“Charities must address long-term structural issues”

Kwan Jin Yao’s letter (Charities must address long-term structural issues) to the Straits Times Forum on Tuesday resonated with us at Just Cause. His letter was written in response to Melissa Kwee’s article (What does 2017’s volatility mean for giving?) and received a quick follow-up letter of support by National Kidney Foundation (Enhanced organisational capacity helps charities make greater impact).

Kwan writes:

In this vein, the answer to being resource-strapped lies in the availability and accessibility of non-profit manpower and resources.

In other words, can the authorities like the NVPC convince funders to channel some funds to organisational capacity-building too, and not just to programmes and services?

He also asks if there are ways for NVPC to help donors ascertain the effectiveness of charities, and if “certain metrics may be needed.” It is indeed a challenge to determine the most appropriate and constructive set of metrics for non-profits in Singapore. At Just Cause, we developed an “Excellence Framework” in 2015-16 to begin doing just that. Most recently, we’ve refined the framework, which has 7 core domains, including impact, finance, governance and reputation, and launched our Giving Guide Prototype Website that features over 50 non-profit organisations and programmes.

All of these efforts, whether by Just Cause or other agencies and intermediaries, are investments that are needed for growth and greater impact.

Kwan concludes:

Short-term fixes, while having a place in a non-profit, are not the way to sustainably do good.

Long-term investments are needed within the non-profit organisations. Unless the longer-term structural issues are addressed, the social service sector will struggle to improve volunteerism and philanthropy in Singapore.

We couldn’t agree more!