Mention the Community Chest (ComChest) and one of the most common misconceptions is it is government-related and therefore should not need to solicit for donations.
So shares Ng Ling Ling, ComChest’s Managing Director, who is also Assistant CEO of the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). The reality, she points out, is the converse.
“ComChest started as a community project [in 1983] by our founder Dr Ee Peng Liang, an accountant and active community leader. He thought of the idea of economies of scale to centralise fundraising for social service organisations so that they can focus on serving the disadvantaged,” says Ng. The amount of donations has grown and being part of NCSS provides ComChest a strong governance structure for public accountability.
The mission of ComChest has remained till today, with over 4,000 corporate and 200,000 individual donors supporting its efforts. Collectively, ComChest helps about 80 charities to support different disadvantaged and vulnerable groups.
What has changed though, is the way people are giving. While it used to be just about donating money, Ng Ling Ling observes that today, it is about adding value and impact to the lives of those being helped by enabling and engaging donors in the process of caring and sharing.
“We felt that if we facilitated the experience and understanding of the disadvantaged well, especially through giving of time, hearts would open and giving would be a natural consequence,” she explains.
Her team has gamely bought into the vision, seeing themselves as a connector, advocate and voice for the marginalised, “A young colleague even coined the term ‘friend-raising’ to encourage [the] like-minded to give.”
ComChest now positions itself as a one-stop CSR partner, complete with dedicated account-servicing support, to maintain strong relationships with donors.
For the five years that she has helmed ComChest, Ng Ling Ling has tried to build a culture of care and authenticity. “I hope that the ComChest team will always be purpose-driven and true to its cause. I encourage my team to take stock and reflect regularly, so that the raison d’être of why we do what we do motivates us to give our best,” she opines.
One of the most memorable projects she has worked on is the Care & Share @ SG50 movement, which not only marked Singapore’s golden jubilee, but also mobilised the country to show more care and concern for the underprivileged.
The movement received support from 240 social service organisations, and raised a record $800 million in donations. It involved 100,000 volunteers across 2,000 events for 28 months. This also led to the government doubling its donation matching grant from the initial $250 million to $500 million, creating a total of $1.3 billion for social service organisations and NCSS to build capabilities and capacities for the sector in the future.
“This was an exceptional experience; I must say that in every engagement and event where I see the smiles of people helping and those being helped, I feel tremendous joy and a sense of satisfaction.”
ComChest is not short of interesting initiatives that it hopes will get the same amount of traction. Two new ones rolling out this year are #DigiConnect and Onefor10.
The former helps social service organisations supported by ComChest build a robust online presence and increase their fundraising capability, as well as provides access to resources around compelling content creation to engage donors. All this is motivated by the growth of online donations at an exponential rate in this digital age.
Onefor10 is designed to make a connection between those who have the resources and abilities to give, and those that are vulnerable due to various disadvantages and difficulties in our community. The platform — designed in collaboration with a group of volunteers comprising senior management from DBS Private Bank — promotes available touchpoints to high net worth individuals and family offices to gather information on the social needs in the community. This is helpful if they are looking to draw up an impactful and sustainable giving plan.
“We found that by sharing macro social service landscape information, research insights on the sub-segments of vulnerable groups and evidence-based social interventions that empower them and improve their quality of life, a deeper understanding and interest were forged,” shares Ng Ling Ling, elaborating on how a gathering of financially successful individuals for partnership discussion in the past year led to this realisation.
Eventually, she hopes that Singaporean society will grow to become one that many are involved in, giving and helping with the heart, head and hands.
“I also believe that the social service sector will increase in importance as our country continues to develop,” she adds. “I look forward [to a career in] the social service being the choice and calling for talented and capable people, complemented by a bigger number of volunteers who are willing to step up and commit to serve on a sustainable and regular basis.”
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