“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!

Just Published: Over 50 Profiles of non-profit organisations and programmes from Singapore and the region

After publishing our first Giving Guide on women’s issues in 2016, we have been working hard to bring you more critical and trustworthy information about charities in Singapore. It is our hope that this service begins to fill a gap in informed giving locally and contributes to developing the non-profit sector all around, so that charities are not only “doing good, but doing good well.” We are motivated by the fact that we’re not alone in this, and that we’re building on previous efforts on the ground.

On that note, we are delighted to publish over 50 profiles of non-profit organisations and programmes from Singapore and the region. The profiles provide information on their impact; strength and character; finances; governance and leadership; staff and volunteers; reputation and an overall summary. Most of the NPOs serve children and youths, but some are also working in sectors such as the arts, healthcare, etc.

Click here to view the profiles on our prototype site. They are meant to provide trustworthy information that encourage informed giving. The site also features 5 one-page sector briefs that are easy to read.

And of course, we’d love to hear what you think about it. Over the coming months, we will be seeking feedback on the prototype to inform plans for scaling up this initiative in 2018. Click here to tell us a thing or two!

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Delighted to launch our first Giving Guide

On Friday last week, we launched our first Giving Guide for donors who want to give effectively but aren’t sure how. Our first guide focuses on charities working with women in Singapore.

There are over 2,000 registered charities in Singapore and it can be a daunting task to decide which one to support.

By publishing independent recommendations, Just Cause wants to help people feel more confident when making donations. Ultimately the aim is that excellent charities will be able to raise more money.

In 2015 we evaluated our first set of charities, all focused on helping women in Singapore. Based on a rigorous assessment process, we are excited to recommend Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT), Singapore Muslim Women’s Association (PPIS) and Society for WINGS. Follow this link to see our findings for each of our four recommended charities.

The launch was featured in the Straits Times (here); Suria TV (here); and Lianhe Zaobao (see below)

launch LZ article

Tips for charitable giving this holiday season

As the holiday season returns many of us get into the giving spirit while charities ramp-up fundraising initiatives. In Singapore, the internationally celebrated annual #GivingTuesday (the first Tuesday of December) has now turned into #GivingWeek: Dec 1-7!

There are many great organizations to support and it can be overwhelming to decide who to give to and how much, so Forbes Magazine created this helpful article about responsible giving, Your Guide To End-of-Year Giving. The guide outlines a couple of simple steps to help make this year’s giving more enjoyable, for you and the organizations you support. For more information on each step, please see the link above.

  • Make a budget
  • Give more support to fewer charities
  • Vet the organization carefully
  • Get your tax benefits
  • Get the kids involved. It’s important for children to learn about the importance of philanthropy as early as possible.

For those looking to give locally, visit the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre‘s new site www.giving.sg – which provides an easy way to donate to your favorite charities.

Don’t forget, certain donations are tax deductible!

No matter what kind of charity you give to or how much, be a responsible donor and make your help really count.

Happy #GivingWeekSG!

Exploring the barriers to a more accountable charity sector

A recent Straits Times article titled Holding charities to account explores the challenges and barriers to a more transparent and accountable charity sector in Singapore. It touches on many of the reason why Just Cause was set up and what it hopes to achieve in improving the sector by providing consulting and practical support for charities.

“For the sake of a charity’s donors, volunteers and beneficiaries – and for the sake of public confidence in the sector at large – charities should step up to higher standards of not only doing good, but doing good well.” – Straits Times Journalist, Priscilla Goy


Roundtable on understanding and assessing non-profit quality

On October 30th, Just Cause, in collaboration with the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre and Asian Venture Philanthropy Network, held a well-attended expert roundtable discussion on what “good” looks like in the charity sector.

The event centered around a presentation by Just Cause founder Emily Perkin on the experience of creating and piloting the organisations “Excellence Framework”. This screening framework assesses the overall quality and impact of individual non-profits using a variety of field-tested measures and the experience of a number of specialised consultants.

In attendance were representatives from NVPC, AVPN, major NGOs, philanthropists, major corporate foundations and others working in the non-profit sector, who provided lively discussion on what “good” looks like as well as excellent feedback on our own development at Just Cause. A key focus of the group was getting a better understanding of what the main measures are and why when assessing non-profit qualities in Singapore and abroad.

