Where your dollars go

Posted by on September 18, 2011 in

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In 2013, over 90 percent of TWC2’s spending went towards charitable activities, benefitting our clients in a relatively direct way. We spend little on overheads, reflecting a philosophy of frugality we are proud of.

Total expenditure in the year was $481,139, leaving us with a surplus of $254,755 from the year’s income of $735,894. About 95 percent of this income came from voluntary donations, with the balance from fundraising activities. This surplus represents about 52 percent, or six months’ worth of running costs (based on 2013 expenditure).

Building reserves is particularly important as client cases stretch months, sometimes years. It is hardly wise to be operating hand to mouth, vulnerable to unexpected funding shortfalls and leaving clients in the lurch. Moreover, having reserves that assure continuity provide our staff with job security and good career prospects, which in turn reduces staff turnover.

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The numbers behind the pie chart above come from the audited accounts for 2013 just released — our financial year coincides with the calendar year — and which for the first time, were audited in accordance with the Charity Accounting Standard (CAS). Singapore’s Commissioner of Charities strongly recommends that non-profit organisations adopt the CAS standard by 2015.

Key terms used by CAS or which refer to our internal classification are explained below.

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Restricted and Unrestricted Funds

Restricted funds are donations where the donor specifically attaches his gift to a particular purpose. TWC2 has five main ‘projects’ that are capable of receiving restricted funds: free meals; medical, transport and emergency assistance; social workers; enrichment activities; and outreach to workers. We are looking to set up a sixth fund, for an emergency shelter, but currently resources do not yet permit.

The Unrestricted  fund contains monies donated or raised (by our fundraising activities) which are not attached to any particular project, and allow us to cover our overheads and miscellaneous charitable activities not defined within any of the five projects. Unrestricted funds also permit us the flexibility of being transferred into any of the five restricted funds to top it up, should it run into deficit.

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Cuff Road Project

Our free meals programme, benefitting out-of-work migrant workers, is the largest of our projects in terms of expenditure. 47 percent of 2013 spending went into the Cuff Road Project. Not only is nourishment essential for human life, this programme creates an easy, welcoming contact point for injured and salary-unpaid workers to come and talk to our volunteers who may be able to help with their cases.

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In 2013, we registered 2,202 workers on this programme. Some of them stayed for only a month or two before their cases were resolved and they went home. Others found their cases arduously prolonged. One such is Sattar (pictured above) who was injured in March 2012. He came to us for meals soon after, and stayed with us all through 2013 from January to December  — and as of March 2014, is still on the programme.

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Social worker always there (SWAT) Fund

Some cases are quite complicated, and professional social workers are needed to help the workers in question. Workers are faced with obstacles such as non-proficiency in the English language, unfamiliarity with laws and bureaucratic processes, lack of family and social support — particularly urgent when they are badly injured and cannot even look after themselves. They are often also disadvantaged by a tendency of employers to withhold documents from them. Working with the Ministry of Manpower, hospitals and the police is not something that the typical worker can do without knowledgeable assistance.

Our social workers fill a critical need.

The salary costs, communication, training and incidental expenses of social workers, and a share of rent make up the bulk of this spending.

Through 2013, Kenneth Soh was the Senior Social Worker. Raymond Ang left in August 2013, and Nor Karno came on board a month later. Then Kenneth left in January 2014, and Louis Ong came in the following month.

Given the growth in caseload, TWC2 will soon have to consider hiring a third social worker.

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Compassion and relief for emergencies (CARE) Fund

shahjahan_carefund_3544Although employers are required by law to pay for medical care, their liability is capped. Some workers need more medical care beyond the cap. Others find that their employers deny that the injury was work-related, with the Ministry of Manpower suspending their treatment options until the matter is sorted out (which can take up to a year). Moreover, during the lengthy period recovering from a work injury, a few are hit with an unrelated illness and need  to see a doctor or dentist.

TWC2’s Care Fund steps in when treatment is urgently needed.

Only rarely do we pay for major surgery since we are conscious that such expenses can rapidly deplete our resources, even though it is difficult turning patients down. For less expensive procedures, involving a cost of a few hundred or slightly over a thousand dollars per client, help is more readily available.

islam_md_saiful_jillratnamThe second largest spending from the Care Fund is related to helping injured workers with transport costs. As they are without work, yet required to visit hospitals regularly for treatment and occupational therapy, TWC2 provides a small, carefully controlled top-up to their fare cards, under our EZ-Ride programme. Like the Cuff Road Project, this programme has rigorous pre-qualification criteria.

Other small uses of the Care Fund include the occasional instance of:

  • a worker stranded in Singapore, with no employer paying for the flight home;
  • providing meals to workers who come to our office seeking help and who have had nothing to eat for 12 – 24 hours;
  • emergency clothes and toiletries for those who had to flee their dorms, leaving all their possessions behind, when thuggish repatriation agents came for them;
  • when a worker needs to pay a fee to obtain copies of his hospital records, without which his injury compensation claim is stuck.

The amounts involved (for these small uses) are relatively tiny, but they are mentioned here to illustrate the variety of emergencies TWC2 has to help with.

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Outreach Fund

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Informing workers that assistance is available from TWC2 is a core activity. For this we rely mostly on volunteers, but expenses are incurred printing pamphlets and other literature. The outreach fund also enables us to rent venues where we can conduct talks to inform workers of their rights.

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Enrichment Fund

A tiny sliver of expenses go to ‘enrichment’. For non-domestic workers, this takes the form of outings and activities organised by TWC2’s Discover Singapore team for injured and out-of-work workers. Being virtually penniless with long recovery periods, life can be one of depressing boredom for them. TWC2 organises activities twice a month to interesting places to help keep their spirits up and regain their mobility — part of the rehabilitation process.

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Domestic workers associated with TWC2 have formed themselves into two self-help groups: The Indonesian Family Network (IFN) and the Filipino Family Network (FFN). They organise their own Sunday classes at TWC2’s premises, and in our accounts, a small part of our rent to allocated to this activity as a result. We also provide a subsidy to help defray their expenses.

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Miscellaneous charitable activities

These expenses come out of the Unrestricted Fund. Most of the expenses are related to the cost of the Administration Officer, whose job mainly relates to liaising with volunteers, supporting advocacy (e.g. organising press conferences), and organising events such as International Migrants Day that benefit workers. A share of rent and maintenance costs (our volunteers use our office space freely) is also allocated to this category.

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imd_2013_5405aFundraising expenses (also termed ‘Cost of generating funds’)

These are expenses incurred by activities whose purpose is to raise funds. One oddity is that our auditors classified 2013 research expenses under this category, perhaps because we sold several books.

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Governance expenses

These are expenses that would have to be incurred by the organisation even if we did little by way of charitable activities. They include accounting costs, bank charges, a share of rent, communication costs and office supplies. Professional and audit fees are here too.