordinary
opportunity to capture the attention of a sizeable portion of the population.
BUZZING HOT WEB2.0 In this net-happy environment, non-profits and charities are shaping their individual niches. Awake to the idea that they are able to publish ideas and causes to an extremely large audience at a low cost, more are clicking onto the wired bandwidth. Many charities and Institutions of Public Character (IPCs) such as the Assisi Hospice and the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), and organisations like the Muhammadiya Welfare Home and The Salvation Army, have long staked their own place in cyberspace. Typically the web pages present static, one-way information which allow passive viewing but do not integrate the visitor. Enter Web2.0 – the evolution of the World Wide Web as a platform characterised by user-centred design, apparently porous soft and hardware borders, and collaboration. The essentially interactive nature of this second-generation interface has led to the proliferation of web-based communities, especially social networking sites and web logs (blogs). The different applications available complement each other to enable the internet-savvy to reach a nation-wide audience and others well beyond. Charities recognise the need to adopt this new technology. Venturing into the Web2.0 domain are established organisations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the President’s Challenge. Now into its 10th year, the President’s Challenge recently joined Facebook to tap the media’s popularity and raise awareness for its programmes. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has found its online presence “an overwhelmingly good tool for reaching the public”. “Ninety per cent of our volunteers used our website to access the sign-up form,” noted SPCA’s Executive Director Ms Deirdre Moss. Besides its comprehensive website, SPCA also boasts a Facebook following exceeding 3,200. It also encourages bloggers to download banners
linking to its site, extending its reach and strengthening its online presence. Both the SPCA and the President’s Challenge make use of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) OnLine Donation Portal (OLDP) in appealing for funds. The OLDP itself is about to be reinvented as SG Gives, under the auspices of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre. Originally established by the NCSS in 2002, the OLDP has facilitated more than $6 million in donations in seven years, with over 140 charities benefiting from the online site in the last 12 months alone. The SG Gives portal will continue to serve the social service sector but will also develop the next phase for the portal by serving donors of diverse interests across the arts, education and sports for example.
POST AND “BELONG”: FORUM BOARDS Proof of the popularity of Web2.0 lies in the extraordinary variety of sites springing up in the last few years. Some are started by individuals with a specific platform or interest. Shaun Chng, a Cambridge University undergraduate, has become the go-to guy for all things to do with running, races around the world, and the minute concerns of the running community. He describes himself on his blog ShaunChng.com as a self-taught web developer, sportsman, artist, inventor and avid community helper. He posts his own tutorials on subjects as diverse as hard drive assembly and clay modelling. Chng has been on the web scene more or less since its inception, creating his first web pages when he was only 10. His blog now commands an international following with around 80,000 hits per day, which means his efforts at raising public awareness for various social causes, such as the Run for Hope, get a good airing. Riding on the popularity of his blog, the Foundations he supports keep him regularly updated with press releases and other content. “I do get quite a lot of requests, personal, non-commercial, commercial − you name it − but I will generally feature the philanthropic and non-profit societies,” Chng said. Some blogs champion particular causes, such as homelessinseletar, dedi-
cated to a no-kill philosophy for stray or abandoned dogs and helping to re-home rescued dogs. Others such as food blog ieatishootipost serve up recommendations and reviews. The latter attracts about 10,000 hits daily from around 5,000 unique visitors, and boasts a swelling Facebook membership of over 2,900, add to that another thousand more on its forum and a growing Twitter following. The food blog’s creator, Dr Leslie Tay, leveraged its popularity to hold the successful ieat 2nd Anniversary Charity Makan Session a year ago, and regularly features other causes on his site, particularly food-related charity events. Social networks, besides the ubiquitous Facebook, also develop into forums. Support groups include those for mothers, such as Moms4Moms; expatriate groups, such as expatsingapore.com, and cancer survivors CanHOPE. The modern equivalent of neighbourhood gossip, forums have proven fast and effective when it comes to fundraising and publicity. When counsellor Dr Chia Kwok Ying decided to shave her head for the Children’s Cancer Foundation’s Hair for Hope campaign, she appealed for sponsorship money the old-fashioned way – by writing letters. However, she used Facebook to stay accountable to her sponsors, and eventually uploaded photographs of “the shave” and fundraising results onto videosharing site Youtube as well. “It was the most convenient and effective way to show my many friends and sponsors that the deed was done!” she said. Other information-sharing platforms include Internet groups such as Yahoo Groups. One party also using this stage is Social Enterprise SG, a network of over 110 individuals and organisations active in the social enterprise scene.
CRESTING THE WEB WAVE Non-profits are riding high on the Web2.0 wave, typically independent groups rallying around a lobby cause such as environmental group wildsingapore to dog lovers portal doggiesite.com and Animal Lovers League. They bank on the technological ability to engage visitors with their specific platforms such as doggiesite’s stand on sterilisation and adoption over breeding and buying pets. The high Sep-Oct 2009 S A LT •
user-generated content makes for a vibrant setting and adds value to the sites. Assimilation into these groups is as fast and easy as typing a friendly (or critical) comment. For users, being able to throw in their two-cents worth adds to the feeling of belonging, and a sense of ownership towards the cause. For the non-profits, the trick is to take advantage of all the bells and whistles available from the Web2.0 platform to draw out casual or reluctant visitors and engage them in a more active capacity. The hope is that contributions will then flow from the virtual into the real world, whether in terms of time or money. Take donicethings.org, an online social volunteerism community portal integrated with Facebook Connect. Started by a pair of Junior College friends, the site connects project organisers, volunteers and sponsors. Helmed by a team of mainly 19-21 year-old national servicemen, donicethings. org views Web2.0 as the most exciting cultural phenomenon of its time. Even the tagline, “Community Service 2.0”, reflects the members’ belief in the power of the web to engage support for social causes. “It’s not that hard to get the attention of people online if you have a good enough subject to focus on,” said Mr Ng Cheng Wei, a founder member of donicethings.org. Now a Singapore Management University undergraduate, he noted how “social causes, especially those involving children, are one of the easiest to market on social media.” The volunteering group believes a competitive environment will lead to greater efficiency and add value to charitable organisations. It is shifting its focus towards fostering a higher level of engagement with non-profits and charities online, by building a Facebook presence for some non-profits using the social network’s expanded features. To complement other online volunteer portals such as the nation-wide volunteer data base Singapore Cares (SG Cares) featured in the March-April issue of SALT, donicethings.org is looking to grow and evolve its campaign for volunteering along with the dynamic social media landscape.
