Newsletter
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Environment, Health, Impact Investing & Reporting, Philanthropy, Social Enterprises, Social Sector Policy
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Who’s Doing Good?

02 March 2020 - 15 March 2020

THE GIVERS

Jack Ma to donate test kits, masks to US in fight against coronavirus. Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma announced a donation of 500,000 coronavirus testing kits and 1 million masks to the United States, according to Nikkei Asian Review. Ma’s initiative, a collaboration between his eponymous foundation and Alibaba Foundation, also includes donating relief materials to Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran, and Spain. Ma has also urged for international cooperation and speedy, accurate testing to fight the health crisis. “The pandemic we face today can no longer be resolved by any individual country,” he said in a statement. As the number of cases rise in the United States, American billionaires Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have also recently announced initiatives to expand testing in their localities.

THE NONPROFITS

Gates Foundation and Wellcome set up US$125 million coronavirus drug fund. The world’s two largest medical research foundations are committing US$50 million each in “seed funding” for a Covid-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, according to Financial Times. Mastercard’s Impact Fund charity is joining the effort with a US$25 million contribution. The Accelerator aims to develop treatments for Covid-19 and serve as a catalyst to draw in more funding. Wellcome director Jeremy Farrar expressed hope that other donors will see the Accelerator as an attractive vehicle to support research and development of Covid-19 treatments. Farrar sits on the board of the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, which recently estimated that US$1.5 billion will be required for research and development of a portfolio of four Covid-19 treatments. The Accelerator will work with the World Health Organization, governments and the private sector to provide fast and flexible funding at all stages from research to scale-up.

Coronavirus-battered NGOs say Hong Kong’s charity sector needs government aid to keep doing their work, avoid redundancies. A group of larger Hong Kong nonprofits is calling for help as donations decline amid the coronavirus outbreak. The nonprofits told South China Morning Post that the sector is struggling to stay afloat as many fundraising events have had to be cancelled. This comes after a difficult year for nonprofits, who were already facing fundraising challenges amidst last year’s anti-government protests. While the government rolled out a HK$30 billion (approximately US$4 billion) relief package last month, nonprofits are saying the sector—which employs 52,000 people—is not among those benefiting from the relief package. Sue Toomey, executive director of HandsOn Hong Kong, a charity that connect volunteers with community needs, noted “In the same way as the government seems to be acting quickly to help small businesses, we’d like to see similar consideration given to nonprofit organizations.”

Which charities to donate to? Singapore’s new index to help public decide at a glance. Charities in Singapore could be “graded” by next year in a new initiative announced by the Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community, and Youth. The new regulatory compliance indicator is expected to be rolled out next year on the government’s charity portal website. Aiming to help donors make informed choices, the new indicator will show whether a charity has met the minimum 80% regulatory compliance prescribed in the Code of Governance for Charities and IPCs, and whether its audit opinion has been qualified. A national initiative will also be rolled out to encourage legacy giving (planned donation from a person’s assets). The Community Foundation of Singapore’s chief executive underscored its importance, saying, “There are donors interested in making legacy gifts, but they want more knowledge to make informed choices. They want accountability for their gifts and trust is important before they are willing to donate.” An online pledge system will also be introduced, streamlining the process.

THE BUSINESSES

Hong Kong’s social enterprise sector needs HK$40 million (approximately US$5.2 million) relief package to survive coronavirus crisis, government told. Similar to the nonprofit sector in Hong Kong, the social enterprise sector is also seeking assistance. The Hong Kong General Chamber of Social Enterprises (HKGCSE) surveyed 214 social enterprises, around a third of the city’s social enterprise sector, to showcase the challenges social enterprises are facing during the coronavirus outbreak. The survey revealed that nearly 20% had no revenue at all, and one in four had either closed or suspended operations. The average turnover of most companies interviewed more than halved in January and February, compared with the same period last year. With around 40% reporting that their cash flow will only sustain them for less than three months, the HKGCSE is urging the government to phase in a series of measures to help such as HK$80,000 (approximately US$10,000) for each social enterprise which has received government funding, rent waivers, and special subsidies to cover the salaries of handicapped staff. Perhaps in response, the Hong Kong government has just announced a HK$5.6 billion (US$722 million) “Retail Sector Subsidy Scheme” under the “Anti-epidemic Fund,” which is open to applications from social enterprises. The Scheme will provide a one-off subsidy of HK$80,000 to retailers facing financial difficulties amidst the coronavirus outbreak. Retail stores of social enterprises are eligible to apply through the Social Enterprise Business Centre (SEBC).

THE INNOVATORS

United Nations ESCAP and SEAF partner to unlock US$150 million in capital to advance female entrepreneurship in Asia. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific and the Small Enterprise Assistance Funds (SEAF) have partnered to “catalyze women’s entrepreneurship through impact investing in Asia.” The collaboration aims to unlock growth capital through the development and management of private equity impact funds focused on women. SEAF will launch and manage the SEAF Women’s Economic Empowerment Fund as well as expand SEAF Bangladesh Ventures. ESCAP will support SEAF with technical assistance and grant support. Together the two funds will collectively bring over US$150 million in capital towards catalyzing the women’s entrepreneurship ecosystem in ASEAN and Bangladesh.

THE VOLUNTEERS

Singapore sees spike in donations, volunteers in February. Giving.sg, a fundraising website run by the Singapore’s National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), supports over 500 organizations in sourcing volunteers and donations. Donations to the site significantly increased last month amid the coronavirus outbreak, raising more than SG$2.2 million (approximately US$1.5 million). According to NVPC, this is 67%, or almost SG$900,000 (approximately US$650,000), more than that raised in the same period last year. The number of people who volunteered through the site in February also rose to over 1,000 volunteer sign-ups, a 10% uptick from February last year, according to Straits Times. The NVPC reported that 15% of the amount raised last month was from its 19 campaigns that are part of the SG United Movement—which the government launched on February 20th—to “streamline contributions to help those affected by the virus outbreak, including linking to coronavirus-related initiatives on the Giving.sg site.”