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How To Donate Time And Money To A Charity Effectively

Make giving better: CEO of Community Foundation of Singapore, Catherine Loh shares her thoughts about charity.

Catherine Loh, Chief Executive Officer of Community Foundation of Singapore

While the notion of giving is indeed widespread, it isn't easy to commit to help those in need when you find yourself caught up in today's ever-changing environment.

The Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is one such organisation that facilitates this line of work by bridging donors with causes of interest to develop programmes and provide grants to enrich lives. It values the 3 C's to make giving better: connect donors with respective causes, collaborate with charities and commit to managing donor funds.

One woman has managed to significantly grow the number of donor funds and volume of donations, paving the way for an effective philanthropy — Catherine Loh, the Chief Executive Officer of CFS, believes in the heart of giving. However, her arrival into the philanthropy space was not immediate but serendipitous.

"After leaving the banking sector in 2010, I spent 18 months as a stay-at-home mother to take care of my third child. I decided to re-enter the workforce when the toddler entered preschool. I was looking for a job that could utilise my skill and experience in management, sales & marketing and financial investment management for a nobler cause," says Loh, who held multiple leadership positions in the Singapore offices of Nomura, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs.

The search for a nobler cause led her to CFS with the introduction by Laurence Lien (then CEO of NVPC and acting CEO of CFS). In January 2012, she joined as a Deputy CEO and became the CEO in the following year. With more than 20 years of experience in the financial industry, Loh brought her expertise forward with the transition.

"The initial transition was difficult as I had to adjust from working in a large organisation to a small non-profit organisation. The small size of CFS meant wearing many hats and multitasking. I also had to learn to manage staff who are not motivated by money alone but aspire to work towards the greater good of civil society."

As a largely female-dominated firm, CFS has encouraged Loh to adhere to a consensus way of management rather than a confrontational style prevalent in a male-populated room. Collaborating with charity partners often limited in staff and speed impelled her to become a better empathiser.

The boom of online platforms, crowdsourcing campaigns and giving opportunities from impact investment to social entrepreneurship is reshaping donors' attitudes to giving —for a deeper involvement with a much more discerning view.

"So being a bridge is no longer enough. To help steer philanthropy into the future, we need to evolve, build deeper collaborations and strengthen partnerships among donors and communities," she explains. As a result, CFS adapted concurrently from enabling cause-based learning networks to incessantly discovering ways to create social change.

Loh believes people can incorporate philanthropy in their lives, no matter one's schedule. With over 2,000 charities in Singapore, however, it is not such an easy task. Her solution is that "CFS saves them the work and resources needed, narrowing down and identifying charities that are aligned with the donors' philanthropic objectives."

As it is, CFS simplifies the process of giving. Its expertise in identifying opportunities and precise monitoring of outcomes cater to the donor's passion. Such passion transcends a busy agenda as seen in Loh's record of voluntary work: Finance and Investment Committees of Assisi Hospice, Metta Welfare Association and as an Advisory Committee Member for the National Youth Fund.

If faced with limited time, she suggests opting for convenience without losing one's sincerity. "I am part of the School Advisory Council in Telok Kurau Primary School, a neighbourhood school near my home. As I also have a soft spot for historical buildings and art, I joined the Audit Committee of the Singapore Art Museum."

When asked about the forthcoming wave of the new generation, Loh states that concerns regarding the decline of giving should be put to rest. "The next generation I would say is actually much more well engaged and informed. Through the Internet, through social media, they get a lot more information.

"We cannot be there to guide them at every stage of their life moving forward. But we are here to teach them the values and the resilience to adapt to the challenges that come with giving."

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