ONE FEISTY PRINCESS AND HER WEB Clear proof of the viral speed and adoption of web-based causes is the aston-
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ishing and heartening story of ourfeistyprincess. blogspot.com, the detailed account of fouryear-old Singaporean Charmaine Lim’s painful fight against neuroblastoma and her single mother’s agony. Charmaine’s godmother Jolene Loh, created the weblog in February this year as a platform for people to share their stories and experiences with the cancer, hoping to encourage mother and child. Initially made known only to Ms Loh’s friends, the blog received a stunning 800 views barely 24 hours after being set up.
Assimilation into forum groups is as fast and easy as typing a friendly (or critical) comment. It has since taken on a life of its own, achieving thousands of hits daily, with Google Followers, a huge Facebook and Twitter base, videos on Youtube, and links in other blogs. Charmaine’s story has travelled the world, and she has supporters from Europe to India, in countries as varied as Qatar, Turkey, Brazil and Japan, as well as America and South-east Asia. In May, Charmaine’s mother Cynthia, was given the option of taking her daughter to New York for treatment, at an initial cost of US$350,000. She wrote on the blog: “Rationally speaking, I know fully well that half a million Singapore dollars can be better spent on saving thousands of malnourished kids in Africa than on Charmaine, who only has a 40-50% chance of survival even with the antibody. But Charmaine is my daughter...I would never be able to forgive myself for not trying.” That entry set off a massive online movement that would be picked up by the media, leading to a huge outpouring of support. Among Charmaine’s champions were Singapore’s Malaysia Cup dream team in a celebrity fundraising soccer match, 14 top local bands in a two-day rock concert, high-profile bloggers like Mr Brown, many who organised countless events and auctions, and the blogshop community who adopted Charmaine and her mother. The response was so overwhelming, Feisty team member Charlene Wong said, “We don’t really know where it all started.”
It took barely two months to raise the target sum. While ourfeistyprincess’ use of Web2.0 to rally funds may be emulated, its success is unlikely to be replicated. “The concept of raising $500,000 for a single individual is unsustainable,” Mr Ng of donicethings.org believes. “But ourfeistyprincess proved the direct correlation between effort and impact, and Charmaine’s cause is the perfect case study for any non-profit looking to create a meaningful presence,” he noted. It might also be argued that ourfeistyprincess’ profile would not have been as high had traditional media not been involved since newspaper coverage was extensive and worked together with the internet buzz.
CREDIBILITY & THE “CAPRICIOUS” WEB The Web2.0 platform is not without its drawbacks. The interactive nature leaves blogs open to attack, and forums are not spared verbal sparring and occasionally, defamation and/or libel suits. It is still a grey area for many, and for the novices, a universe littered with potential landmines. During its initial outing, ourfeistyprincess encountered a few sceptics who questioned the site’s credibility. While the backlash stung, the Feisty team was advised that in the blogosphere, deleting posts “is the equivalent to admitting guilt”, so the “flames” were left in. However, the free comments setting has been changed to an open identification format which forbids anonymous posts. Generally on forums, moderators reserve the right to delete any unsavoury posts and to bar users from the site at their discretion. Indeed, credibility is an issue in the free-for-all web, and the onus is on users to verify the authenticity of the cause they may feel compelled to donate towards. On the other side of the virtual fence, while the lack of regulation allows charitable sites much creative licence, they run the risk of reducing their cause to mere marketing stunts – and can miss engaging the community at a deeper level. A further downside? Non-profits without the luxury of a web savvy, creative
charities lack) won’t be a prerequisite for a successful campaign,” Ng of donicethings. org stated. “Essentially, what we are doing with donicethings is applying commercial practices which we are familiar with, to the realm of non-profits. Social media is also an extremely fluid and volatile platform, and the constant need and challenge to adapt excites us as members of generation-Y,” he added. Shaun Chng imagines the future for online social networks could include a single network bridging the currently segmented social networks, traversing regions and languages. Something like a social network for social networks. That can only be good (network) news. ✩
team to develop an attractive site, can find themselves overlooked altogether. The Web2.0 platform is capricious. Frequent extensions and changes in customisable features mean there is a need to regularly overhaul either site, organisation or both, in order to take full advantage of the media. It has become imperative for organisations to stay abreast of changes and updates in the World Wide Web, or risk losing their user base. This is part and parcel of staying accountable to supporters. As running enthusiast Shaun Chng pointed out, “nobody likes a dead blog”. “I believe social media will be the great leveller, where monetary resources (which most down-to-earth grassroots BELLS & WHISTLES ON WEB2.0 The defining quality separating Web2.0 from the first generation of the World Wide Web is its interactive nature. This is not just about bouncing e-mails back and forth, but about immediate, open information sharing; the chance to voice off on a public forum whenever you feel like it; and the ability to carry out transactions at your convenience. Here are some more popular Web2.0 platforms: Social Networks --> These networks form online communities of people with similar interests or backgrounds. Members can update each other on activities, news, or just how they are feeling at the moment. Friends and supporters can follow their groups of choice. Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and Twitter are the more commonly used networks here. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) here for eg, has its own Facebook following of 3,230 members. Social networks are widely used for a myriad purposes due their global reach. Forums & Message Boards --> “Netizens” or browsers on Web2.0 platforms can join forums or message boards using monikers and passwords to gain access. These usually support groups or special interest lobbies where information can be posted by anyone with something to share. Hot topics can generate heavy traffic, and
