The original meaning of the word ‘philanthropy’ refers to the love of humanity.
When Mr Lee Han Shih, Founder of the Potato Group and Director at Lee Foundation, reminded his fellow panellists and the audience this fact at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Greater Good Series on the topic ‘Doing Good, Making a Difference: In Pursuit of Philanthropy’, the tone was set for a thought-provoking exchange that ensued.
Co-organised by the Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy (ACSEP), Professor Susanna Leong, Vice-Provost (Lifelong Education) at NUS and a member of the Board of Advisory at ACSEP, highlighted the organisation’s vision and research, which contribute to the understanding and impactful practice of social entrepreneurship and philanthropy in Asia.
A lively debate with panellists moderated by Dr June Lee, Honorary Research Fellow at ACSEP, provided insights into the different attitudes and approaches towards their philanthropy.
The debate started on the relevance of philanthropy in education today.
Executive Chairman of ABR Holdings and Chairman of the ACSEP Board of Advisory, Mr Keith Chua, shared his views.
“My daughter has been involved in philanthropy for a number of years and she has been helping in interviewing and engaging needy students in the granting of bursaries. During these interviews, there are occasions where the interviewee’s life story brought my daughter to tears. I tell this story because I strongly believe that there will always be a place for philanthropy in education until these gaps are resolved,” Mr Chua related.
Mr Chua’s great-grandmother, Mrs Lee Choon Guan, was the key reason his family came into philanthropy. The extraordinary woman was an active philanthropist 100 years ago, during a time in Singapore when the place for women in society is quite different from today. But a forward-thinking father made sure she was educated, which fuelled her contributions to Singapore, which includes the establishment of the Chinese Ladies’ Association (now known as the Chinese Women’s Association). She became a role model for the family and eventually, they decided to institutionalise their family giving by setting up the Mrs Lee Choon Guan Trust Fund. Mr Chua serves as co-trustee of the Fund.
For donors who are finding ways to maximise the impact of their giving, they can find help at the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS).
Ms Catherine Loh, Chief Executive Officer of CFS shared how it all started.
“We saw significant wealth creation in the 1990s to the early 2000s but no corresponding increase in the number of people engaging in strategic philanthropy. Not many foundations were being established. People found that setting up a family foundation was administratively tedious and complicated plus the costs involved was prohibitive. That was how the idea of the Community Foundation of Singapore was seeded – to become a one-stop shop where people can come to us to set up a charitable fund, gain insightful knowledge on community issues, as well as benefit from the philanthropic advice and grantmaking expertise we provide. This allows donors to then focus on supporting their chosen cause and enjoy the giving journey.” Ultimately, Ms Loh affirmed that the work that CFS does is about helping people give back and make an impact on the lives of others.
For Mr Lee, the motivations and attitudes behind giving are extremely important. “Money is a powerful instrument. If you want to give, think carefully of the consequences and do it with respect,” he urged.
Mr Chua offered a different perspective.
“I think no doubt attitude is important. We’re all in this together; how do we make Singapore a better community through generosity and by helping each other? My belief in philanthropy is that everyone can give, whether it’s resources, time or talent. While there may be various motivations for giving, I still think it’s wonderful that people are giving, and that it has achieved some good.”
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 the Events team at email@example.com.
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