Singapore Charity Sector Texting for Transparency
Thursday, 12th August 2010 at 2:21 pm
Singapore's charity regulator has introduced an SMS system to allow the public to check on the bona fides of a charity soliciting donations.
The Commissioner of Charities (COC), Low Puk Yeong recently introduced the system and detailed the service in his annual report to the Singapore Government this week.
Yeong says that to enable the public to continue to donate with confidence, the COC introduced an SMS service to allow members of the public to send a query via text message to check whether an organisation has a permit to solicit donations in public.
He says the COC Office at times receives complaints by members of the public that they had been approached for donations by dubious charities.
He says such cases undermine public confidence in the charity sector.
With the SMS service, the public has a quick way of verifying the authenticity of the fundraising activities they encounter in public and Yeong says charities also run a lower risk of their names being used for donation scams.
Yeong says despite the financial turmoil in 2009, Singaporeans continue to show their care and confidence in the charity sector. There are just under 2000 charities registered in Singapore.
According to the COC's annual report, the total income of the Singapore charity sector (which includes fees for services rendered, donations and government grants) amounted to $9.02 billion (AUD7.36 billion) for the financial year ended in 2008.
There were 98 large charities with annual income above $10 ($AUD8.16million) million as compared to 67 in the previous year. These were mainly tertiary education institutions, health institutions and religious organisations.
They collectively accounted for 85% of the total income of the charity sector. On the other hand, charities with annual income of less than $250,000 made up 44% of the charity population and accounted for less than 1% of the total income of the charity sector.
Singapore is describes as one of the richest countries in East Asia and the fourth richest country in the world based on per head of population (5 million people)
The COC report shows that the total value of tax-deductible donations received remained the same as 2008 at $687 million ($AUD561million) . There was a drop in corporate donations from $476 million ($AUD388.7 million) to $447 million. However this was offset by a 14% increase in individual donations from $211 million to $240 million ($AUD196million).
Some Singapore charities are registered as an Institution of a Public Character (IPC) meaning an organisation serving the needs of local communities, which allows of tax-deductible receipts for donations made to it.
Yeong says that to support greater charitable giving amidst the economic crisis, the tax deduction for donations made in 2009 was increased from 200% to 250% in 2010.
The COC Annual Report is posted on the Charity Portal www.charities.gov.sg