members can choose to follow specific threads of interest. The Straits Times interactive portal STOMP, for eg, provides user-generated news complete with photos and videos. The platform allows ordinary Singaporeans to become net journalists and critics. Posts can bring instant fame or notoriety, while online monikers allow posters to remain relatively anonymous. Forums can be like a bustling kopitiam overflowing with the most current coffee-shop talk. Emotions can sometimes run high and administrators typically monitor posts. Web logs (Blogs) --> These are maintained by individuals, often focusing on a favourite subject ranging from politics, health matters to charitable causes. These may be open diaries where the blogger’s thoughts and ideas are posted, each entry open to comments by readers. Successful blogs can have a strong impact on public perception or opinions of current or controversial topics. Blogware can be free-ware and open-source, meaning the software can be used, modified and redistributed freely, such as WordPress. It can also be a developer-hosted platform, i.e, no software installation needed. Such services are sometimes free. Examples of hosted software are Blogger and LiveJournal. Cancer patient blog, ourfeistyprincess.blogspot.com, for eg, follows four-
year-old Charmaine Lim’s fight against neuroblastoma, and has thousands of followers in Singapore, and around the world. These blogs can be like reading a book, or listening to a friend chat. Picture & Video Sharing sites --> Whether it is a photograph of a disaster site or a video of an electrifying charity concert, these sites cross language borders and make for easy browsing. They also accept comments and reviews from viewers. Popular clips can spread like wildfire via other Web2.0 platforms. The most famous sites are YouTube for videos and Flickr for stills. When counsellor Dr Chia Kwok Ying shaved her hair for the Children’s Cancer Foundation’s Hair for Hope event, she posted the “evidence” online for her friends and sponsors. These sites are similar to surfing channels on cable television, except viewers can tell the producer exactly what they think of his effort. Web Applications --> These include electronic mail (e-mail) and functions such as online sales and auctions. Significantly, these applications allow non-profits and charities to perform financial transactions online. The new nation-wide SG Gives (Singapore Gives) portal will host an improved online donation site for all secular, Singaporeregistered charities and non-profits.
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The Brave New Frontier – Donor Beware?
he emergence of Web2.0 as a versatile and effective platform for social networking has brought non-profit organisations greater exposure through the socially engaging world of online campaigns. This has been, arguably, a boon to the donor scene, benefiting from unprecedented public awareness of a myriad of social causes. The 2008 Individual Giving Survey conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), noted that donations to non-profit organisations and charities have risen along with donor participation. Where donations are concerned, the World Wide Web is a less regulated environment than say, house-to-house and street collections. It has become an encouraging medium for many individuals and organisations to click on and champion their own causes, even as they break away from institutionalised charitable organisations which may restrict the choice of activities or platforms. An example: Animal welfare groups. While their cause is a shared one, the animal welfare sector is fragmented into countless sites and blogs. Many contest government policies they perceive to be inflexible, such as culling for stray or abandoned animals. Others sit on the fence and adopt a mainstream stance to further the cause of re-homing strays or rescuing badly abused or neglected animals. AnimalLoversLeague and a clutch of volunteer initiated animal shelters, may take issue with the Agri-Food &Veterinary Authority of Singapore and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(SPCA) on their culling policy,
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Online fundraising is a less regulated environment, but a highly engaging personal space where individuals and organisations are encouraged to click on to give and champion their favourite causes. ANGELE LEE weighs the impact and the snags of the new giving frontier.
but the various animal welfare groups still show solidarity by supporting web links to each other’s sites. From a donor perspective, these different groups are essentially fighting for the same donation dollar. For the independent non-profits, breaking away means self-funding. They need to raise cash not only for their cause but also to maintain a strong web presence in order to reach and engage supporters. Runners Web log ShaunChng.com (See Lead Story pg 8) has a “no ads” policy, even though the site’s popularity makes it a magnet for paying advertisers. Chng, however, keeps a “tip jar” on his home page and encourages visitors who have found something helpful on his site to make a contribution by PayPal. The money doesn’t go to a cause per se, but it helps defray overheads. Then again, some non-profits prefer to host their sites out of their own pocket. Wildsingapore.com, an extensive site which introduces beautiful wild locations around Singapore, has no incoming revenue. Instead, it requires users who want to download its high-resolution photographs to make donations to any of its three suggested charities – the National Parks Garden City Fund, the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES), or the Cat Welfare Society. Better funded charities are more likely to employ a marketing team to create slick websites that can pull in the masses. They may even be supported by a communications team, but individuals and inde-
pendent non-profits on a smaller scale have to throw in that much more effort on their portals. The upside is the passion that goes into these portals, and the use of often quirky, more personal touches, for example, blogs, may appeal to a certain donor audience. Social networks on Web2.0 step in to level the playing field, by allowing visitors to get involved with the community, and by providing a cheaper platform for broadcasting information to like-minded people. The IGS findings affirm this – the current donor base is motivated to give to causes they personally believe in (68%) and also because someone they know either asked them to, or is personally involved (24%). This contrasts against the 1% who were attracted to the fundraising effort per se. The online donation premise is this: while not everyone can make it down to a fundraising event, anyone can plonk in front of a computer and make a contribution online, any time. Mechanisms include Internet banking, credit card payment and PayPal, and Automatic Teller Machine transfers. The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) OnLine Donation Portal (OLDP) also accepts donations of GST sales tax credits, and growth dividends. Some charities and non-profits post banking information such
as account numbers on their webpage; others send email to maintain privacy. However, providing these online donation services does not necessarily mean donors will bite.
