All year long, SingHealth institutions work continuously to raise support for their respective causes.   The effort is crucial on many fronts: to help patients in need, enable groundbreaking research and groom future generations of healthcare professionals.

To nurture the spirit of giving and in conjunction with Giving Week 2017, the annual national movement which encourages giving back, SingHealth organised a session of Academic Hour focusing on philanthropy and a giving fair.

Guest speaker Professor Tan Chorh Chuan is no stranger to fundraising. While President of National University of Singapore (NUS) from 2008 until 31 December 2017, annual donations to the university have soared.   In FY 2016/17, NUS received $156.7 million in donations. In January 2018, Prof Tan joined the Ministry of Health (MOH) as Executive Director of the new Office for Healthcare Transformation and  also has been appointed MOH’s Chief Health Scientist.

During his presentation titled “Partnering for Impact: Building Support for Institutional Priorities”, Prof Tan outlined three key strategies to achieve enduring, successful partnerships between institutions and donors.

#1 Know your institutional priorities

Philanthropy is just a means towards an end. The end, explained Prof Tan, is to improve the institution’s strengths to create a greater impact than what is currently possible.

Therefore, it is fundamentally important for an institution to understand its goals and where its most important priorities lie. This will shape the way we approach prospective donors.

Prof Tan highlighted that defining priorities is not just about coming up with flighty words and concepts; the execution of strategic plans is crucial.

“It’s the combination of clear strategic positioning and making things happen that allow institutions to move ahead and convince others that we are worthy partners.”

Prof Tan Chorh Chuan

“This means we have a track record of success, and also when we commit to something, we have to make sure we deliver.”

#2 See things from the donors’ point of view

Often, in the haste to get donors’ attention, development staff make the mistake of focusing more on their pitch than giving prospective donors opportunities to speak.

“A big part of philanthropy work is relationship building. We need to start by listening more so that we can be sensitive to each donor’s aspirations. This allows us to align the causes for support to donors’ intentions.”

When there is a close alignment between the goals of a donor and the institution, a fruitful long-lasting partnership is more likely to occur.

Prof Tan cited the example of Mrs Jennifer Yeo, who founded VIVA Foundation in 2006 to save the lives of children with cancer after her own son’s harrowing experience with leukaemia.

Motivated by her personal experience, Mrs Yeo’s subsequent work focused on creating greater impact. VIVA Foundation’s partnership with St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US catalyses the success rates of paediatric cancer treatment in Asia through research, cutting-edge facilities and nurturing medical expertise in this area. 

Another useful tip from Prof Tan: rather than drowning the audience with information, sharing success stories helps donors appreciate the positive change they can engender by partnering your institution.

#3 Know the potential pitfalls

Regardless of the gift quantum, it is of utmost importance to consider if accepting a particular gift will affect the institution’s reputation. Always know the donor’s background and his or her industry, and be clear of any potential risk of close association with this donor. Next, consider if the gift is in line with the institution’s priorities and goals.

Avoiding potential conflicts of interest in an increasingly complicated commercial landscape is critical. Examples of these situations include benefits to the donor’s owned businesses or having donors on decision-making panels. Gifts should be reviewed individually by independent officers, and sometimes, it may be necessary to forgo substantial gifts to avoid long-term risk, said Prof Tan.