Rachel Chan
Tue, Oct 21, 2008
my paper
Charities should work towards 'extinction'

IT'S no secret that Mr Willie Cheng - the man who blew the lid on the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) four years ago - has strong opinions when it comes to running a charity.

Take, for example, his view that 'the ultimate aim of a charity is to be extinct'.

'Individual charities are set up to solve specific societal issues, and hence should be working themselves out of a job by finding the solutions,' the 55-year-old told my paper in a phone interview yesterday.

He's reiterating that point, together with more than 15 other non-profit paradigms - or what he calls 'mental models of social realities' - in a 275-page tome entitled Doing Good Well. It was published by New York-based publishers Jossey-Bass and launched on Oct 8 in major bookstores.

In the book, Mr Cheng devotes an entire chapter to a case study of what has become known as the NKF saga, applying various paradigms to relevant aspects.

Mr Cheng, who was the chairman of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) from 2002 to 2005, now serves as the chairman of the Lien Centre for Social Innovation and Caritas Singapore Community Council.

He told my paper that his book studies charity from 'the management and philosophical perspective'.

'The old NKF was, in many respects, a professional organisation, and T.T. Durai was very good at fund raising. But unlike the commercial world, in charities there is no direct connection between how and why people give you money and how it is used,' he said.

Back in 2004, an article penned by Mr Cheng in SALT magazine highlighted the fact that NKF had raised $67.5 million in 2002 and had $189 million in reserves. The Straits Times reported it on its front page on April 7, 2004, which sparked a furore of public interest and debate on the need for further fund raising.

The saga culminated in the collapse of a defamation trial and the resignation of Durai and his board of directors.

Now, Mr Cheng says that his 'book goes beyond NKF and philanthropic giving'. The book covers issues like staff compensation, social entrepreneurship, venture philanthropy and the rich/poor divide.

But, as the opening lines in chapter 19 of his book concede, NKF's story is 'hard to avoid'.

So, what exactly is his take on the NKF fallout?

my paper brings you four of the most riveting excerpts from the chapter on the case study.

Doing Good Well is available at major bookstores for $48.80 (before GST).

For more my paper stories click here.


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