SG Gives: A national site for donors Come December, NVPC is aiming to help more charities raise funds online. A new national donation portal, SG Gives (or Singapore Gives), will be going live. This new site promises a vibrant user interface that will attract the Web2.0 community. Its predecessor, the NCSS OLDP, was created in 2002, making this a timely makeover. The OLDP was set up to provide a convenient online platform for the public to donate to IPCs. In the last 12 months alone, more than 140 charities have benefited from these online donations. Over the years, some charities have raised large sums through the OLDP. The SG Gives portal follows after the SG Cares national volunteer portal launched in September by NVPC. Like the latter, SG Gives will be an easilynavigated website, allowing users to search for, or identify their causes of choice. Unlike the OLDP, the new portal welcomes all secular, Singapore-registered charities to come on board. This is good news for non-profit organisations especially those who, while having their own website, do not have the means to accept online donations. The scheme allows charities to utilise the SG Gives online donation facility via a link on their home pages, while the SG Gives portal links donors to the charities’ websites. This permits the individual organisations the creative freedom to publicise their causes, and donors are able to browse the SG Gives site for a better feel of the scene. For transparency and donor confidence, charities will be encouraged to post their finan-
cials and programme information online. Donors can then choose to make a donation either by the existing credit card method, or by direct debit from their bank accounts using a secure payment gateway. The charities then send tax-deductible receipts to donors where applicable. The NVPC lends a further hand by providing charities with basic information on how to improve their online fundraising. The combined marketing effort is aimed at bringing fundraising to a new level. (For full details of SG Gives, see Salt Nov-Dec issue). Until such time that the portal is up and fully running, non-profits are not sitting still. The Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) is an IPC that has leveraged Web2.0 applications for its outreach. The website’s annual “Hair for Hope” event is an enthusiastic platform offering pictures and videos and thoughts and stories from individuals who shave their heads to raise funds for cancer patients. Registration for the popular event, as well as pledges and donations for individual “shavees” are online. Results are equally enthusiastic − its recent 2009 project raised $500,461 for the cause. On a different level, independent non-profit doggiesite.com also uses Web2.0 to engage Singapore dog-lovers, but activity is mainly on its discussion board. Doggiesite members use the forum to highlight cases, often smallscale and personal, and funds raised are usually for one or a small number of dogs needing emergency medical treatment or care due to severe neglect, deprivation or owner abuse.
A Web tale Case Study Web2.0 by itself is good not so much for direct donations as for rallying support. In the case of the highly impactful ourfeistyprincess.com blogspot (See Lead Story Pg 8), the platform was instrumental in creating the publicity for four-year old cancer patient, Charmaine. Fundraising came by other means. “The Web2.0 platform definitely surprised us,” said Charlene Wong, a friend of
Charmaine’s family and a member of the ourfeistyprincess team. The initial focus of the ourfeistyprincess blog was not to collect donations, but to document Charmaine’s fight with cancer. However, a few months after the blog was launched in February this year, fundraising became necessary when there was a decision to treat the child in New York. Charmaine’s supporters turned to the web partly because of the sheer sum required (US$350,000), and partly because her Singapore support centre had a policy against financing treatment abroad.
“Have faith in your fundraising. First degree contacts are the most important in gathering help, then, the network of friends who are willing to help.” Ourfeistyprincess.com fundraising team.
From the blog and the Facebook updates, Charmaine’s story spread to forums, discussion boards, and other blogs, which rallied their members and readers in fundraising. The range of fundraisers was impressive – involving celebrity soccer names such as Fandi Ahmad and Rafi Ali, nightclub venue Zouk and 14 top local bands; sales and auctions of items from hairclips and stickers to horology and Hello Kitty mooncakes; photoshoots and donations from online forums as diverse as HardwareZone, singaporebikes, and the blogshop community. The US$350,000 was raised in under two months with the bulk raised by donors from the online community. But Charlene Wong notes fundraising events provided more per head, from a smaller donor group. “Princess” Charmaine has since undergone the first round of an alternaSep-Oct 2009 S A LT •
tive treatment in New York, with more sessions to go over the next two years. The blog updates donors who follow Charmaine’s progress through the painful procedures and inform donors of the little girl’s step-by-step response including an account of her hair slowly growing back. The Feisty team offers this advice for other non-profits or individuals who are considering using Web2.0 as a platform for fundraising: “Have faith in your fundraising. First degree contacts are the most important in gathering help, then, the network of friends who are willing to help.” Raising funds online had its hazards. Once donations started coming in for ourfeistyprincess beyond their first line of contacts, hostile strangers appeared on the blog questioning its credibility. This jolted the Feisty team into removing the public bank account number posted on the site for interested donors. The team researched the rules governing online fundraising. Fortunately, a media blitz that followed sent donation enquiries flooding in, and to cope with the response, the account information went back up. Alarm bells were triggered again shortly after when the Feisty fundraisers heard that someone armed with a picture of a little girl looking like Charmaine, had been asking for donations around the Buangkok MRT station. The blog quickly posted a warning and a disclaimer, adding a reminder that permits are required for raising funds on the street.
The lack of governance is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it cuts through all the red tape so evident in the “real” world. On the other, it leaves the public susceptible to online hoaxes and scams. 14
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Eventually, interested donors realised the girl in the photo was not Charmaine.
An “open” field: Donor beware While IPCs and charities must comply with a code of governance, this procedure is not always followed by individuals and groups now campaigning on the web. The lack of governance is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it cuts through all the red tape so evident in the “real” world. On the other, it leaves the public susceptible to online hoaxes and scams. An earnest effort is required by site owners to ensure donor confidence. How, then, are they staying accountable? The dog lovers site, doggiesite. com does not handle funds directly, but discussion board administrator Hwee Li, vets the posts that go on its Charity forum. Members who want to solicit funds for animals need her approval before they post their appeals. For the Feisty team, handling donations was new and difficult. “The pressure was tremendous, knowing that if we did not do it right from the first step, it would impede further fundraising for Charmaine,” a spokesperson said. “We made calls to the authorities to check on the process, to see if a license was required for fundraising through the blog.” What the Feisty fundraisers learnt was to be as transparent as possible on the site in order to earn the trust of donors. Every donor to the site is tagged in the account sheets.
