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Welcome Address by Mr Fong Yong Kian, Chief Executive, Tote Board for Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN) 2018 VIP Dinner, on 3rd June 2018 at Singapore Turf Club

Miss Naina Batra, Chairperson and CEO, AVPN,

Mr Doug miller, immediate past chairman of AVPN, 

A very good evening and a great welcome to all of you. It is my great pleasure to host members of the AVPN here at the Singapore Turf Club. I was told that many of you had enjoyed watching the races earlier in the afternoon. Let me say a few quick words about the Singapore Turf Club and why you are here.  The Club held its first race in 1843, 175 years ago, and is the oldest existing horse racing club in Singapore. The Singapore Turf Club is a proprietary club that belongs to Tote Board. All the financial surplus made by the Turf Club are passed over to Tote Board, which in turn makes grants to support worthwhile social causes. Therefore, if you had placed some bets earlier and even if did not you win, take heart, because you would have made a contribution to support good causes in Singapore.  If you want to find out more about the history of the Tote Board Group and what we do, there is an exhibition at the lift foyer. Do visit it when you have time.

Maximising Impact in the sector - Tote Board’s Grantmaking journey

2. The theme for this year’s AVPN conference is “Maximising Impact”, highlighting the importance of strategic, collaborative, and outcome-focused approach to social investing. As I reflect on this theme, I realised that this is exactly the journey that the Tote Board has embarked upon as a grant maker. Let me share a bit about the path that we have taken recently.

3. About 5 years ago, Tote Board’s management decided on the goal of being a “strategic and impactful grantmaker”. We also decided to adopt an outcome based approach to our grantmaking. In a way, this is applying our own medicine to ourselves, as we have been encouraging our grantee organisation to formulate outcomes for their programmes and to evaluate whether the outcomes were achieved. Tote Board identified three strategic outcomes in our grantmaking. First to provide Equitable Opportunities for Vulnerable Groups; second, to build a Resilient Community with strong social cohesion; and third, to contribute towards an enhancing Quality of Life for all who live in Singapore. We choose these three outcomes because they are vital to our Nation Building narrative.  After all, Singapore is still a very young nation, being independent since only 1965. Tote board wants to contribute towards building the future Singapore that we all want, for current and future generations.

Cross sector collaboration

4. To achieve our strategic outcomes, we also need to figure out what are some of those things that we can do well, or which other grant makers or agencies could not do as easily. An example is cross-sector collaboration. Because Tote Board provide grants to multiple sectors, including charities, health, arts and sports, we could usefully take on the role of a convenor, bringing people from different sectors and backgrounds to come together to identify gaps, discuss good ideas that we can build upon to curate impactful programmes.

5. Let me give a recent example to illustrate how we took on the role of a convenor to enhance cross sector collaboration. Starting from the middle of last year, Tote Board started a series of “Kick-Off Sessions” to discuss important current issues, such as “Building Capability and Capacity of Non-profits”, “Ways to enhance support for caregivers” and “How to uplift disadvantaged and vulnerable Children and Youth”. Each session was attended by about 100 representatives from 30, 40 agencies. The purpose of the sessions was simple: to hear from the agencies what they are doing, what are their challenges and also solicit good ideas and solutions that we can build upon.

6. It was simply great to hear the sharing of wide ranged experiences from like-minded people, all of whom are trying to tackle the same issues, but each of them focusing on a different aspects and therefore operating in a slightly different sphere. Social issues are by nature complex and driven by multiple factors and I think that by being able to simply connect the dots on who is doing what will already bring about great benefit in understanding the scope of the issues, leading to and the solutions needed.

7. Let me now quickly touch on one other programme which is very important to Tote Board, and for which I think is a good fit for Tote Board to peruse. This is the critical area of building the capacity and capability (or C&C) of the non-profits. To deliver effective social programmes and achieve impactful collective outcomes at the societal level, we simply good people working in good agencies on the ground.

8. Tote Board addresses building C&C of non-profits at three levels.  The first level is individuals, where Tote Board plays a role in leadership development, such as granting overseas Scholarships to sector leaders and curating leadership development programmes with our partners, the Social Service Institute. 

9. The Second level is at the organisational level. In a period of rapid and disruptive changes (which we are witnessing today), every corporate and agencies need to transform themselves, and non-profits are no exception. We see the need for non-profits to ready themselves for the future. Non-profits can certainly use some help and additional resources in their own change and transformation journey. For this purpose, Tote Board has recently approved a 5-year $25 million NPO-Capacity & Capability building Transformation Initiative. The details are being worked out now and the scheme should be ready over the next few months. So for the Singapore based agencies that are here, stay tuned for news.

10. The third level is the wider sector ecosystem, which I think ties in very nicely with one of the key purposes of AVPN. Just like AVPN, Tote Board is a strong advocate of knowledge building and sharing. For example, we have in the past two years supported the writing of case studies, to build wider ecosystem learning through case study workshops. These case studies are freely available on our website. We hope NPOs in Singapore and in the region can use and learn from, particularly in their organisation development and growth.

11. We are also happy to have directly collaborated with AVPN in September last year in our “Global Leaders Series” initiative, where Mr Jeremy Nichols from “” was here to deliver a talk entitled “Beyond Measurements: Creating an Effective Social Value framework”. The Global Leader Series aims to bring in world renowned thought leaders and practitioners to Singapore share their insights and inspire non-profits here to rise to greater heights.

Concluding remarks

12. AVPN’s goal of catalysing a global movement towards more strategic and collaborative philanthropy and social investment is a great cause that Tote Board fully supports and which I’m sure all of us here want to work towards. My team and I look forward to attending conference starting tomorrow. The Annual AVPN conference has never failed to live short of its reputation as a great platform for AVPN members to gain useful and applicable insights from the many important topics that will be discussed.  With that, I wish the AVPN conference 2018 will be a great success. Thank you and have a great evening ahead.