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Guidelines for commercial fund-raisers to be issued

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Guidelines for commercial fund-raisers will help public donate with less pressure

The Commissioner of Charities is coming up with a set of guidelines for commercial fund-raisers so that donors can give without feeling undue pressure.

These fund-raisers, also known as third party fund-raisers, often ask for donations on the street.

The move, announced by the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu yesterday, comes amid a record donation of $2.9 billion in 2016 financial year, up from $2.7 billion a year before. The 2016 figures are the latest available.

The Code for Commercial Fund-raiser will be co-developed with major commercial fund-raisers here, said Ms Fu at the Charity Transparency and Governance Awards held at Gardens by the Bay.

It will state three core principles in commercial fund-raising - legitimacy, accountability and transparency, she added.

A spokesman for the Commissioner said the Code will guide fund-raisers on responsibilities and conduct so that "donors can give confidently and willingly with no undue pressure".

The co-development of the Code is similar to that of the Code of Practice for Online Charitable Fund-raising appeals, which was launched in January to help ensure appeals on crowd-funding sites are genuine and that fund-raisers account for donations received.

No launch date was given but the new Code will be made public "soon", said the spokesman.

The new Code was welcomed by those who said some who ask for donations can be pushy.

They also noted that commercial fund-raisers take up to 30 per cent of the donations raised - which is the maximum allowed according to the 30/70 fund-raising rule, which stipulates the fund-raising expenses cannot exceed 30 per cent of donations raised in the year.

Mr Alfred Tan, chief executive of the Singapore Children's Society, which does not hire commercial fund-raisers, is wary of these fund-raisers' cut.

"This may be seen as being overly commercialised or profiteering," Mr Tan said.

Homemaker Angelina Ong, 42, who has given to charities through commercial fund-raisers, said that many do not disclose the commission they get.

"It's an ethical question as donors hope that as much as possible of their donation will go to the charity's beneficiaries," she added.

The Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee said the Code will give all commercial fund-raisers a common framework for their conduct and practices so that everyone will know "what is the right thing to do".

Meanwhile, 47 charities won the Charity Transparency Award yesterday, an increase from 41 last year and 35 in 2016, when the awards was first held.

About 800 were assessed this year, said the Charity Council, organiser of the awards.

All registered charities are automatically assessed when they meet the award's eligibility criteria. These include being in operation here for at least three years and having a gross annual income of not less than $50,000 in the preceding financial year.

Winners include large charities such as Ren Ci Hospital and National Kidney Foundation. Others are medium-sized and smaller groups such as the Singapore Association for Mental Health, Viriya Community Services and Art Outreach Singapore.

Sata CommHealth awarded for good governance

When it comes to good governance, Sata CommHealth, a charity that runs medical centres, leads the way.

Its board members, for example, do self and peer assessments and also rate the chairman on a set of competencies.

Said its chairman Theresa Goh: "The assessments enable board members to uncover their hidden strengths and blind spots with regard to specific behaviour, and also to calibrate their own perceptions against the perceptions of others.

"This allows board development to be more focused, observable and tracked for improvement."

Sata CommHealth, which has about 250 full-time and temporary employees and had $17.7 million in income last year, won the Charity Governance Award for charities in the large category, defined as those having a gross annual income of at least $10 million.

The award recognises charities with the highest standards of governance.

Mindset Care bagged the award in the small charity category for those with an annual income of less than $1 million, while Club Rainbow (Singapore) won in the medium-sized category for charities with income between $1 million and less than $10 million.

The Jardine Matheson Group in Singapore, which includes Dairy Farm Singapore and Jardine Cycle and Carriage, set up Mindset Care in 2011 to help people suffering from mental health conditions.

It has two full-time staff and had $282,277 in income last year.

It has, for example, set up the Mindset Learning Hub to give those recovering from mental illnesses job training. - THERESA TAN