Pooled services help charities cut their costs

Pooled services help charities cut their costs

SINGAPORE - To find a cheap and reliable cleaner, Eagles Mediation and Counselling Centre (EMCC) once had to scour the Internet and the newspapers.

As it is a voluntary welfare organisation (VWO), every cent saved would be an extra cent that it could use to help its 2,500 or so beneficiaries.

Three years ago, after tapping the common services platform run by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), it found a cleaner whose charges came to $500 less a month.

The VWO, which provides subsidised mediation and counselling services to those in financial difficulty, engaged Bizlink, a non-profit organisation on the platform that helps find jobs for the disabled.

Common Services for VWOs pools together 25 service providers, including Bizlink, that voluntarily give discounted or free services to participating VWOs as part of their corporate social responsibility contributions.

So far, out of the council's 400 member VWOs, 251 have tapped the platform, launched in 2006 by NCSS to help them achieve greater organisational efficiency and cost savings.

In total, the participating VWOs reported cost savings of more than $487,000 for the first half of financial year 2013, said NCSS, releasing the figures for the first time in a press release yesterday. This puts them on track to beat the total cost savings achieved of $815,000 in FY2012 and $650,000 in FY2011.

Also offered on the platform are services in areas such as auditing, printing and legal.

NCSS' director of fund allocation and VWO benefits, Ms Quek Boon Kien, urged more vendors to "come forward and offer their services at discounted rates or on a pro bono basis".

Meanwhile, VWOs lauded the scheme, given rising costs.

EMCC general manager Benjamin Chan told MyPaper: "Every single cent helps us to stay afloat. When (mediation and counselling) fees alone do not cover the expenses incurred, savings on expenditure can help keep overhead costs as low as possible."

The VWO, located in Liang Court, also turns to the platform for insurance and human resource services. Doing so saves it thousands of dollars a month in total, said Mr Chan.

At another VWO, the Society for the Physically Disabled, executive director Abhimanyau Pal said: "The preferential rates extended to VWOs mean that valuable funds can be channelled towards helping more people in the community."

The society uses the platform when it needs financial auditing, insurance and vehicle servicing.

And organisations that have yet to draw on what the platform offers are now looking to do so.

Mr Lo Chee Wen, general secretary of the YMCA of Singapore, said it is "exploring ways to tap the resources provided".

He said: "Due to inflationary pressures, the costs incurred in hiring venues, providing transportation and food for our programmes... have been increasing from year to year. Cost savings are important to YMCA as they help alleviate the costs (of the programmes)."

The Disabled People's Association is looking to make the most of the platform as well.

Its president, Mr Nicholas Aw, said: "The money we save could help us in advocacy work. Things are more expensive now and bills have gone up. We rely on donations so, definitely, any help is always appreciated."


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