To regulate, or not to regulate? Whether more regulation is needed for online fundraising is contentious. Mr Ng Cheng Wei from volunteer group donicethings.org believes that all forms of donation should be regulated, but he is aware that “regulating online donations will only create a barrier for law-abiding individuals, and the only ones dissuaded may well be those with good intentions.” “As long as our intentions are true, we can allow the environment to selfregulate. We handle the funds with integrity; donors put their faith in us,” said the Feisty’s spokesperson. From our exchanges with so many people, we’ve come to realise
that those who truly want to help are not fastidious about how the funds are used,” she added. All parties interviewed made the point that donors must be careful when using the Internet as a donation vehicle. The internet community could benefit from education to instil a pronounced wariness of phishing sites, and to urge users to exercise control over the impulse mentality prevalent in online shopping (or shopping for causes for that matter). For online donation sites, fundraisers recommend donors verify both the source of fund requests and the nature of the cause. Online donors can also ask to view donation account sheets. For many forums and websites, this is often a simple list with every transaction tabulated, so members can track the total tally at every update. Donors preserve some level of anonymity as they are usually known only by their online monikers. Site moderators, or the campaign organiser or administrator, typically post details of how donations were used. As donors and online fundraisers come to grips with the potential – and the inherent drawbacks – of parting with cash through a simple mouse click, security software and mechanisms are only one part of the evolution of more secure online charity. For now, suffice to say to both donors and fundraisers should take advantage of guidelines on informed giving provided by several sites including The President’s Challenge. The operating principle for web donations? Be open – and be smart. ✩
“As long as our intentions are true, we can allow the environment to self-regulate. We handle the funds with integrity; donors put their faith In us.” Ms LOH, OURFEISTYPRINCESS.COM
A Sporting Start Our education system still has no syllabus to properly match disabled youth with their skill sets. A feisty group established The Kids Inclusive Sports Club to enable children – with or without disabilities – to pursue healthy and fun activities together. MICHELLE BONG reports.
s Singapore’s national disability sports organisation, the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC) has been reaching across all disability groups to offer a wide range of sports at both elite and non-elite levels for the past 36 years. Now, its new initiative, the Kids Inclusive Sports Club (KISC) plans to take things to the next level. KISC was set up because a lack of public understanding and unfriendly surroundings remain the major barriers preventing children with disabilities from integrating into mainstream society. Explains SDSC’s Honorary Secretary and KISC chairperson Mdm Mumtaz Begum Karim: “As much as sports can help youths with disability grow up to become confident and healthy individuals, barriers hold disabled children back from becoming independent Singapore citizens who can contribute. “At the same time, many disabled people are hired out of pity or sympathy, and are poorly matched in terms of their skill sets. There is still no syllabus in our education system to address this perennial issue. We wanted to set up a club that welcomes children between four and 14, with and without disability, and enable them to pursue healthy and fun activities together.” KISC received a valuable $45,000 kick-start funding from J P Morgan in mid2008. It is overseen by a sub-committee led by Mdm Karim. They include Asian Women’s Welfare Association Assistant Director Ms Sukitha Kunasegaran; Mr Daniel Su, Down Syndrome Association Programme Executive; Dr Chey Chor Khoon, Executive Director, Association for People with Special Needs; and Ms Yeo Siew Mui from the National Community for Leadership Institute.
are introduced to encourage active movement and sports awareness. As with any voluntary welfare organisation, KISC has its challenges. “There remains a lack of expertise in disability sports in the youth sector, so there is a constant need to train more staff and volunteers to provide support and assistance for this group,” said Ms Stefanie Ang, Community Sports “Members have been Inclusive sports for all! & Participation Executive at KISC. invited on the committee based on their KISC is also short on management experience and interest in promoting staff, something the Sub-committee sports to youth, and to oversee KISC is currently addressing. But the group activities. These span fundraising, event knows its success depends much on management, programmes and activities, happy volunteers. Currently, there are finance, publicity, training and develop192 volunteers comprising individuals ment and administrative, welfare and and small teams from special and mainsafety,” Mdm Karim said. stream schools and corporate companies. Membership to KISC, to date, is free Recruitment remains a priority promoted and there is plenty on offer. Programmes by word of mouth, social networking are conducted by experienced trainers site Facebook, and partnerships with and staff. Australia’s TOP (The Olympic schools and organisations. Partner) play programme (based on the Volunteers are retained through philosophy of harnessing the power of sport to improve the lives of young people) bonding camps and social functions, and courses that allow them to pick up is adopted and modified to suit each skills and knowledge such as understanding group of children. This year, Kiddoletics @ the Park! 2009 disability needs, sign language and first aid. Their work is also recognised was held at the East Coast Park Campus through certificates and letters of of Outward Bound Singapore. The innoappreciation, and commendations to vative sports revolved around imaginatively schools and organisations. named activities such as “Formula One Looking forward, KISC’s focus will Race” (an obstacle course also designed continue on programme and activity develfor wheelchair-bound children) and opment, and recruiting more members “Eating Rainbows” (a lesson on how to assemble a healthy meal). All programmes through outreach and education. “It is our dream that one day, were aimed at encouraging a physical we can help our society to become a and mental workout. receptive environment for kids of all A regular programme for children abilities – an inclusive society where all with severe disability is also held at the children enjoy sports as a way of life,” St Andrew’s Community Hospital every said Mdm Karim. ✩ Sunday. There, music and sports play
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Guarding the Change of Guards WILLIE CHENG sounds a warning to beware the “chums at the helm” syndrome. He argues against imminent constitutional changes in non-profits to protect themselves against “takeovers” or a changing of the guard. BY
WILLIE CHENG A UTHOR
Salt and pepper shakers from a private collection.
