“Offering more attractive remuneration and a defined career path for staff in social service organisations should be the first step in having the right people on the ground” (Ways Charities Can Tackle Funding, Edmund Khoo Kim Hock).
In the laundry list of recommendations for charities – from offering more attractive remuneration to having an adequate training budget – so as “to recruit and retain the best talent at the senior management level” (ST, Jan 10), the challenge of funding is not as straightforward. And as practitioners charities are more than aware of these perspectives in the voluntary welfare sector. It is true that many non-profit organisations do not enjoy long-term government support or corporate sponsorship, but reliance on either will present problems too.
Reliance on institutional funding may raise questions about the independence of the organisations, and as a result limit the innovation or disruptive potential of programmes. The imposition of performance indicators, for instance, could also limit the flexibility and scope of the organisation. And despite the growing traction of corporate social responsibility, securing corporate funding is difficult if the causes are perceived to be not as mainstream. Moreover, while the overall donation sum has increased in Singapore, distribution remains a problem.
In this vein, the suggestion to enhance the fundraising abilities of staff members and volunteers is sound, but is often overlooked by charities which may prefer the stability – despite the aforementioned shortcomings – of institutional or corporate funding. For sustainable sources of independent funds, non-profits must be more transparent with their performance and impact, proving to the public that causes or programmes are worthy of support. In addition, through community involvement programmes or service-learning initiatives in the schools, some youths have pioneered creative campaigns for fundraising. Leveraging upon these endeavours can hence present advantages for organisations seeking stable sources of income.
This is in line with moves by the National Council of Social Service, to help charities with weak or no fundraising capabilities. Because continued reliance on traditional sources of funding – with their implications – could persist as an impediment, and limit the services or trajectories of charities for the future.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.