A huge thank you to our partners NVPC for kindly sponsoring the venue and AVPN for all their help in organising and facilitating the session!

30th October public event: What does “good” look like?

Just Cause is proud to be partnering with the Asian Venture Philanthropy Network and the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre to host a round-table on assessing non-profit quality.

AVPN-Just Cause Event BannerABOUT the event:
How are we assessing non-profit quality in Singapore? What qualities should we look for? How do we control the costs of the assessment process? What does “good” look like?

Just Cause will be launching a website for donors in Singapore providing freely accessible, robust recommendations on great non-profits. Underpinning the recommendations on the website is a screening framework that assesses the overall quality and impact of individual non-profits.

Hosted by NVPC, this invitation-only roundtable will feature a presentation by Emily Perkin, Founder of Just Cause, who will share Just Cause’s experience in piloting its “Excellence Framework”. The presentation will be followed by an expert roundtable discussion facilitated by AVPN Chief Executive, Naina Subberwal Batra.

RSVP for the event by emailing patti@avpn.asia

Date: 30th October, 2015
Time: 11:30am – 1:30pm
Location: National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre – Multi Purpose Hall
6 Eu Tong Sen Street
#04-88 The Central
Singapore 059817

Nonprofits and public trust: ethics and accountability are key

Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on private donations and grants, so a good reputation and strong public trust is essential for financial success and sustainability.

An article titled Why Are Accountability Ethics & Social Responsibility Important to Nonprofit Organizations? touches on the issues surrounding public confidence in the nonprofit sector.

“If the public loses trust in a nonprofit — whether through malfeasance, poor management or some other failure to live up to its stated objectives — then donations are likely to fall off and the nonprofit’s revenue source will dry up.”

An organization should be more concerned with an inability to achieve its goals or the mismanagement of its resources than with subsequent financial challenges, however, once these issues have been remedied, an organization then has to deal with a damaged reputation and an uncertain future.

What can an organization due to help ensure excellence, maintain a good reputation, and grow public trust? Along with meeting basic standards of quality (e.g. sound governance, financial management, legal compliance etc.), according to this article, a nonprofit should:

  • Have a high standard of ethics ranging from being careful about whom it works with to where funding comes from
  • Employ methods that promote social responsibility – an obligation to behave ethically and with sensitivity toward social, cultural, economic and environmental issues
  • Demonstrate accountability and transparency through regular financial reporting, strong organizational policies and regular evaluations.

This list is not exhaustive, though it does highlight key elements to running a good NGO. Our goal at Just Cause is to help organizations do good, to be the best they can and achieve the greatest impact possible. By improving practices and standards, organizations can become more financially sound and see strong results.

What is ‘effective altruism’ and why does it matter?

A recent New York Times article titled Effective Altruism: Where Charity and Rationality Meet sheds light on a growing movement called “effective altruism” which encourages donors to think more analytically about giving. We here at Just Cause are all about thoughtful, informed philanthropy.

” … The problem behind a lot of charitable giving is that individuals often make donations without doing much analysis. They simply think the best of charities that interest them and accept at face value that these charities are doing a terrific job. Accountability is never considered.”

Why is this issue important to the Just Cause team? Giving, whether it is money, time, resources or skills, comes with responsibility. In the worst case, charity can be carried out badly or ineffectively, though its not always easy to tell, and can even lead to more harm than good (for more information). By being a responsible donor you have the power to influence the sector to improve standards, accountability and outcomes.

“Even for small givers, a more rational approach to philanthropy can focus attention on areas that make the biggest enduring contribution to human welfare.”

It may seem like a small donation or a weekend volunteer trip is just a drop in the bucket but every action makes a difference. At Just Cause we want to help you make a truly valuable difference by providing tips on what to think about when choosing who to donate to or volunteer with, increasing awareness about best practice in the charity sector while helping charities meet higher standards, and highlighting excellent non-profits.

Just Cause aims to help non-profits operate at the highest standards possible to ensure accountability and transparency while maximising impact. This means donors can be confident every time they give and that the impact created is the one intended.