Philanthropy is more than just writing a cheque. It’s a thoughtful process that goes beyond monetary donations. For family offices in Singapore, there is a wide continuum of different ways of doing good, and they can also leverage assets, expertise, and networks for the benefit of vulnerable communities.
Family offices are well-positioned to contribute to philanthropic causes in Singapore and in the region, and many are keen to give back. With this in mind, it is critical for family office advisors to understand the challenges that family offices face when it comes to getting started with philanthropy, and to initiate conversations around philanthropy in a way that is meaningful and impactful.
The inspiration for philanthropy is often deeply personal and tied to the values of the family. Therefore, it is imperative to take the time to establish a giving strategy that is aligned with the family’s values and goals. While it may take time to establish a giving strategy, the payoff is more effective and impactful giving.
One big challenge for family offices when it comes to philanthropy is deciding what does ‘success in making impact’ look like for there. There are many worthy causes and pressing areas of social need. However, how should would-be philanthropists decide on what causes to support, and what type of measurable, positive change they hope to create?
Philanthropy is often linked to how families may like to express their values and legacy. Different members of the family may have different views on how to do so, and it is vital to have these open conversations within the family before deciding on a direction. Once this is decided, there are a range of subsequent decisions to be made such as giving structures, what assets to contribute, what is the giving frequency, and how to measure impact.
When initiating conversations around philanthropy with family offices, the most vital step is to listen.
Philanthropy and giving back may trigger topics that are close to the heart of many family offices and wealth owners, and they may share if given the opportunity. If the situation is appropriate, advisors can also proactively share about causes that they themselves are passionate about.
Being open and vulnerable yourself can lead to a deeper conversation. It is also important to understand the values and interests of a family office when introducing them to philanthropy, and this can be accomplished through building relationships and networking.
The Lee Foundation, founded by late rubber tycoon Lee Kong Chian, gave SGD32.3 million in the same year to a variety of causes including education, health, and community welfare. More recently in 2023, the Lee Foundation disbursed SGD50 million in order to promote advancement in healthcare research and innovation at SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre. This funding is intended to “inspire ideation, accelerate discoveries and fuel cutting-edge advancements in healthcare processes, medical technologies and therapies to make a difference and give hope to patients and their loved ones,” according to the Board of Directors for the Lee Foundation.
Another such example is the Tanoto Foundation, which has donated SGD2.6 million to the Rare Disease Fund in Singapore, aiding medical research through their role as risk capital for moonshot projects.
Each family has its own definition of what impact and success means, and how these factors drive the vision and mission of their philanthropic efforts.
To ensure that philanthropic efforts are sustainable and have a long-lasting impact, family offices in Singapore need to design a clear and effective giving strategy.
This includes defining impact goals, deciding on causes to support, contributions, and different giving structures such as donor-advised funds. A thoughtful approach to philanthropy can help family offices maximise their impact over the long term.
WMI has published publicly available philanthropy guides outlining the key steps in starting a giving strategy, from defining impact goals to deciding on causes, contributions, and different giving structures such as donor-advised funds. Advisors can take advantage of these guides to in their philanthropic journeys with the families they serve.
Networking and building relationships in the philanthropic space are vital for family offices to learn from other philanthropists and advisors regarding what has worked and what has not worked.
It is also essential to hear directly from non-profits on the ground regarding what they need. Some may need funds (donations), but some may need other types of support such as volunteers, skills, advocacy, or introductions to other organizations who can support them. Family offices can engage in these activities by being proactive and seeking out opportunities to learn and engage with peers.
To convene thought leaders, changemakers and innovative philanthropists from Asia and around the world, WMI and the Private Banking Industry Group (PBIG), with the support of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), announced the launch of the Impact Philanthropy Partnership (IPP).
The partnership aims to create a dedicated series of events and research publications to build greater awareness and momentum for philanthropy and newer models of giving such as venture philanthropy and impact investing.
The IPP is open to members of the Global-Asia Family Office Circle as well as networks from PBIG, MAS and ecosystem partners. Click here for more information about the IPP and its events.
For in-depth learning and networking opportunities with likeminded peers, WMI’s Certificate in Philanthropy and Social Impact will help wealth advisors, wealth planners and family office professionals formulate philanthropic and social impact frameworks and strategies for Family Offices and clients. Learn from leading global and local experts to integrate Philanthropy into your advisory practice and build deeper, more meaningful connections with Family Principals and clients.