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President Star Charity – where’s the missing $840,000?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to media reports that the President's Star charity show raised a record $5.4 million.

According to the Straits Times' report on Oct 1, 2007:

"This year's musical extravaganza raised a record $5.46 million for 32 charities, out of which viewers donated $567,700 by calling hotlines. The rest of the money came from corporate donors."

TODAY newspaper, Oct 2, reported that:

The biggest individual donor was Lippo Group president Stephen Riady — who gave $1 million — while the largest corporate donor was the Lee Foundation with its pledge of $1.5 million. Six other organisations — Singapore Totalisator Board, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, Continental Steel, Singapore Pools, Singapore Sports Council and The Jewish Community of Singapore — contributed a total of $3.25 million." (link)

The total donated by corporate donors was $5.75 million (Lee Foundation $1.5 million, Lippo Group $1 million, and 6 other organisations $3.25 million).

Adding the above $5.75 million to the public donations of $567,700, gives a total of $6.3 million. So, why is the total donated amount only $5.46 million, which is $840,000 short?

Where has the $840,000 gone to? Shouldn't there be some disclosure on this?

To my living memory, I believe $567,700 may be the lowest amount ever for donations from the public, excluding corporate donors.

Why is this so?

Since the NKF saga, I understand that practically every television charity show was touted as raising new record amounts. However, I notice that the amount of donations from the public appears to have been declining.

Can the relevant authority please confirm whether this has been the trend?

In the first President' Star Charity show following the NKF saga, for the first time in the history of Singapore, donation calls were toll-free.

I wrote to the newspaper forum applauding this change, and suggested that it be continued. However, subsequent donation calls have started to charge 21 cents per call again.

Running out of funds

There have been various reports in the media of Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) running out of funds. I have just received a call from a friend who sits on the board of a 30
year old VWO appealing for donations, because it is about to run out of money.

At almost every meeting of VWOs that I have attended, I hear the general problem of the greater challenge of raising funds, since the NKF issue.

According to he National Volunteer and Philanthrophy Centre's (NVPC) 2006 Individual Giving Survey Results, "dollars donated have declined" from an estimated $438 million in 2004 to $341 million in 2006. This is a decline of 22 per cent.

The donor incidence rate also fell from 97 per cent to 89 per cent, and the average donation per donor fell from $155 to $125.

Donor fatique was ranked as the highest "main issue" that VWOs faced in their fund-raising efforts.

Poor donating more than rich

According to the SALT magazine (For Volunteers, Donors and Non-profits) of Jul-Aug 2007, “For Richer or For Poorer ?”, the lower income donated the most, compared to the highest income. Donors earning less than $ 1,000 a month, donated 0.65 per cent of annual income, those earning $ 8,000 - $ 8,999 and $ 9,000 - $ 9,999 donated only 0.04 and 0.13 per
cent respectively.

In average absolute dollar terms, the poorest donated $ 6.49 a month, and the rich donated only $ 3.60 ($ 8,000 - $ 8,999 earners).

If we do not acknowledge the problem of declining public donations, and focus on announcing ever record-breaking total donations in charity shows, how will Singaporeans be encouraged to donate more?