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One Team, One Tote Board

Teamwork in Trying Times to be Future-Ready

2020 marks a year of unprecedented changes, with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the way we live and work. When Singapore entered the Circuit Breaker phase, a lack of face-to-face communication with our colleagues and grantees made it challenging to stay connected, remain productive and keep operations moving.

In the face of adversity, Ms Amy Lim, Ms Lee Siok Koon, Mr Oliver Loke, Mr Kelvin Chia, Mr Kenneth Tan, Ms Mavis Ong and Ms Marylin Tan from the Grant Management Division were tasked to review how Tote Board can improve fund-raising capacities within the non-profit sector. Their joint effort and resilient teamwork culminated in the launch of Tote Board’s Enhanced Fund-Raising (EFR) Programme on 17 April 2020.

The EFR Team
Responding to COVID-19 as One Tote Board

The Tote Board team had to adapt to the challenges of working remotely with the implementation of the Circuit Breaker, while addressing the immediate impact of COVID-19 on charities. A holistic and coordinated response was needed to provide support for the non-profit sector. This support would also have to be sustainable, preparing agencies to be future-ready, particularly in the area of digitalised fund-raising and engagement. The team engaged Non-profit Organisations (NPOs) leaders and partners via various calls and virtual meetings to understand the needs on the ground, and, within a month, conceptualised and implemented the EFR Programme.

To meet this critical timeline, the team worked through weekends together, driven by their belief in the programme’s value and impact. Demonstrating the ethos and values of One Tote Board, the manner in which the work was carried out and helping one another was both heartening and exemplary. As recounted by Siok Koon, ‘When one of our team members had a family emergency to attend to, others would step in to cover. What also stood out were the robust discussions and conversations our team had when designing the programme, where honest views were shared, focusing on co-creating the best possible solution and processes to meet NPO needs.’

The team’s efforts paid off, with the promptness of their response being well-received within the non-profit sector.

”...What also stood out were the robust discussions and conversations our team had when designing the programme, where honest views were shared, focusing on co-creating the best possible solution and processes to meet NPO needs.”

– Siok Koon
Supporting Impactful Worthy Causes

When forging ahead through arduous obstacles, what the team found most inspirational was the extensive impact of the programme.

For example, the timeliness of EFR helped support smaller charities during COVID-19. These charities play an important role in meeting needs in our society and, with EFR’s support, can remain financially viable and sustainable beyond this challenging period. It was the team’s hard work and collaboration that resulted in this change, enabling both small charities with fewer sources of external grants to tap on similar level of funding, as the EFR matches the amount of funds raised.

Experience and Insights

Designing and implementing this initiative has taught the team valuable and insightful lessons.

As a result of this crisis, many charities have shifted their fund-raising towards digital platforms, in a short period of time. These new channels broadened their causes to wider pool of donors, compared to traditional fund-raising projects where charities might tap on the same pool of donor contacts. ‘COVID-19 has accelerated the shift towards a new normal, where digital giving would form an integral part of a charity’s stakeholder and donor engagement strategy. A new era of giving has emerged in Singapore, as both online and offline fund-raising becomes more seamlessly integrated. We believe that Tote Board can enable and accelerate digital fund-raising efforts of charities as they transform,’ said Oliver.

The experience of implementing EFR also emphasized the importance of maintaining balance between enabling charities while maintaining adequate risk controls. This is especially crucial as grants become more complex and require more thorough control considerations. While ramping up support for charities by increasing Tote Board’s EFR matching contributions, compliance measures have been augmented in tandem to mitigate the increased attendant risks.

”...We believe that Tote Board can enable and accelerate digital fund-raising efforts of charities as they transform.”

– Oliver
Looking Forward to the Future

The Tote Board EFR team will continue to provide support for programmes as they evolve and adapt. Sector trends indicate that many charities will require additional necessary capabilities to mount more meaningful digital engagement initiatives. Hence the team will continue to collaborate with agencies like Agency of Integrated Care (AIC), Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), National Council of Social Services (NCSS) and National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). With stronger digital engagement capabilities built through training and infrastructure support, charities will surely be stronger in their ability to fund-raise, to attract interested volunteers and to create a larger impact in society.

The team also recognises the importance of internal capability-building. The team will continue to expand the capacities and capabilities of staff in data analytics, sense-making and stakeholder engagement, to further Tote Board’s aim to be a Valued Partner in grantmaking to ride the changing trends in the non-profit ecosystem.


(Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme)

Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme

The EFR Programme was launched on 17 April 2020 as part of Tote Board’s response to COVID-19, in support of charities that were adversely impacted by the pandemic. Safeguarding vulnerable groups in Singapore was more important than ever, as was the need to enable the organisations that serve them. However, charities faced a significant decline in donation income, both owing to Circuit Breaker measures and the challenging economic climate. This was compounded by the non-profit sector traditionally being high-touch and centred around human and stakeholder interactions. With charities unable to carry out physical events, functions and interactions, critical needs arose from a fund-raising perspective, including overcoming infrastructure and process issues.

Unlike most grants, which are generally more sector-specific and targeted, EFR provides support to over a thousand charities across the entire non-profit sector. In addition, the programme was designed to be a sustainable catalyst for change beyond COVID-19, bolstering the sector towards digitalisation and digital engagement. This change will enable charities to connect with a new generation of more digitally-savvy donors, share their stories with a wider audience, and reduce the costs associated with organising physical fund-raising activities. Finally, EFR caters for greater flexibility by allowing charities to conduct both online and offline fund-raising projects, or a hybrid between the two modalities.

Significance to National Efforts

The EFR Programme complemented national efforts when key changes were made: the acceptance of fundraising applications that carried out fundraising on approved digital platforms and the doubling of funding support. The programme received government support with additional funding from the Fortitude Budget.

On 26 May 2020, Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, announced that the Government would increase the EFR matching grant. With the additional top up, successful applicants would enjoy an overall dollar-for-dollar match for EFR, capped at $250,000 per applicant.

‘While continuing to be passionate about supporting the vulnerable in our community, our charities and social service agencies are facing difficulties,’ he shared, ‘The leaders appreciate the support from the Jobs Support Scheme, but they are facing falling donations. To provide more support for our charities amidst COVID-19, the Government will partner Tote Board to bolster the matching for donations through Tote Board’s Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme.’