D OI NG G OOD W ELL
he tumultuous changing and reversal of power at the Association of Women for Action & Research (AWARE) recently, has alarmed many societies. Several, including AWARE, are reviewing their constitutions to prevent sudden takeovers. Constitutional changes being proposed include requiring members to have tenure to vote, and to be active in subcommittees and approved by existing office bearers before they can stand for office. Hopefully such changes are not passed, either by the membership or the Registrar of Society (which has final say on the constitutions of registered societies), because they are premised on a flawed presumption: that the incumbents in office are necessarily doing right and are the best judge of who should succeed them – if at all. Indeed, far too many societies have the same people in office for ages. Our polite culture and acceptance of selection posing as election, allows this to continue until perhaps matters get way too bad. Recognising the importance of renewal, some societies have incorporated tenure limits for office bearers. In several cases, this happened soon after the exits of long-standing incumbents. Even if there is new blood, limiting candidates for election to those approved by the existing council assures perpetuation of chums at the helm. The requirement for service in a subcommittee before standing for election allows the incumbents to
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exclude specific members by blocking them from subcommittees. Granted, there are inherent structural weaknesses in the constitutions of many societies. The main common flaw lies in the quorum required to elect and provide mandates to the Council. That quorum is often a small fraction of the total membership. This means a small number of people (the majority present in a General Meeting) can effectively make major decisions that affect the whole organisation. In the first AWARE AGM on 28 March 2009, 80 of the 102 people present had only recently joined. Without the new members, there would have been only 22 attendees, the majority of whom would have been elected into the 12-member Exco.
“ …Far too many societies have the same people in office for ages.” This is typical for many societies. Because so few people turn up at the AGMs, small groups can effectively hijack an organisation’s agenda. This applies not only to new groups coming in, but also to incumbents who are able to perpetuate themselves and so, hijack the agenda for a long, long time. Actually, it is worse. Most society constitutions have a clause stating if the quorum is not met at the scheduled start time, the General Meeting can be adjourned for, say, 30 minutes, and those “members then present shall be a quorum.” Usually, constitutional amendments are protected, but the adjourned meeting
can elect the council and pass other resolutions. And indeed, many societies just simply plan for this eventuality i.e. that the meeting will really begin only 30 minutes after the notice time stated. However, the root problem is not in the quorum needed or deemed, it is in the apathy of the general membership. If the majority of members turn up, then the results of the voting would truly and fairly reflect what members want. Regrettably, apathy is endemic in most societies here. Consider the Singapore Island and Country Club. In 2005, it was proposed that all office bearers should be elected (key positions were then appointed). Because this was a major change to the club’s constitution and workings, the club extended the voting period. Despite widespread publicity and three full days to vote – more time than our nationwide General Election – only about a fifth of members turned up to vote. My response to societies that discussed with me how they can “strengthen” their constitutions to prevent a similar AWARE takeover, is that they should focus their energies on engaging and being relevant to their members. Otherwise, if members rise up and want a change, it is only fair and right. If there is any constitutional amendment to be made, it should be to provide tenure guidelines, increase the quorum and provide mechanisms such as extended voting and electronic voting to increase members’ participation. ✩ The writer is author of “Doing Good Well: What does (and does not) work in the nonprofit world”. He is actively involved with several non-profit organisations. This article reflects his personal views.
Oops! I Screwed Up! The truth is all organisations screw up. The least screwed-up wins. JACK SIM examines the high performance potential of understanding the role of errors to create a culture of learning.
e grow up in a culture that teaches us to be correct all the time and that is a big error. The intention of such teaching is good, but the end result is we become stifled and risk-averse. A plan is at best, our best guess about the future, and it doesn’t guarantee us certainty of the right results. Results depends on several things, for eg, the capacity and experience of the decision maker. Many young people own a narrow bandwidth of experience. Many older workers have a narrow bandwidth due to a lack of learning from when they started work (they always use the same methods, never questioning if there may be a better way). We fear errors, but the cost of errors can be low if we encourage a learning culture. Early error detection can prevent the costly snow-balling of a small mistake rolling into a major one. If we make errors and are honest enough to say “I screwed up,” we can learn from that and discuss the next step. If the problem is structural, some changes may be needed, or it could have been a one-off mistake. If we are appreciated for speaking up early, we’ll have a culture of learning instead of fearing a judgmental one. But people tend to be shy to admit they screwed up, fearing a loss of face, or even job security. We need a corporate culture of forgiveness to create learning and risk taking. The person who makes no mistakes the whole year, probably never learnt anything new because he didn’t take risks, or he hid his mistakes. Innovation and change require some risk taking. Making errors in the course of work is different from recklessness. Sometimes, errors are caused by one person wanting to push his idea because
“A company with people unafraid to ask questions and test ideas against each other is a healthy one.” he loves it so much. Communication, sharing expertise and experiences will help here. Which is why asking questions reduces errors. Defensiveness is a definite killer of creativity. It is probably easier for a new staff to say, “I don’t know,” than for an older staff to admit it, especially if there was no existing habit of inquiry in the corporation. The older or more senior you are, the more worried you are about appearing ignorant. I always ask questions. I even stop to ask what a word means if I’ve never heard it before. I tell people I didn’t attend university in my youth and missed plenty of structured learning, and I’ve often felt inadequate and wish I was cleverer. This admission is often rewarded with people forgiving me for who I am, and encourages honesty that helps establish trust. The lack of higher education doesn’t matter if you are able to learn all the time. One thing about making errors is that if you make them too often at work,
there is a good chance you are not the right fit for the job and an early change of career will lead to a better job fit and happiness. Results also depend on the decisionmaking environment, often a dynamic and fluid space as circumstances surrounding the decision change. You need to adjust your plan accordingly. This means a decision maker may sometimes seem inconsistent. Good communication over a change of position can avoid misunderstanding. The bureaucrat may say, “It’s too late to change that decision.” But you may need mid-course adjustment, diversion, or even a reversal of decisions if the consequences of a previously chosen course are costly. This is also part of learning from errors. Saving face must not block saving the company from costly future errors. A company with people unafraid to ask questions and test ideas against each other is a healthy one. Staff members who read widely, google for new ideas, and who implement projects fast and communicate constantly with each other to clear obstacles, will grow a learning culture with honest values that bring surprising performance. Learning doesn’t have a “highest level”. The cost of not learning is no joy. If you stop thinking, stop imagining and stop communicating, you stagnate and all you can do is blame others, and become frustrated and emotional. The truth is all organisations screw up. The least screwed-up wins. Instead of saying we have an excellent company trying to do better, we might be more realistic to say we have fewer screw-ups than others, and are reducing the screw-up margin all the time. That will bring us an honest to goodness culture of learning. ✩
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S A L T S H A K E
Home, Green Home
Ignoring the bias against celebrity fronted causes as more style than substance, model and VJ-turned environmental activist Nadya Hutagalung, turns a family conviction on eco-living into a wider green platform using the power of new media. MICHELLE BONG considers how a home project turned Green Kampong into a vibrant cyber community.
