So you want to donate?
Not surprising, at least not in Singapore. A survey done by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) in 2016 found that three out of four people (or 76 per cent) donated that year.
And although the actual number of people who donated dropped from 83 per cent in 2014, those who did actually gave more. It could be because the economic climate is unstable, so we are inclined to “have a heart” for those in need.
The current financial situation that we are facing for the year, though, has seen charities becoming more frugal with their spending, especially as some have seen a dip in donations.
But everyone wants a piece of the donation pie, don’t they? Charities need money to operate, and for those who see a decrease in monetary donations while having hundreds of beneficiaries under their care yet still, it can be a worrisome situation.
Could there be anything more worrying then?
Enter the scammers.
I don’t know about you, but I’m usually only worried about scams when I am travelling overseas. Because of the rose-tinted lens of a “safe-and-secure Singapore”, I rarely worry about them occurring here. At least, not in the magnitude of the instance above.
These scammers, pretending to be collecting donations on behalf of the Singapore Heart Foundation, preyed on the goodwill of individuals almost nonchalantly, and in broad daylight.
It is despicable and blatant cheating, but it can still happen. And it did.
The worse thing to happen after such a scam is brought to light: genuine donors with a giving heart are now less trusting, especially when it comes to donations on the streets.
And who can blame them? If one scam has been unearthed, it is not hard to believe that there might be others who have managed to go away.
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It’s just like the lone cockroach you execute in the kitchen. It’s dead, but there’s a colony hiding in the crevices of the walls.
I don’t wish to make the situation bleak and somber, but scams happen for a reason; donations from kind-hearted individuals add up to a lot of money – $2.18 billion, in fact, in 2016.
With money, there will always be evildoers who want to get their hands on it, no matter the means.
Who do we donate to then?
Short answer: Continue donating to your choice of charities in Singapore. Genuine charities have to register with the Commissioner of Charities (COC) and they are governed by rules and audited regularly.
Long answer: Before you make the commitment to donate, whatever amount it might be, do a few checks beforehand.
For street donations, take time to listen to the individual and see if it aligns with your own values. Most, if not all, fundraisers are for a good cause but it helps if you support that cause yourself. Taking the time to listen could also help weed out possible scammers.
Secondly, research on the charity before giving your donation. Most of us have easy access to the Internet and a casual search online will help ascertain if the organisation asking for funds is legitimate.
If really unsure, you can request to view the Collector’s Certificate of Authority which is issued by the Police (SPF) or the National Council of Social Service (NCSS). Fund-raising activities, including street donations, require the application of this certificate.
It goes without saying that you should not feel pressured to donate to individuals just because they approach you. Donate only when you can afford to and when you personally feel that it is right.
Do not feel cornered when faced with an outspoken individual holding a collection tin, or a clipboard. As with most interactions, be kind in your words and a simple “No, thank you” would suffice. A smile helps as well.
Should we still donate?
Personally, I donate when I have the spare cash and when I feel for the organization.
Students asking for Flag Day donations?
I usually try to help, because most of us were doing that at one time in the past. It can be emotionally draining to be continuously rejected by the public, so a dollar or two would be both encouraging to the volunteer and helpful to the charity.
Animal welfare groups?
You bet. I’m a nature lover and I believe that mother nature has no voice, except these organizations who help her out.
Tissue paper aunty/uncles?
Well, most times I’m pragmatic about this and I purchase/donate only when I do require the tissue paper they offer. I should be more kind-hearted about this, though.
Here’s where it gets tricky. What about those who canvas for donations via monthly deductions from your bank account? How about those who have just been released from institutions and are trying to make a brand new start?
Truth be told, I have a rule of thumb when it comes to donations.
If I can afford to part with the cash without thinking too much about it afterwards (say a dollar or two perhaps), I would donate. Even if it were a dubious man on the street asking for change to “take a bus home” outside Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Orchard Road (true story), or a street peddler behind the Sultan Mosque giving me his emotional story about his hard life (another true story).
However, if they ask for a larger amount or indicate a minimum sum to donate (which is quite off-putting to me for a “charity”), I would do my own research before taking out any cash. Tactfully reject, smile, and walk off.
I have been met with unkind words after I rejected them, even when I did so politely, and I had to make my stand clear to them thereafter.
Ultimately, only donate when you want to.
Don’t donate, get frustrated when you realise you do not have cash, do a research after and bring down the person or organization afterwards.
At the end of the day, it is your money. You choose what to do with it. Just be nice about it if you choose to say no to those who approach you on the sidewalks.