Published on 09 Sep 2021

Philanthropy matters

In the first of a regular column on philanthropy, Ms Yap Su-Yin from the University Advancement Office (UAO) discusses the power of collective action and the momentum it brings to giving.

By Yap Su-Yin

Amidst the ongoing pandemic, the University has doubled its efforts to assist needy students. A campus-wide laptop donation drive is ongoing to bridge the digital divide that has become more stark during the crisis. Ms Yap Su-Yin, Executive Director for Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving shares the upcoming plans by the University Advancement Office (UAO) to strengthen the spirit of philanthropy at NTU.

Yap Su-Yin 
Ms Yap Su-Yin offers insights on the cascading impact of philanthropy, and how the OneNTU Community has much to offer. (Photo by Wesley Loh) 

Why is philanthropy important?

Few problems of this world can be solved through philanthropic funding alone. But that reality presents us all with opportunities to play our part where we can. For instance, the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted how we live and work. It has also highlighted our deficiencies and strengths. Time and time again, we witness our capacity to be resilient and persevere through challenges.

As we look back at how far NTU has come, there is much to be thankful for. In the 1950s, the Hokkien Huay Kuan led by the late philanthropist Mr Tan Lark Sye donated the land on which the main NTU campus stands today. Over time, thanks to the collective philanthropic efforts - big and small, in cash and in kind - of people from all walks of life, generations of students have benefited.

How can the OneNTU Community, including alumni, help cultivate the spirit of giving back?

A suite of meaningful initiatives around giving and gifting are being planned for the OneNTU community, including our alumni. Last year, about $10 million was raised from faculty and staff through an inaugural leave donation initiative. This leave donation exercise will extend for a second year. 

Students too have been punching above their weight. Donations from the Graduating Class of 2021 have crossed the $100,000 mark. Their efforts will be amplified with dollar-for-dollar matching, of up to $100,000 for Graduating Class gifts, generously offered by Sian Chay Medical Institution. This local philanthropic organisation has pledged to do this every year for 10 years. This doubles the impact of the initial gifts and is a catalytic effort from the newest members of our alumni family. The multiplier effect demonstrates what collective philanthropy can achieve.

How do we determine our philanthropic priorities?

The process can be daunting but also soul-searching. Some causes resonate at once with alumni, others may not. The times when we pointed out where the needs were, people have readily responded. For example, in the midst of work-from-home arrangements and enhanced safety measures, UAO set up a collection point on campus for anyone who wished to donate their preloved laptops, tablets, laptop accessories and bags to students. Just days after that appeal went out in the News To yoU alumni e-newsletter, readers made the effort to drop off their electronic devices so that someone else more in need could benefit. We hope many more will follow suit and support a cause that resonates with them.

UAO will continue to support the process of priority-setting through various platforms. An alumni engagement survey will be conducted to better understand our alumni’s sentiments and experiences. In addition, plans are underway to create a new student philanthropy society that aims to cultivate the culture of philanthropy early. About 30 undergraduates from across the different Colleges have responded. We hope that this new student organisation will catalyse greater philanthropic awareness and contributions in time to come.

Alumni who are keen to volunteer as mentors to these students, or wish to participate in any of the University’s volunteering programmes, are welcomed to email UAO to express their interest.

Fill this online form to register your interest for UAO’s key events happening in the first quarter of 2022.