nyone can help create environmental awareness – even better if you can use what you’re good at, such as a way with fickle audiences. Ask model and MTV VJ turned environmental activist, Nadya Hutagalung, founder of Green Kampong (www.greenkampong.com). Hutagalung and her Singapore-based friends and eco-warriors who call themselves the Green Team, are spreading the green word (and deed) in Singapore and beyond with greenkampong.com, a website and online community working to attract and nurture more eco-conscious believers across different cyber communities. The like-minded group includes university fundraising strategist Holman Chin, former magazine art director Linda Tom, full-time mother Liana Hamidon, and Hutagalung’s husband Desmond Koh, an investor with his eye on creating sustainable green projects and initiatives with non-profit organisations. As individuals with different talents and interests, they are behind a repository of business listings, videos, useful tips, healthy recipes and reading material ranging from technology and science, fashion and beauty, business, design and travel. Green Kampong is an extension of a personal blog (“mostly full of pictures and videos”) started by Hutagalung and her husband in early 2008. They used the blog to update friends and family on the progress of the green home they were building. Because sourcing for materials was a challenge, the couple found themselves researching extensively into green companies, suppliers and resources. They had soon collated so much useful information, they decided to make the material
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public knowledge through a proper website. Hutagalung was spurred by the opportunity to build a community that would benefit from education and information, and one that would provide a platform for green products, contacts and services. Always entrepreneurial, she spotted an immediate presence on the web. She roped in Mr Chin and Ms Tom to contribute and the site went live in a few weeks later early this year. Awareness grew rapidly and spread beyond the “hip” circles overlapping her work and social life. In fact, a planned official launch became moot – as far as online communities and habitués were concerned, the Green Kampong site had been well and truly launched entirely on its own click steam. To date, Green Kampong has over 1,000 fans on its Facebook page, enjoys a healthy following on Twitter and has achieved close to 3,000 hits on the site. Premier green brands such as top-end Australian skin care and beauty label Jurlique, and home-grown organic foodstore Supernature, enjoy product spots. Site visitors can access thought-provoking articles, information on upcoming green events and a column where they can post messages. Hutagalung credits the initiative’s speedy growth partly to the efforts of non-governmental organisations and
government agencies over the years, which have clued the public into environmental awareness and the vibrant cyber communities “out there”. “But there’s still a long, long way to go, and the main key is education. If we are educated in matters of climate change, we can't help but be compelled to make changes and get educated about conservation. Mobilise your friends, family and community on making it a way of life,” she urged. “It’s the little things that cumulatively make the biggest difference.” I can, you can Hutagalung single-handedly oversees Green Kampong’s web activities, encouraged by other inspiring greenies in cybercommunities and individuals she has met while campaigning for the green cause. She also designs an eco-jewellery line OSEL, while juggling the demands of her three children, Tyrone, 16, Flynn, 7, and Nyla 1. Her waking hours are split between OSEL, completing the construction of the family’s eco home, the website and her children. “What keeps me busy is the amount of mind space needed with a new enterprise. I attend many meetings, accept invitations to speak at green conferences and philanthropy events, and I sit on committees. I enjoy expanding communications, networking at conferences and developing relationships,” Hutagalung said. This has meant less time for her working relationships with the World Wildlife Fund (she was involved with the 2009 Earth Hour event) and Unifem. She helped
R S & M O V E R S produce a 2008 video for Unifem’s campaign to end violence against women by sharing her experiences on abusive relationships. Hutagalung still sits on the board for the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation’s Star Shelter, which provides temporary refuge for victims of family violence. She’s also kept on her toes with FaceBook group updates for Green Kampong where an active network demands constant posts on everything from recipes for DIY honey face masks, to how mineral makeup inspires green practices, to the ban on bottled water in New South Wales, and the Singapore Zoological Gardens’ new $1 million conservation fund to protect wildlife. It’s a mixed bag for a community of mixed interests with a common focus on green awareness.
“ I jumped on this bandwagon back in 2003. It was how I lived my life, not some fad I was into.” The site also helps generate publicity for non-governmental organisations and their events. Green Kampong helped promote Kampong Senang’s event, “Global Warming: Its Science/its Effects and Solutions in June this year. There are more plans to take such collaborations further, at different levels. With a little help from my friends Hutagalung is glad of the support from her team members. On the phone with each other almost daily, they try to meet every two to three weeks for discussions on site content improvements or to brainstorm new ideas. Mr Chin oversees web content and Ms Tom contributes healthy food recipes. Content is updated weekly. Hutagalung points out that Mr Chin discovered very quickly that the active journalism on the site “proves you don’t have to be a vegetarian to save the planet. You can be supportive and eco-active in other ways, like sharing links to great articles or green tips.”
