- Written August 2021
Philanthropists in Singapore have been supporting causes through private donations for decades. These donations have been made through multiple channels including personal accounts, family offices, trusts and/or foundations. In particular, the wealthiest individuals and corporates establish foundations – legal entities through which they can channel giving to their preferred causes.
To identify the biggest philanthropic foundations in Singapore, we examined those listed in the Charity Portal since it has the most extensive listing of such foundations in Singapore. These foundations are registered as charities with the Commissioner of Charities and must allocate most of their expenditure to causes in Singapore unless they receive an exemption.
Foundations not found in Charity Portal were excluded since there was a lack of public data on them. Foundations that derived most of their income from public donations were also excluded since our focus was on philanthropic foundations.
The latest available annual expenditure and grant data of these philanthropic foundations were collected between January and May 2021 from the portal as well as from public documents such as annual reports. Since grant data was not available for a number of the foundations, expenditure data was used to rank them.
In total, 91 philanthropic foundations were identified. Together they spent over S$264 million in their latest financial year to support a variety of causes, including poverty alleviation, education, healthcare, people with special needs and disabilities, ageing and the environment. Currently, this expenditure represents about 9% of total donations received by over 2,000 charities in Singapore.
Among the 91 philanthropic foundations, 33 foundations spend at least S$1 million each in the period under review. The ten biggest philanthropic foundations in Singapore spent a total of $189 million in their latest financial year. The biggest giver was the Lee Foundation with an expenditure of S$52.8 million in 2019. Most of this was spent on grants to causes such as community services, poverty alleviation, education and disaster relief.
Second and third places in terms of spending were taken by Temasek Foundation Innovates and the Community Foundation of Singapore. It is worth noting that Temasek has six foundations, of which four – Innovates, Cares, Connects and Nurtures – are registered with the Commissioner of Charities. These four entities spent $55.7 million from April 2019 to March 2020 and, if taken together, would make Temasek the biggest grant-maker in Singapore.
The biggest philanthropic foundations in our study were mostly well-established. The top 10 foundations ranked by expenditure – except for the Temasek related foundations and the Community Foundation of Singapore – were at least 20 years old. Among the top 11 to 34 foundations, most were at least 10 years old. There were also emerging philanthropic organisations such as Ishk Tolaram, Changi, Octava and Quantedge foundations that were less than a decade old.
Philanthropic giving through foundations is set to grow as more wealthy individuals and companies set up foundations. Hence, the influence and role of philanthropic foundations in addressing needs in the community is set to grow.
 The Charity Portal (https://www.charities.gov.sg/) gives information on charities in Singapore and is managed by the Commissioner of Charities.
 Most of the foundations registered with the Commissioner of Charities have significant presence in Singapore. Some foundations in Singapore, particularly those focused on overseas grant-making, may not have been registered with Charity Portal and they were excluded from the study.
 Based on the Commission of Charity Annual Report 2019 published in September 2020, total donations in FY 2018 amounted to S$2.9 billion.
 The Community Foundation of Singapore is a grant-making public charity that facilitates and pools funds from donors to address community needs. It currently manages more than 160 donor advised funds and has given out more than S$114 million in grants since 2008. (The Community Foundation of Singapore, 2021).
The full list of the 91 foundations – including information such as their latest annual expenditure, grants disbursed, causes supported, website and email address – is available for purchase at $50. To purchase, please email us at email@example.com .