As the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre spearheads the inaugural #GivingWeek, its CEO Melissa Kwee shares how you can do your part.
Paying it Forward
More than just a season of festive feasting and merrymaking, the year-end is a time to count our blessings and open our hearts and pockets to help the less privileged. The National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) aims to encourage everyone to do just that with #GivingWeek (givingweek.giving.sg), a national movement held from December 1 to 7, which takes the lead from #GivingTuesdaySG, a national day of giving first introduced in Singapore in December 2013.
“Singaporeans are generous when it comes to the less privileged and donations tend to peak towards the end of the year. With #GivingTuesdaySG, there was a 25 per cent increase in funds raised—from $4m in December 2013 to $5m in December 2014,” says NVPC CEO Melissa Kwee. This gave rise to #GivingWeek, which encourages businesses, non-profit organisations and individuals to launch their own giving initiatives, in line with the NVPC’s vision of promoting a giving nation. The new online portal Giving.sg, which will replace the existing SG Cares and SG Gives (for volunteerism and donations respectively), will empower givers to make more informed choices about giving time, money or skills.
Kwee explains, “What we want to cultivate is not just a nation of volunteers and/or donors, but also a nation that is vibrant and thriving because it is a nation that celebrates a spirit of giving. We also want people to realise that they change themselves and others around them when they give.” She tells us more.
What is giving to you?
I see giving as a way of expressing my values and identity. I want to be known not as a person who took things all her life, but one who gave back and paid her blessings forward. I take instruction from my 95-year-old grandmother who at her 90th birthday shared her insights to leading a long and happy life. She said, “I just want to be a grateful person.” Her life lesson has taught me to remember and give thanks for the small things. No matter if she was poor or rich, she always asked what she could do to help others. With more, you can do more. With less, you can still do something.
What are some of the initiatives during #GivingWeek?
One of our #GivingWeek influencers Elaine Kim, a practicing doctor in palliative care with HCA Hospice Care, and her two sons Kyan and Luke will be encouraging family and friends to donate to HCA instead of buying Christmas or birthday gifts for them.
Another influencer, NVPC board member Trina Liang-Lin, who is also the president of the Singapore Committee for UN Women, will be holding a birthday fundraiser in December where all her guests are encouraged to donate to the UN Women instead of buying her gifts. And for the seventh year, employees from Citibank Singapore will be adopting and fulfilling more than 500 wishes of beneficiaries from five voluntary welfare organisations as part of The Boys’ Brigade Share-a-Gift campaign. The wishes include gifts such as rice cookers, shoes and educational books.
How can one show one’s support?
There are many simple, fun and meaningful ways that you can give as an individual to contribute time, money, skills and even influence for good. For example, if you love children or youth, volunteer as a mentor to those who need a friendly companion or guidance on how they can navigate their lives. Put your culinary skills to use by organising a bake sale and pledging proceeds to the charity of your choice. Or host a dinner party, charge an “entrance fee” for your guests and donate the takings to a cause you support.
For those who would like to champion a new cause, how do they get started? Ask questions about what the needs are out there, what resonates and is important to you, and brainstorm on ideas on how you can make a difference with what you have that would also excite you. You can research causes on Giving.sg and find a range of research materials on the NVPC website. It’s also helpful to ask different people what causes they support or are involved in. If you’d like a more direct service, you can also approach your bank or a philanthropy adviser, or the Community Foundation of Singapore, which hosts and supports donors in setting up funds or even foundations to support the causes donors care most about.
It’s also important to realise that there are many ways to give. In addition to fundraising, you can lend your voice for a cause you support, whether it’s increasing awareness of a cause or fundraising campaigns through your social media pages. Companies, families, alumni groups or individuals can also form Giving Circles where groups come together to pool funds to jointly donate into projects or causes of shared concern. At NVPC, we aim to make giving easy and simple to do. You can start by organising a cause-based giving campaign on Giving.sg. This new online giving platform will allow users to search for formal and community-based volunteering opportunities.
How can businesses, non-profit organisations and individuals collaborate when it comes to giving initiatives?
There are many areas where these groups can work together. It is about discovering a common cause that they champion and leverage on their respective strengths. I find Singaporeans tend to think of giving in terms of time and/or money and sometimes look for “packaged opportunities” to give. But there are so many different ways to give that create greater impact and value to receiving organisations, beyond a cash donation.
Take for example, skills-based volunteering. Non-profit organisations are sometimes limited in certain areas of capabilities such as information technology, marketing, finance, human resources and legal. They are not always able to pay for professionals and they benefit greatly from professionals who can contribute their skills to advise, coach or assist their staff in these capability areas. This is a growing area of need among non-profit organisations and there is a lot of potential for contribution of skills.
How does the NVPC plan to encourage long-term giving?
As NVPC’s vision is to promote a giving nation, we do hope to encourage a culture among Singaporeans where giving is woven into everyone’s lifestyles. The launch of Giving.sg, our new national, one-stop giving platform this month aims to create a holistic and engaging giving experience. Monthly causes will be featured and we will seek to partner with various events and happenings, which can link to a particular cause.
We will provide ideas, tools and knowledge to the public to consider how best to donate and what’s happening in the community scene. Through this digital ecosystem, we hope to spur individuals and companies to donate, volunteer, fundraise for charities, and/or pledge to be a giver. This user-friendly and interactive platform will empower givers with more informed giving choices.
We will also promote giving through greater support from companies. Leading companies can offer to help organise volunteer activities or even empower staff to identify their own causes to support. NVPC has partnered Singapore Business Federation Foundation and will be launching a Corporate Giving Roadmap for Singapore in February 2016, which will help guide companies along their journey.