Government will make it easier for charities to raise funds in public, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Government will make it easier for charities to raise funds in public

The Government will make it easier for charities to raise funds in public and may do away with the need for charities to apply for permits before they hold their fund-raisers.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said at the Charity Governance Conference on Thursday: "We will make it easier for registered and exempt charities to raise funds through house to house and street campaigns, while making it safer for donors."

He said the current rules require registered charities to obtain permits before they can conduct such fund-raising campaigns, but this imposes an administrative burden on the charities.

Mr Tong did not specify which permit he was referring to but said the Commissioner of Charities (COC) had consulted with the public on "how to improve this situation". The COC aims to roll out a revised regime next year.

Under this revised framework, registered and exempt charities, as well as permit-holders raising funds for foreign charitable purposes, need only disclose their fund-raising campaigns on the Charity Portal, the COC's website, before they raise funds in public.

"Donors can verify the legitimacy of these campaigns instantly by searching the Charity Portal, which is centrally controlled by the COC's office," said Mr Tong at the two-day conference held at the NTUC Centre in Marina Boulevard.

The COC said it will provide more details by the end of the year.

In May, the COC held a public consultation where it proposed to scrap the need for charities to apply for a House to House and Street Collections licence from the police when they raise funds in public, such as during flag days, charity carnivals or any face-to face soliciting for donations on the streets.

The House to House and Street Collections Act was introduced in 1947 to regulate soliciting from the streets or going from house to house for donations.

The revised regime means charities will no longer be subjected to "dual regulation" under two sets of laws - the Charities Act and the House to House and Street Collections Act. This will reduce charities' administrative workload.

The revision took into account feedback from the public and charities, the COC said in a statement on Thursday.

At the same time, more disclosure requirements will be imposed on charities to ensure donors can easily check on the legitimacy of the fund-raisers on the Charity Portal.

The statement added: "Enforcement action, where necessary, may be taken against improper appeals, failure to comply with the new disclosure requirements and/or wilfully providing inaccurate details."

At the conference, Mr Tong also announced that the COC will launch the Terrorist Financing Risk Mitigation Toolkit to help charities identify terrorist financing risks and mitigate them, among other things. The toolkit is expected to be available by the end of the year.

Mr Tong said: "With greater cross boundary flow of funds, a charity can be exposed to terrorist financing and money-laundering risks.

While there are currently no such known risks, he said Singapore cannot be complacent.

He said non-profit organisations, including charities, have been identified to be at a medium-low risk of being abused for terrorist financing, according to Singapore's Terrorist Financing National Risk Assessment published in 2020.

He added: "It is essential that we are aware of the risks of potential abuse, remain vigilant and safeguard our charities against such abuse."