Likewise, Ms Tom experiments with healthy recipes (Hearty Cabbage and Potato Soup, anyone?) and posts them online for everyone to enjoy. The team measures their reach by monitoring site traffic and the number of monthly hits on particular topics. Hutagalung adds that the kind of people contacting the team through the website suggests their green messaging is paying off. Queries, posts and messages come from a wide range of organisations and people from environment-related causes. Going to work – virtually Given that Green Kampong’s “office” is online and virtual, and manned by volunteers, there are no overheads and there is no large carbon footprint – all good from an ecological perspective. Technology gives the team a chance to be mobile and cost effective. Day to day costs are very minimal, and Hutagalung has been self-funding the site. Expenses have only involved “a three-figure amount for the domain and a designer’s fee for the site’s image”. Local digital media partner Crayon Digital, provides back-end work on a pro bono basis. Spots are given to partners, who simply provide benefits to readers such as product giveaways and pro bono services. Supernature, for eg, contributes ingredients for Ms Tom’s featured recipes. Hutagalung is considering offering paying spots to maintain a better flow for new and updated content. While Hutagalung has relied on existing relationships with Green Kampong’s partners to get them on board, she’s also now widening the circle through cold calling and referrals. Economic crisis or not, it has been fairly smooth-sailing and she has not yet begun monetising the site. She believes the indicators point towards growing Green Kampong as a social enterprise. Advertising will be introduced – and there are plans to do so by year-end. A green lifestyle To the cynics who think she’s using her celebrity status to jump on the Going
Green bandwagon, or those who feel Green Kampong is a vehicle to extend her pop culture presence, she is nonplussed, almost amused. “I think it’s fine if they want to say or think that. I reckon if more personalities use their names to bring about change, that would lead to a better world. The unfortunate truth is people will look, point and judge – that’s inevitable. “I jumped on this bandwagon back in 2003. It was how I lived my life, not some fad I was into. It’s only when I turned my lifestyle into a business that people took notice. At the end of the day, I want to live responsibly,” she said. Ask her about profitable returns and she is matter-of fact. “In terms of financial returns, there is nothing to speak of. But personal satisfaction is generous. It’s heartwarming to receive the support and positive feedback, and I’m grateful for all the doors that have opened and connections to others trying to do the same thing. It’s really lovely to see how many are out there trying to make a difference,” she smiled. Hutagalung has something else to show for her green focus. “Work on my green home started two years ago and the roof structure is just up so I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed that we can move in come December!” she said. The family’s new home features a range of eco-friendly factors – a mineral water swimming pool instead of a chlorinated one; as a substitute for toxic chemical sprays, a special metal mesh to stop bugs entering the house; eco-friendly exterior cladding over regular wood to play their part against deforestation; architectural design elements that keep the house naturally cool; eco flooring, thermal heating for water, and a clothes dryer that runs on gas. She laughs over how the construction workmen are “horrified” by her requests, and constantly tell her that they can achieve the same look with materials that are a fraction of the cost. “For my furniture, I’ll even go to a second-hand store to buy retro pieces!” ✩
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The Power of One
Leadership in Philanthropy in Asia” event included on its panel, Stanley Tan, Chairman of the Community Foundation of Singapore on its discussion panel. “Everyone – and anyone – can give,” Li said simply. “If you are a very busy doctor, you can contribute one week over a few months, donating your professional
services where it is needed.” The star, just back from filming in the USA, recounted his life-threatening personal encounter with the South-east Asian tsunami that drove him to re-value his individual role as a change agent in finding solutions for complex and urgent social challenges. “One person starts, then he connects with another person, and efforts grow. The most important thing is for the individual to start, no matter how small you think your effort is. Just do it!” Li urged. In July this year, UBS and the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre launched the first Community Leadership Experience for non-profit organisations to discuss, share and exchange best practices. Topics included governance and accountability, organisational challenges and leadership. UBS launched a mentorship program where 16 UBS senior level executives and management will coach and mentor local non-profit executives on a pro-bono, sixmonth basis.
for Unilever Asia, presented a compelling case study of how his company forged a remarkably sustainable and mutually profitable relationship with Indonesian communities where the multinational corporation operated. “Ownership of a business by local communities is the most powerful route to success and growth,” said Mr Kaviratne. “I am talking about a business whose interests have become inextricably interwoven with the welfare of the societies where it thrives, to the extent that these societies take pride in owning it.” Mr Kaviratne provided detailed examples of how Unilever led by example as a business, initiating community projects that fed back into the company. “Think big,
start small, move fast,” he recommended. He was joined in a spirited panel discussion at the Singapore Management University by Mr Stephen B Young, Global Executive Director of the Caux Round Table, an international network of business, political, community and academic leaders who promote moral capitalism; and Ms Claire Chiang, Chairperson of BTGF. “Corporate and Social Responsibility for Banyan Tree (is) not something we do only when we are profitable,” said Ms Chiang. “We are on a quest for a new business model which acts as a restraining force for unfettered, rampant commercialism focused on short term gains.” Mr Young, author of the book “Moral Capitalism”, stressed the timeliness for “resetting the global economy”, one that rests on ethical practices that embody common values from the World’s principal moral and religious traditions. “Greed is an insufficient criterion for success in capitalism,” he stated. “We must prevent future meltdowns of the financial system by insisting on reasonable and responsible valuations of (corporate) assets.” For more information on the lecture: www.banyantreeglobalfoundation.com.
Quiet conviction drives Jet Li. The international film star underlined the remarkable power of individual gifts of time and money at the UBS Thought Leadership Seminar.
is fame may have drawn many, but it was Jet Li’s powerful personal conviction that resonated when he underlined his philanthropic passion for his One Foundation. The international film star used anecdotes and humour to highlight the remarkable power of individual philanthropic contributions, and their contagious effect on social change. The founder of the Jet Li One Foundation, took questions and plotted his deepening involvement in philanthropy worldwide to an audience of about 80 philanthropists, business leaders and “influencers” in the philanthropy sector on 30 July. Organised by Swiss Private Bank UBS at its Singapore premises, the “Building
Real Life CSR
The Banyan Tree Global Foundation is championing a “middle way” to build a sense of responsibility into private decision-making, so businesses are embedded with social responsibility as an essential, basic value.
ecisive and impactful community action proved the winning formula for one firm believer of good corporate social responsibility (CSR). At the first distinguished lecture series launched by the Banyan Tree Global Foundation (BTGF) on 20 August, Mr Nihal Kaviratne, former Senior Vice President of Development & Environmental Affairs
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