DonateGoWhere: Singapore IPC Evaluation

DonateGoWhere: Singapore IPC Evaluation
Photo by Isaac Smith / Unsplash

Sometime last year - between graduation and my first full-time job - I thought it'd be fun to evaluate charities in Singapore based on a few different metrics, inspired by GiveWell. With the help of some friends, we managed to evaluate all the IPCs in Singapore, at least on the surface level.

Scope & Rationale

The scope of this project is to do some form of comparison between the IPCs in Singapore, so that we are able to make better decisions on donations of our time and money.

An IPC - or, institute of public character - is a charity in Singapore that meets certain requirements by the government to be eligible for tax deductions. Unfortunately, that means not all charities in Singapore are eligible for tax deductions. I personally believe that, all else being equal, it's better to donate to other countries, since the impact per dollar tends to be higher in poorer countries. However, some of my friends have wanted the tax deduction while still donating, and asked if I could do some form of evaluation.

Brief Insights

  • Singapore's IPCs are fairly rich, and tend to be government-linked.
  • Of the 633 charities, about 500 charities are able to run indefinitely based on their current spending numbers.
  • Most of these charities focused on social causes, with only a few on the environment/animals.
  • Impact-wise, you're probably better off donating overseas or to other charities - IPC status means that you are only allowed to contribute to the Singapore community, or those located in Singapore.
  • If you want to contribute to Singapore, it's probably more impactful to donate to the smaller non-IPC charities, which do not receive as much funding, and are able to focus more on niche causes.
  • My hunch is that migrant workers and climate are the ones requiring more money, since they are not as well-supported by the government. Plus, they tend to fall between social safety nets.

Brief shortlist of charities

In my personal opinion, I think these are the top few charities that we've seen in the IPCs list. Explanations in the full shortlist of charities.

  • Ageing - Tsao Foundation
  • Environment - Waterways Watch Society
  • Families - Compassion Fund
  • Migrant Workers - Healthserve Ltd

Full shortlist of charities

Listed below, in no particular order, are the ~5% of IPCs that we think have a good chance of making an impact. The list has 34 charities, and you are encouraged to make your own judgement call for this.

Organisation
AIDHA LTD.
Animal Concerns Research and Education Society
BABES PREGNANCY CRISIS SUPPORT LTD.
Chen Su Lan Methodist Children's Home
Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association
CLUB HEAL
COMPASSION FUND LTD.
FILOS COMMUNITY SERVICES LTD.
Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST)
FREE FOOD FOR ALL LTD.
GEM NEW START CENTRE LIMITED
Geylang East Home For The Aged
Grace Lodge
HEALTHSERVE LTD.
IC@RE HUB LTD.
IC2 PREPHOUSE LIMITED
ISCOS ReGen Fund
Jia Ying Community Services Society
LAKESIDE FAMILY SERVICES
Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation
MAMRE OAKS LIMITED
MARYMOUNT CENTRE
Methodist Welfare Services
Migrant Workers' Assistance Fund
NAM HONG WELFARE SERVICE SOCIETY
PROJECT SMILE LIMITED
Promisedland Community Services
RESILIENCE COLLECTIVE LTD.
Singapore Cancer Society
SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS, SINGAPORE
THE COMMUNITY JUSTICE CENTRE LIMITED
TSAO FOUNDATION
Waterways Watch Society
WE CARE COMMUNITY SERVICES LIMITED

Explanations

For the full explanations, I have attached it in this file below - it is a csv file with '|' as delimiters instead of comma, due to the text in the file.

Methodology

Getting the data

We scraped this data from the Charity Portal, getting information such as financial data, descriptions of the organisations, and also their websites.

Evaluating the data

We put this data into an excel spreadsheet, and we briefly looked at different criteria, such as:

  1. Room for funding: how big are their reserves?
  2. Cause area and potential impact: what cause are they championing? Will the target audience increase?
  3. Transparency: whether the annual and financial reports are easy to find on their website.

To make these judgment calls quickly, we relied a lot on our gut, and weigh room for funding heavily to have a quantitative basis for our evaluation. Generally, we favoured charities that focused more on seemingly neglected causes, that hold smaller reserves.

Presenting the data

This is the piece that we are still working on - right now there aren't a lot of meaningful graphs on this, and this could help us with spotting trends in data.

Future work

A few things pending on my wishlist:

  1. Front-end - creating a data explorer so that users can draw their own conclusions from the data.
  2. Working directly with the Charity Portal to do charity comparisons, and so that we don't scrape the data anymore. Our data is already a bit outdated, from AY 2018 and AY 2019.
  3. Obtaining the relevant reports from the charities.
  4. Interviewing charities.
  5. Deep dive into the charities' annual and financial reports.

Source data

All of our code can be found at this repository on GitHub, including an in-progress website. The spreadsheet for evaluation can be made available upon request - just ping me and I will be able to share with you more.

Of note

We spent about a total of 100 hours on the entire process, from getting the data all the way to presenting it here. Honestly I'd say this is still too shallow a process, but enough to give us some form of idea of the charity landscape in Singapore. Useful exercise to also understand what grantmakers.

Other notable efforts

Just Cause Asia (discontinued) - some archived resources on being a more impactful charity and on giving effectively.

Transparency for Good - they are doing something similar to this evaluation, but sticking solely to financial data, and draw rather different conclusions.