COVID-19: Non-profit entities step up online activities amid fund-raising struggle

Hand shaped computer cursor is clicking on a blue computer button on white reflective surface. Donate writes on button. Horizontal composition with copy space and clipping path.  Donation and charity concept.
The widespread disruption caused by the pandemic has underscored the need for charities to strengthen their digital capabilities and “thrive in the new normal”. (Getty Images graphic)

SINGAPORE — With the COVID-19 pandemic causing severe social disruption and economic downturn, non-profit organisations in Singapore have been facing difficulties in getting physical donations, such as through fundraisers, in recent months.

Many had to cancel or postpone fundraising events planned for the year, leading to a decline in donations, said the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), in response to media queries.

“Charities under the Arts & Heritage, Disability, Community, Children & Youth, and Social Service causes were hardest hit, with some observing a drop of as much as 80 per cent in donations,” the NVPC added.

Among them was Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support (Babes) with its social media and volunteer management executive, Pearlyn Tan, saying the organisation had experienced a 60 per cent drop in donations from a year earlier.

The safe distancing measures have made participating in fund-raising events impossible, Tan added.

Michael Chay, chairman of Bartley Community Care Services (BCCS), said that its biggest annual fund-raising activity for the past three years has been a mass walkathon or carnival.

Last year, a carnival raised $240,000 for BCCS but the event would not be held this year because of COVID-19, Chay said.

Tapping online donations

As a result of COVID-19 restrictions, many organisations have turned to the online space to ease the impact on their fund-raising and other activities, said the NVPC.

Babes have turned to online campaigns and worked with volunteer groups and partners to receive donations of non-monetary items.

Playeum, which works with children with disabilities and from marginalised backgrounds, closed its centre at Gillman Barracks and conducted its sessions online.

For some organisations, their increased online activities have led to successful outcomes.

BCCS has seen an increase in online donations in the first two quarters of the year. Currently, BCCS has achieved almost 30 per cent of its $100,000 target via its campaign to support disadvantaged children and families through its various programmes.

“We have stepped up on our digital campaigns and we plan to raise greater awareness of BCCS’ community work through social media marketing.

“A walkathon where people choose their own route and walk at their own time, and report through their tracking app is in the pipeline,” said Chay.

Yingjie Tan, who handles Capacity And Partnerships at Daughters Of Tomorrow (DOT), an organisation that supports women from the low-income community, said DOT has conducted its classes through social media platforms.

“We also hold online poverty sensitisation workshops regularly (during the pandemic) in hopes to raise awareness on the multi-faceted challenges faced by the low-income communities within Singapore,” added Tan.

Improving digital capabilities

The widespread disruption caused by the pandemic has underscored the need for charities to strengthen their digital capabilities and “thrive in the new normal”, according to Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.

Speaking at the Charity Governance Conference organised by the Charity Council last month, Tong unveiled several initiatives including a Charities GoDigital Kit to help charities in their digitalisation efforts. The kit includes information ranging from funding support to capability building programmes.

“This toolkit will be complemented with other resources such as the VWO-Charities Capability Fund and learning initiatives to enable charities to build and leverage, and eventually take advantage of digital capabilities,” said Tong.

The emphasis on enhancing the online capabilities of charities and other non-profit organisations comes amid signs that donations and volunteerism have taken a hit due to the pandemic.

A recent poll conducted by the NVPC between April and July with survey firm Toluna showed that among 1,110 respondents aged 15 and above, those who were willing to donate fell from 32 per cent in April to 23 per cent in July. The proportion of respondents who had volunteered dropped from 33 per cent to 24 per cent over the same period.

One positive result from the poll: 77 per cent of those who had contributed to charities in July did so through monetary donations, up from 60 per cent in April.

Several non-profit organisations Yahoo News Singapore said they welcome non-monetary donations and pointed out that even sharing their social media posts would aid their efforts.

Babes’ Tan called for members of the public to contribute items that young mothers would require, such as baby formula and diapers.

The push to work from home and for home-based learning means challenged families will require digital devices and stable internet connectivity to access learning and workplace resources, said DOT’s Tan.

“If any members of the public would like to explore ground-up initiatives like this can contact us or if you have unused laptops that are still in good condition, you can donate to organisations such as ‘Engineering for Good’ as well,” she added.

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