Opening Address by David Gerald, President, SIAS at Charity Governance Conference 2022

Date: September 8, 2022

Minister Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law

Dr. Gerard Ee, Chairman, Charity Council

Mr Desmond Chin, Commissioner of Charities

Prof Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

Prof Robbie Goh, Provost, Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS)

Distinguished Speakers, Guests, Delegates,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning to one and all.

It is indeed a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and smiles. It’s been a few years since we managed to gather like this.

My team and I are, once again, deeply honoured to be organising the Charity Governance Conference together with MCCY and the Charities Council. This is our 7th year organising this event and we are humbled to be able to continue doing so.

This year, we are indeed privileged to have SUSS as Knowledge Partner at this Conference. I would like to thank Assoc. Prof. Lim Lee Ching and his team for their valuable contributions to the development of this Conference. We look forward to working closely with you in the years to come.

This year’s conference theme, Governance Beyond Adversity, is a reminder that despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is still much to be done to ensure charities are able to address the adversities impacting charities. Let me elaborate on some of the adversities charities will encounter.

In the current environment, charities are facing decade-high inflationary pressures, coupled with supply chain disruptions and the fallout of geopolitical tensions in Europe and North Asia. What does it mean to charities?

It means that cost of most goods and services has increased. That is, if supply chains have not been disrupted and the product is still available. Nevertheless, it now costs more for that bag of rice!

In addition, many charities depend on the public for their donations. With rising inflation, donors will also feel the effects of inflation. Some may be looking to cut back on their expenses. Even if donors do not cut back, the same dollar buys you less today than it did before. So, how are charities planning to manage their operations in the wake of rising inflation and supply chain risks? I do encourage you to discuss these risks with your board and internal auditor as part of the stewardship of your charity.

Another challenge is the concern of climate change and the growing importance of sustainability also faced by all.

I am sure everyone here is fully aware of the risks of global warming and the threat to societies and humanity posed by severe climate change. Governments and the corporate sector are responding with laws and financial incentives to reduce carbon footprints in order to protect the environment and charities have to follow suit.

How can charities incorporate environmental considerations into their operations? For a start, it is essential for charity boards to have frank and open discussions on the topic, possibly with external experts to formulate the appropriate strategies.

Those who have investment assets, possibly as part of an endowment or reserve fund, may include environmental or “green’’ factors as part of their investment considerations.

There are many more ways charities can play their part in helping advance ESG goals and I hope the discussion scheduled for this morning will prove enlightening.

However, in order to properly carry out their functions in today’s hi-tech world, digitalisation is absolutely essential. Charities have to ensure they have the necessary IT knowledge.

In this connection, I direct you to the Charities GoDigital Kit that was launched in November 2020, developed by the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth (“MCCY”) and aims to help charities embrace digitalisation as a support for your  corporate and administrative functions.

According to the Kit, digitalisation helps to improve productivity and reduce operation costs. In addition, digitalisation allows charities to streamline your processes and operations to reduce repetitive work for higher efficiency.

How technology affects charities will be a topic to be discussed tomorrow in a session titled “Enabling and Disabling Technology’’. Also given the intense interest in digital currencies and their usefulness, tomorrow we have a session “Non-Fungible Tokens and their Significance to Charities’’. For example, an intriguing question to ponder is: can charities raise funds through NFTs?

What is this all for you may ask?

Having good governance is necessary to ensure that charities are here for the future. To some of your beneficiaries, you are their last line of defence. It would be a pity if you would not be able to serve them.

Thank you for your participation and enjoy the conference and workshop.