How Partnerships Magnify the Impact of Philanthropy
Singapore’s wealth management sector can provide a blueprint for the future of philanthropy
This article was first published in the Business Times Singapore
THE past three years have served as a harsh reminder that global crises – whether related to geopolitics, nature or economics – affect the poor disproportionately.
Research shows that countries with low gross domestic product per capita are at greater risk of suffering loss and damage from global warming. The World Bank, meanwhile, warned last year that the combined hits of the pandemic, rising inflation and the Ukraine war will push 75 million to 95 million more people into extreme poverty than it projected pre-pandemic.
This message is especially relevant in Asia, where some 180 million people are still living in extreme poverty on less than US$2.15 a day.
There is, therefore, a tremendous opportunity for the region’s affluent individuals, families and entrepreneurs to make a meaningful impact through philanthropy. Indeed, many are now looking beyond simply making donations towards more effective ways of putting their capital to work for positive outcomes.
What is needed now is a framework that will magnify the impact of those philanthropic dollars by connecting donors with each other, with the wider financial community and with the most deserving causes.
Singapore is taking bold steps in this direction with the launch in late March this year of the Impact Philanthropy Partnership (IPP) and a tax incentive scheme for donors.
The IPP is an open platform that aims to bring together wealth owners and Singapore’s financial infrastructure to tackle society’s most pressing challenges. Supported by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, it is a joint initiative of the Private Banking Industry Group and Wealth Management Institute (WMI).
The IPP consists of a series of forums, events and research to build greater awareness and interest in philanthropy and impact capital, and create opportunities to collaborate with other donors. It will also tap the collective expertise of the private wealth ecosystem, including WMI’s networks and private banks’ in-house experts in Asia and globally.
To strengthen the country’s position as a regional philanthropy hub, the Singapore government also unveiled a new tax incentive scheme in this year’s Budget in February. Under the scheme, qualifying donors’ family offices operating in Singapore can claim a 100 per cent tax deduction for overseas donations made through qualifying local intermediaries, capped at 40 per cent of the donor’s statutory income.
This is an important move to recognise the importance of philanthropy to the growing number of family offices now based in the city.
These two initiatives further enhance Singapore’s status as a financial centre and will encourage more family offices and individuals to use it as their wealth hub. Indeed, they are part of the city-state’s ongoing efforts to develop a platform and network for philanthropy and impact investment.
Temasek Trust – set up in 2007 to oversee the financial management of endowments and gifts from Temasek, a Singaporean global investment company owned by the state – hosted its second annual Philanthropy Asia Summit last September. Temasek’s approach, activated by the summit, is to bring global and regional foundations from multiple sectors together so they can jointly develop ways of tackling current challenges.
Meanwhile, Temasek Trust itself launched the Centre for Impact Investing and Practices – the first of its kind in Asia – in June 2022. With the belief that impact investing can act as an effective lever for achieving sustainability, this initiative fosters the growth of impact investing and practices in Asia and beyond by building and sharing knowledge.
All these initiatives will reinforce and support the increasingly strong desire we see among wealthy clients to ensure that their philanthropy creates as meaningful an impact as possible.
Today’s entrepreneurs and business owners continue to seek more strategic and effective approaches to giving back to society. Many benefactors want to go beyond traditional methods to giving; they want to make bold moves and find new solutions that can tackle social problems at their root and at the same time advocate for collaboration and innovation in the philanthropic sphere.
No longer limited to donations, today’s donors are looking to lead and seed philanthropic ventures, bringing to bear not only their altruistic intentions, but also leveraging their business savviness and considerable resources to drive systemic change.
In light of this, we see families increasingly taking a blended approach that combines traditional grant-making with values-aligned investing, advocacy strategies, social entrepreneurship, and more. There is also growing interest in new collaborations to scale impact, both between funders and grantees and among donors of different types.
Philanthropic practices are swiftly evolving in the wake of increased donor interest and savviness. The push for more strategic solutions will require innovative tools, specialist advice and new partnerships across the sector.
Through initiatives like the IPP, Singapore is building the connections needed to ensure intent is matched with innovation and effective collaborations, so that philanthropic investments are put to the best possible use.