Do Not Waste Your Hard Earned Money When Making Charitable Donations!

Many seniors look for ways to give back and the most direct is to donate to the causes that move you. There are more than 2,000 registered charities in Singapore and most are vying for donations from you. Many of you may have been giving regularly to your favorite charities – but do you know if you are donating to the right ones? Like going shopping, you should make sure that you get the most out of every dollar that you donate – and that means you should hold the charities accountable for being good custodians of your donation dollars.

Here is what you need to look for when donating in Singapore:

  • First, know that for whatever causes that you have your heart set on supporting, there are competing charities that you can choose to donate to. Like making a purchase, you should look at the charity that will give you the best value for each dollar you donate. But the first principle is to “shop around” – you may be surprised that there are many to choose from!
  • Look for a charity that can demonstrate good governance and transparency. Go to their website and look for their audited financial statements – and if they cannot be found, it would count heavily against supporting the charity. Look for how much they raise from charity and how much they spend for their charitable operations for the year. A charity that raises a lot of money but does not spend it is a yellow-flag. But a charity that is making a deficit yearly is also a problem because of sustainability. Look for a charity that is raising and spending a balanced amount and has a track record doing so.
  • The charity’s website should also have data or information showing how they are performing on their key metrics. For example, if you are supporting a soup kitchen, a key metric would be a year-by-year comparison on how many meals served. The key is to look for a consistent trend over 3-5 years that demonstrates that the charity is growing and doing more each year. A charity that is not able to provide performance data over several years is likely a problem.
  • Another area to look at is their board performance. Understand the profile of the board members and their qualifications. Two important metrics, which my not be available, are (1) how long have they been on the board, and (2) what is their attendance at the board meetings. If you cannot find them on the website, send them an email. Typically, looking at the board can give you a good clue about the health of the charity.
  • If you do not have time to study the above, look for charities that have the government seal of approval. Charities that are approved by the government as IPC – Institution of Public Character – of which there are about 600 in Singapore – are likely well run charities that are authorised to give out tax-deduction certificates to their donors. To obtain and retain the IPC status requires the charity to meet a high management and compliance standard. For smaller charities that are not IPC, you can look for their achievement of the Charity Council’s Transparency or Governance Award.

Not all charity deserve your support. The charity that do get your support should respect that you are donating your hard earned money – and put your donation to good use as custodians of the monies donated.

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