UPDATED with comments from Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Grace Fu and top executives from two crowdfunding platforms at a forum, and more details of the industry code
Four major crowdfunding platforms in Singapore will adopt a newly launched industry Code of Practice for online fundraising, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Grace Fu announced on Tuesday (23 January).
The platforms – Give.Asia, Giving.sg, Ray of Hope Initiative and SimplyGiving – helped to co-develop the code with the Commissioner of Charities and are working towards complying with its principles by the first half of this year, said Fu, who was speaking at the inaugural Giving Matters forum organised by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).
The code is based on “ensuring the legitimacy, accountability, and transparency” of fundraising efforts hosted on these platforms, said the MCCY in a separate press release on Tuesday.
At the forum, Fu noted that online fundraising has grown in size and popularity. In 2016, 28 per cent of Singaporeans donated online, up from 8 per cent in 2014, she said, citing survey findings by the NVPC.
Under the code, crowdfunding platforms will need to assess the legitimacy of the fundraising efforts by verifying the identification of fundraisers and the needs of the beneficiaries.
They will also have to ensure that members of the public can freely get essential information on their platforms, including regular updates on collected funds and proper records of donations received.
Fundraisers using these platforms will be required to complete a declaration of compliance with fundraising rules under the Charities Act, such as the duty to make accurate representations to donors, maintain proper records of donations, and use donations according to the intended purpose.
“Donors, too, must do their part to hold fundraisers accountable, by asking questions on the basis of the appeal before exercising their generosity. This underscores the need for co-regulation, where everyone has a part to play in encouraging safer online giving,” Fu said.
Responding to queries from Yahoo News Singapore, Aseem K Thakur, co-founder of GIVE.asia, said, “It is absolutely vital that we guard against anything that compromises donors’ trust and their giving experience.”
“We believe that as trust increases, more people will donate and more worthy causes will get supported, which is a great outcome,” he added.
In 2017, Give.Asia collected $11.2 million in donations – more than double the $4.5 million collected in 2016 and almost five times more than the $2.5 million collected in 2015.
Similarly, SimplyGiving raised close to $731,000 in Singapore last year – more than double the $324,423 raised in 2016 and almost triple of $250,220 raised in 2015.
Describing Singapore as “the most highly regulated” out of the 21 countries in Asia that SimplyGiving is operating in, CEO Nikki Kinloch said that the code will help build “a gold standard” across the country as well as strike a “very important balance” between regulations and the spirit of donating.
“The code is clear, transparent and easy for people to understand, whilst in the meantime, we didn’t want it to be so stringent so as to actually stop people from fundraising or stop people who need money the most from being able to ask for it,” added Kinloch.
The code, made available on the Charity Portal on Tuesday, will soon be accompanied with a list of abiding crowdfunding platforms.
A platform that breaches the code will have its name removed from the online list. In addition, areas found in breach of the code by the platform may be stated on the website, said the MCCY.