What turns a life into a legacy? What takes one from success to significance? What is the difference between living and life?
The answer to all these questions is “Giving”. This was the opinion of two speakers – Mr Laurence Lien, Chief Executive Officer of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) and the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), and Professor Seetharam Kallidaikurichi, Director, Global Asia Institute (National University of Singapore). They were speaking at a recent lunchtime seminar on Leadership in Philanthropy hosted by the National University of Singapore (NUS) as part of the NUS Greater Good Series.
Mr Lien cited Rockefeller as an example of someone who is remembered today for the Foundation he set up rather than a businessman. The same will probably be the case with Bill Gates, who will stay in people’s minds as the man behind the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation rather than the founder of Microsoft.
And the great news is that giving makes people happy. “Giving is not optional,” said Mr Lien. “It is an intrinsic part of the human makeup to care for fellow humans and as many surveys show, giving is linked to happiness. In fact the most selfish thing a person can do is to be altruistic as you get so much more than you give.”
There is no one way to give – whether it is time, treasure or talent – and the best situation is one where one’s personal passion overlaps with a public need, said Mr Lien. He mentioned Singapore’s current problems – ageing population, increasing single-parent homes, growing income inequality – issues that are different from those the city-state faced 60 years ago but are no less critical. He added, “Civil society can solve problems that governments cannot.”
Prof Seetharam drew on his personal experiences of the transformative impact of philanthropy to emphasise the intangible benefits that giving brings. He said, “Living is about our day-to-day transactional world but life is much more – it is about a sense of purpose. Giving gives to our spiritual bank account.”
Prof Seetharam strongly believes that to accomplish big missions there have to be thousands of people who are constantly engaged in creating a legacy. Universities of course play a critical role in nurturing people who are passionate about giving and serving society.
And why give to education? “Because the university is a shareholder in your success,” said Prof Seetharam while Mr Lien remarked that with 1.5 times matching government grant that gifts to the University receive, there are few other options for such a return.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact Jeanne Ng