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How to make a positive impact on Singapore’s diverse communities

It’s not uncommon to hear of people supporting causes they hold dear, but the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) is here to make giving that much more effective.

Founded in 2008, the non-profit organisation links up donors with causes that match their interests. By setting up charitable funds, anyone — individuals, families or businesses — can work with CFS to address diverse needs in the community. With a pledge of S$200,000 and above, donors can establish a named fund to support causes of their choice. CFS currently works with over 400 charity partners on programmes that impact different sectors, spanning education, health, arts and heritage, social services and animal welfare.

As an expert in philanthropy, CFS removes any hassle from the process of giving. Aside from taking care of all the administrative work, the organisation ensures all grants are handled with high levels of care and accountability. The team conducts regular charity due diligence — providing programme evaluation, grant-making and outcomes reporting.

Since its inception, CFS has set up more than 110 charitable funds, raised more than S$100 million in donations and given out over S$60 million in grants to benefit the community in Singapore.

In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the foundation launched ‘Portraits of generosity’, a campaign that highlights its donors and the stories behind their giving. Here, meet three of them and be inspired.

Govind Bommi

community foundation of singapore govind bommi
Govind Bommi.

Who: Govind Bommi moved to Singapore 20 years ago and started a water filtration and purification business which soon flourished. Since then, he married a Singaporean, started a family here and calls the little red dot home.

The inspiration: Mr Bommi grew up in a modest house in Bangalore — his parents had six children and lived off a single income. Despite not having much, Mr. Bommi recalled how his mother would set aside a portion of cooked food — not leftovers — for beggars who would come around in the evening. “She believed that if you had enough, you should share it with others because we are only temporary keepers of what we own. You don’t have to know people to help them,” he said.

The fund: In 2016, Mr. Bommi reached out to CFS and set up the Andal Cares Fund. Before looking into CFS, he thought about setting up a trust on his own but realised the process took time and resources. He was keen to support eldercare causes yet wanted to have better understanding of the sector beforehand. CFS took him to several nursing homes and rehabilitation centres before Mr. Bommi chose to support the rehabilitation programme run by Metta Welfare Association. It didn’t just stop at giving: Mr. Bommi regularly volunteers at the centre every Thursday. He mused, “As a philanthropist, writing a cheque is an easier thing to do but to participate in a community and get involved, is a lot more fulfilling for me.”

Watch Govind Bommi tell his story here.

Keith Chua

community foundation of singapore keith chua
Keith Chua.

Who: As executive chairman of ABR Holdings and managing director of the Alby group of companies in Singapore and Australia, Keith Chua also sits on the boards of the National Council of Social Service and CFS.

The inspiration: As a child, Mr. Chua often listened to his mother’s recounts of his great-grandmother Mrs Lee Choon Guan. But it wasn’t until years later when he picked up Song Ong Siang’s 1923 tome, One Hundred Years History of the Chinese in Singapore, that he felt the impact of her philanthropic work. His great-grandmother was featured for her support of education for women and girls in the early 1900s, at a time when it wasn’t always an option for them. “I rediscovered my great-grandmother through this book. It became quite clear to me that she was a pioneer in many ways,” said Mr. Chua.

The fund: Keith Chua set up the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Fund with CFS in 2011, and designated education and healthcare as key focus areas. Starting a fund with CFS ensures that future generations would be able to continue the family’s philanthropic work. He said, “The seed of philanthropy was planted by the generations before me. Now, with the structure of CFS, the funds will carry on past my lifetime. Once you’ve set certain things in place, you can bring the next generation along for the ride, and trust them with the responsibility when it’s their turn.”

Watch Keith Chua tell his story here.

Trina Liang-Lin and Edmund Lim

community foundation of singapore Trina Liang-Lin Edmund Lin
Trina Liang-Lin (right) and Edmund Lin (left).

Who: Trina Liang-Lin and Edmund Lin are the definition of a power couple. Trina, managing director of Templebridge Investments, is the past president of the Singapore Committee for UN Women and a member of various non-profit boards. Ed is a partner and founding member of Bain & Company’s Singapore office, as well as a board member of the Singapore Management University.

The inspiration: Throughout their lives, the couple benefitted from the acts of kindness of others. As a young student at St. Joseph’s Convent, Trina recalled walking past plaques bearing names of donors who had donated money to build the school hall. Ed’s parents arrived in the United States as struggling student immigrants. An American couple took care of his mother and even hosted his parents’ wedding ceremony in their backyard.

The fund: For their 20th wedding anniversary, Trina and Ed decided to start the Lin Foundation – a fund with CFS that supports causes close to their hearts including education, gender equality, animal welfare and the arts.

One reason why they chose CFS was because of its wide reach across various charitable sectors. For busy professionals like them, CFS assists with the administration needed to manage a foundation and provides grant-making expertise.

Watch Trina Liang-Lin and Edmund Lin tell their story here.

Find out more about Community Foundation of Singapore’s ‘Portrait of generosity’ campaign here.

(Main and featured images of HDB flats: Darren Soh)

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