Greater push needed to get more higher-income earners to donate

More people are contributing a portion of their income to charitable causes.

But observers say there needs to be a greater push to rope in more with higher income.

Creating a compassionate society, even while meritocracy is at work.

That’s something which Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong recently called for in improving the system of meritocracy to ensure it continues to benefit society.

“Those who have risen to the top owe the greatest responsibility to help the weaker in society. A ‘compassionate meritocracy’ can help us build a resilient and inclusive society. A ‘selfish meritocracy’ will divide us and ruin our society,” said Mr Goh at a charity dinner in April.

The latest statistics from the Individual Giving Survey (2012) indeed show a trend of the higher-income group donating less of their earnings every month, compared to the lower-income.

Those earning about $5,000 to $5,999, for example, now commit about 0.5 per cent of their income to charities, compared to 1 per cent in 2008.

Those earning less than $1,000 committed the highest proportion, at 1.8 per cent, compared to 1.4 in 2008.

Some feel there should be greater efforts to reach out to the more fortunate.

Laurence Lien, CEO of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, said: “Studies have shown that it is the lack of exposure to needs on the ground that seems to be a critical factor and I think that’s true in Singapore too.

“If you expose Singaporeans, the well-to-do, to ground realities, I think that will unlock the compassion and unlock the giving.

“We see that in our figures, when Singaporeans volunteer, they give in donation a lot more than people who do not volunteer.

“In volunteering, you connect with people on the ground, you see how they live and you understand that for a lot of people, it’s not because they are not working harder or pulling their weight for themselves, but because realities are tough for them.”

Still, several initiatives are seeing a growing pool of donors from all walks of life.

Club 100 at North West Community Development Council — where donors pledge at least $100 every month to the CDC’s food aid fund — has seen its pool increase from 10 members in 2008 to 385 today.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, Mayor of North West CDC, said: “We also have retirees, we have family members, we also have successful businessmen, we also have companies in the Club 100 at North West.

“Some of them have pledged $500 per month, some $5,000 per month. Our plan for Club 100 is that we hope to reach out to at least 500 regular donors.”

Some 800 underprivileged families have benefited from the $2.3 million raised so far.

SHARE (Social Help and Assistance Raised by Employees), a workplace giving programme first launched in 1984, now has over 220,000 donors.

The highest monthly contribution last year, however, was just $500.

The programme attracts contributors from various industries such as education, healthcare, manufacturing, transport and the public sector, and includes daily-rated workers, professionals, managers and heads of organisations.

Community Chest intends to increase SHARE’s donor base by partnering more companies to introduce the programme to their employees and encouraging existing donors to increase their contributions.

These could be in the form of road shows, experiential activities and joint publicity efforts.

Community Chest said: “It is important to have senior management within companies take the lead in order to garner more employee support.

“Once the employees experience the gratification of giving and see the outcome of their donations, this culture becomes self-generating, and corporate social responsibility directives can be driven from the ground.”

Source: CNA