Setting Up a Non-Profit Entity in Singapore - Part 2

Part 1 of Setting Up a Non-Profit Entity in Singapore provided a detailed overview of the different types of entities that can be used to setup a non-profit organization in Singapore. In this Part 2, we talk about matters that are crucial to the post-registration survival of such an organization including fund-raising, publicity, volunteers, etc.

Critical Success Factors

  • Fundraising is a sophisticated, complex, and competitive endeavor – one that is unavoidable for a NPO. You need to have a constant inflow of funds in order to just survive, leave alone being successful.
  • A nonprofit organization cannot succeed without a strong core of volunteers.
  • Given the nature of nonprofit organizations, there is less scope for marketing and publicity. It is all about doing more with less.

The guide below will help you to understand and plan a successful strategy to tackle the above issues.

Fundraising

Fundraising refers to soliciting and gathering money or other gifts in-kind, by requesting donations from individuals, businesses, charitable foundations, or governmental agencies.

It is important to have a specific plan and road-map in place before you start fundraising.

  • Establish fund raising goals and priorities
  • Identify potential sources of funding
  • Implement your fund raising plan by tapping the fundraising sources
  • Maintain a fundraising database and a sound accounting record system

Fund raising tips

  • Plan your fund raising during the year end as this is the time when corporations are doing their planning for the following year
  • It is good to have a written proposal when you approach potential donors
  • Foundations rarely fund operating or administrative costs, rather than specific programs which directly deliver service
  • Start with internal solicitations to board members, staff and members of your organization
  • Corporate funding is more episodic, revolving around particular campaigns, events, and projects. It is best suited for new initiatives, special programs, and special events.

New fundraising techniques and methods come into existence every year, but the basic ones should be the backbone of your fundraising efforts. There are three principal sources of funding, depending on your cause and eligibility – grants by government agencies, raising funds by appealing to members of the public or approaching corporate houses.

Grants

Grants are funds given to NPOs, for charitable purposes, by corporations, governments, small business and individuals. There are various categories of grants you can apply for in Singapore:

  • If you are promoting the cause of a specific sector, such as sports, art, youth, social enterprise and so on, there are certain grants provided by sector specific bodies that you can avail of.
  • The VWOs (Voluntary Welfare Organisations) Charities Capability Fund (VCF) provides specific grants to approved charities and IPCs.

Appealing to the public for funds

Is Singapore a giving nation?

According to Singapore’s Individual Giving Survey 2008, donations to non profit organisations by individuals increased to SGD 958 million in 2008, compared to SGD 341 million in 2006. Donor participation increased to 91% in 2008 from 89% in 2006.

You are allowed to raise funds in Singapore, provided you have obtained the necessary licences and permits as detailed below.

You can raise funds by appealing to the public in the following ways:

  • By reaching out to individual members of the public either through house to house visits; soliciting in streets; an appeal made through the telephone or the media such as the Internet and newspapers; appeal letters by post; or 
    approaching potential donors with a formal proposal.
  • By holding a fund raising event in a public place
  • Fundraising portals and websites like GIVEasia or JustGiving

Permits required to appeal to the public for funds

For fund-raising appeal through door-to-door collection or soliciting in public places, the House to House and Street Collection Permit must be obtained from the Police. A licence is not needed if it is a private collection that is confined to friends or relatives, appeals made through the telephone or the media such as the Internet and newspapers, appeal letters by post or approaching individual donors.

There are certain permits you will have to apply for with the relevant bodies if you are holding a fund raising event in a public place. For instance, for an assembly of five or more persons in any public place to publicise a cause or campaign, you will need to apply for a permit from the Singapore Police Force. Additionally, licences will have to be obtained for any form of public entertainment, use of outdoor advertising and signage, fire and safety issues, electrical supply installation, sale of food, drinks and merchandise. If you are holding events in common areas in HDB estates, parks or state land you will have to obtain permission from the Town Council concerned, contact National Parks Board or Singapore Land Authority as the case may be.

