More opening up their purses for charity

The prospect of doubling their gifts to charity got people reaching into their wallets last year to an extent not seen before.

Tax-deductible donations to charity hit $1.1 billion last year - a more than 12 per cent increase from the year before, and the highest in at least 16 years.

Commissioner of Charities (COC) Low Puk Yeong attributed the increase to people being encouraged by government grants matching donations dollar for dollar.

As a result, people gave generously, especially to the social and welfare sector, spurred by the Government's $250 million pledge in January last year to match donations under the Care and Share programme.

That sector took in $402.1 million of tax-deductible donations last year, up from $310.6 million in 2013, and almost 40 per cent of all donations.

Next in line were the education and health sectors. But gifts to the arts and heritage sector also nearly doubled that of the previous year to reach $55.2 million, following the launch of the Cultural Matching Fund in late 2013.

"This represents an overall up-ward trend in charitable giving over the last 10 years, signalling the public's increasing support for local charitable causes," said Mr Low, in an annual report released by his office yesterday.

In 2012, the amount crossed the billion-dollar mark for the first time in 14 years to reach a total of $1.03 billion.

Last year's increase in donations came from both companies and individuals, with each group donating about 13 per cent more than the year before.

Charities agreed that the government grants made a difference - not just in encouraging the public to give, but also in getting charities to step up fund-raising efforts.

Mr Raymond Huang, the founder of youth charity Heartware Network, said: "Charities have been more actively raising funds, as they know that the donations raised can be doubled."

Charities expect donations this year to rise even further. Mrs Sharon Loh-Ting, a student care centre supervisor at Life Community Services Society, said: "It's SG50 and I think there's a greater spirit of giving. I hope this will continue after the jubilee year."

Mr Huang also noted there have been other government efforts to promote giving, such as the bigger tax relief for donations to charity.

This year, donors can claim tax deductions of 300 per cent instead of the usual 250 per cent.

In January this year, the Government pledged an additional $250 million for the Care and Share matching grant that will last until March 31 next year.

Yesterday's annual report also highlighted the COC office's recent steps to improve the transparency of charities and facilitate informed giving.

The Charity Transparency Framework introduced last month serves as a public education tool for charities and donors by highlighting key areas in which charities should disclose information.

Mr Low said: "Good governance is a continuous journey that requires commitment from all."

This article was first published on July 16, 2015.
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