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Overview of Charity Sector in Singapore: 2007 – 2013 (Philanthropy in Asia: Working Paper No. 3)

Alfred Koh, Swee-Sum Lam, and Weina Zhang (Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, National University of Singapore)

Abstract: This is an exploratory study on the state of the charity sector in Singapore using the Commissioner of Charities Annual Reports from 2007 to 2013, available from the Charity Portal. The depth of analysis is much limited by the availability of inter-sectoral and intra-sectoral data as well as the length of time covered by each annual report.

While there are studies that use the same data, we attempt to rationalise the data trends and their implications for strategy making by would-be entrants, practitioners and policymakers.

We first present the broad trend in the net number and revenue growth of registered charities to understand the size of the sector and its financial health. Overall, the whole sector has been growing at a steady rate in terms of numbers and total amount of receipts which include grants, donations and others. Among the three components, grants, or the money given by the government, contributed the most to the total receipts. A more microscopic review shows that the percentages of others to total receipts are increasing.

We analyse the receipts per charity in each subsector at the level of the total receipts as well as its three components. It was observed that different subsectors have different mix of receipts with government grants dominating in the Education subsector, followed by the Arts and Heritage subsector and the Health subsector.

Taken together, this study could be of interest to aspiring entrants who wish to do good while staying afloat at the same time. For instance, the social and welfare subsector is able to generate a greater proportion of receipts from the sales of goods and services. This suggests that models employing social entrepreneurship may be appropriate in building sustainability in this sector.

Finally, subject to the data at hand, we explore the possible research questions raised in the literature that may be of relevance to practitioners and policymakers. We discuss topics such as the relation of donations and economic conditions, crowding-in or crowding-out effects of grants, the cost of donations, and fundraising strategies.

Given the trend of an ageing population, the Social and Welfare subsector may have a greater role to play in the future. Therefore, this warrants more in-depth research on these issues to bring innovation and sustainability in transforming society and community.

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By Alfred Koh, Swee-Sum Lam, and Weina Zhang (Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, National University of Singapore)
Download the full report
By Alfred Koh, Swee-Sum Lam, and Weina Zhang (Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, National University of Singapore)

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