Approaching corporate houses for donations

Most corporations have a Corporate Social Responsibility arm, where they make donations on a regular basis to promote a certain cause or partner with specific organisations and hold a charity show or fund-raising event.

Approaching corporate houses for donations, whether in cash or in kind is hard work. Generally, there are two major steps involved:

  • Prospecting – In this phase, you identify which donors to approach, i.e. those interested in your cause. Find out who are the decision makers, past donor history, what they will or will not fund and why they may or may not support your organisation.
  • Submitting a written proposal – It should cover why you exist, what you do, who works with you to implement programmes, what you need from the corporate house, why you need it, how you will use the donation and so on.

Publicity

Publicity is about getting people talking about your group and what you do, and getting them to spread the word for you. Before you decide on what publicity strategy you want to adopt, it is important to chalk out your publicity goals. Some possible reasons for seeking publicity are a) to increase visibility to raise more funds; b) to raise public awareness about an issue; c) to increase public education about a social cause; d) to influence behavior or attitudes, or to increase participation in an activity.

You next step will be to determine which tools and strategies will have the most impact on your goals. There are several cost effective publicity channels you can adopt to get your organisation seen and heard by people. You might want to consider any or all of the following:

  • Starting a website. Please note that if your website is going to propagate, promote or discuss political or religious issues relating to Singapore, you will have to obtain a Class Licence.
  • Printing newsletters. A permit is required for printing or publishing a newspaper in Singapore at regular or irregular intervals.
  • Getting help from Community centres
  • Handing out flyers
  • Direct mail
  • Posters on bulletin board
  • Hosting an event gathering and showcasing promotional videos that help your cause. You must ensure that all your promotional videos are certificated by the Media Development Authority Licensing Services (Films and Publications). You might also require an exhibition licence depending on what is the rating of your film/video.
  • If you have sufficient funds you can place messages in the various mass media channels.

Volunteers

Volunteer scene in Singapore

An NVPC’s Volunteerism Survey showed that 16.9% of Singapore’s population engaged in volunteer work in Singapore in the year 2008. The volunteerism rate is lower than some developed countries, such as the UK (48%), the US (44%) and Canada (27%).

In Singapore, more people today prefer to volunteer on an ad hoc basis, rather than take on long-term commitments. This need not necessarily be a disadvantage as ad hoc volunteers help to get more work done, more quickly and effectively. They can sometimes be strong advocates of volunteerism and philanthropy and may even choose to volunteer with you on a long term basis.

Today’s volunteers want their contributions to count. They want to know exactly what is expected of them, how long it will take, and what kind of outcome the association seeks. Detailed below are certain pointers that will help you attract and manage volunteers.

Attracting and managing volunteers

Volunteers are more motivated and committed when there is a comprehensive volunteer management framework in place. Such a framework has four stages.

  • Concept stage – Clearly define vision, mission and goals for volunteers, assess their needs, design a budget for volunteer involvement
  • Planning stage – Write job/position descriptions and policies, develop a recruitment plan and procedure, design database and record-keeping systems activities, hours , etc. and identify potential risks faced by volunteers
  • Implementation stage – Conduct orientation and training for volunteers, supervise volunteers and have recognition activities for their efforts
  • Review stage – Review performance/reasons for exit of volunteers

Other Useful Resources

National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre

Established in 1999, the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) is the national body that promotes and develops volunteerism and philanthropy across all sectors, functioning as a first-stop centre, catalyst and networking agency to foster the giving spirit in Singapore, whether of time, money or in kind.

National Council for Social Service

NCSS leads and coordinates the social service sector in Singapore. It serves to enhance the capabilities of social service organisations, identify service gaps, pioneer new programmes and set best practice guidelines. Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) are its members. Together they strive to provide training, funding and other essential services in Singapore’s social service sector.

Professional Help

If you are interested in setting up a non-profit entity in Singapore, you should seek the services of a professional services firm that can assist you with the registration as well as on-going statutory compliance matters of the entity.

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