Part 3 of 4: Church Governance Series by Msgr Philip Heng
Fundraising for God’s Work
In this third instalment of a series on the subject of governance and financial accountability, Msgr Philip Heng explains how fundraising appeals are undertaken in the archdiocese.
When we raise funds for the creation of a community of love, we are helping to build the Kingdom of God. In our archdiocese, Kingdom building takes place in many different areas, which leads to a number of fundraising exercises in the archdiocese.
This raises a common question; how does the Church and its organisations coordinate, govern and account for funds raised? In this regard, it would be useful to first understand the different types of fundraising and fundraisers in the archdiocese.
DIFFERENT POOLS, DIFFERENT PURPOSES
Within the archdiocese, fundraising is conducted only by certain bodies, who each raise funds for different purposes.
They can be more easily understood by looking at them as groups who fundraise for the Church’s social mission, and groups that take care of the Church’s other needs.
Funds raised for the Church’s social mission go to the benefit of Catholic charities and their beneficiaries, while funds raised for the Church’s use will resource the work of the Church within parishes, religious congregations, and on an archdiocesan level.
RESOURCING OUR SOCIAL MISSION
Caritas Singapore and Caritas Humanitarian Aid & Relief Initiative, Singapore (CHARIS) are the two organisations that represent the social arm of the Catholic Church in Singapore. Caritas Singapore is the umbrella body for charitable needs in Singapore, while CHARIS is the umbrella body for overseas humanitarian aid.
Between the two organisations, there are more than 40 Catholic charity affiliates that look after the poor, the disabled, the elderly, the sick, those adversely affected by disasters, and many more. They include organisations such as Catholic Welfare Services (CWS), Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP), and A Call to Share (ACTS).
Caritas Singapore carries out an annual fundraising appeal called “Charities Week” across parishes in the archdiocese as well as some Catholic schools, during the season of Lent. CHARIS conducts an annual fundraising appeal for the Church’s overseas humanitarian efforts through every parish, usually in September.
Apart from the support provided by Caritas and CHARIS, some Catholic charities also conduct fundraising activities of their own. The Society of St Vincent de Paul, for instance, conducts a second collection on the first Sunday of each month in all parishes to provide for their work for the poor. Other Catholic charities occasionally organises fundraising projects, including appeals, golf, dinners, walkathons and other events.
For greater accountability and transparency, all funds raised by Catholic charities, Caritas or CHARIS goes to the benefit of their social mission and beneficiaries. These funds are not available to the Church for any other use.
This is why, apart from fundraising for the Church’s social work, fundraising is also needed to support other aspects of the Church such as the 22 Catholic religious congregations in Singapore.
This includes the Jesuits, Gabrielite brothers, Franciscan sisters, and more. Each of them is governed by their own superior-generals and structures. Funds collected by religious congregations are used for their particular missions, and are not available to the archdiocese.
Religious congregations derive their funding mostly from their work and direct donations. Though some projects of the religious congregations are supported by Caritas Singapore and CHARIS due to their social nature, most of them would occasionally conduct their own fundraising for their needs and missions.
The Daughters of St Paul, for instance, are a familiar sight in parishes selling books and other media materials. Their particular mission is to evangelise through mass media, and thus naturally conduct fundraising in this manner to continue resourcing their efforts.
For all other needs of the Church in Singapore, especially for the running of the 32 churches, weekly Offertories and other collections are made during Masses. This is the main source of income for parishes for their operations, programmes, maintenance, upgrades, and other needs.
Some parishes may also conduct additional fundraising activities such as fun fairs and other events for specific parish building projects. In addition, some parishes have income from their columbarium and parlours.
Traditionally, 15% of each parish’s first collections at every weekend Mass was given to the archdiocese for its needs, while 85% was retained for each parish’s own use. In 2016, this was changed to a tiered system of 4% to 28% depending on each parish’s income to be contributed to the archdiocese.
OPERATIONAL AND BUILDING NEEDS OF THE ARCHDIOCESE
Over the years, relying on the contribution from each parish has become inadequate for the operational and building needs of the Church at the archdiocesan level.
The archdiocese has to provide for the welfare and upkeep of its priests, the needs of many archdiocesan organisations such as the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF) and Office for Young People (OYP), as well as the upkeep and development of archdiocesan properties such as the seminary.
Thus, the Catholic Foundation was set up as a second vehicle to raise funds for the many needs of the archdiocese. Money collected by the Foundation goes only to the archdiocese for its needs.
With the archdiocesan embarking on its pastoral vision and increasing its efforts at growth, the Catholic Foundation launched the Giving in Faith and Thankfulness (GIFT) campaign in Advent 2016 to raise the necessary resources.
In order to raise what is needed for the pastoral vision, GIFT encourages regular giving amongst Catholics. A second collection was introduced on the third Sunday of each month in all parishes to receive appeal envelopes and contributions to GIFT. In addition, Catholic Foundation has created funds for the main building projects and is organising fundraising events.
ACCOUNTABILITY OF FUNDRAISING
The establishment of umbrella bodies such as Caritas Singapore, CHARIS and the Catholic Foundation, were key in the Church’s efforts to ensure proper governance in its fundraising activities.
With these three bodies being the main fundraisers for the three distinct areas of needs, fundraising activities in the archdiocese are better consolidated and made more efficient.
All three organisations, including most other Catholic charities and religious organisations are registered charities in Singapore. Thus, all activities of these organisations comply with the guidelines and regulations of the Commissioner of Charities and the Charities Act, which governs all charities in Singapore.
The three major fundraising bodies are also governed by a board of directors appointed by the archbishop, consisting of leadership priests and professionals with relevant backgrounds such as accounting, legal, and corporate governance. The board has legal duties, responsibilities and liabilities under the Companies Act and the Charities Act for the activities of these organisations.
These three fundraising bodies are also professionally audited each year, with their accounts published on websites and distributed to their donors.
There are many things the Church does to safeguard and steward the gifts which God provides through His people. But looking past the surface, let us always recognise that all material goods we may have in our possession today are not truly ours, but gifts we have been blessed with, so that we can bless others in return and help provide for the growth of our Church in our archdiocese.
This is the third article in a series on Church governance by Msgr Philip Heng.
To read his other articles, click on the following:
- Part 1: Structure and Governance of the Catholic Church in Singapore
- Part 2: Financial Governance: Where Canon Law Meets Civil Law
- Part 4: Protecting the Collection and Use of God’s Resources