NKF: Personal thoughts about charity
I have the utmost respect for charities: they are aid organisations which reach out to the needy, and provide much needed assistance, in the form of information, treatment, rehabilitation, etc.
A family which takes care of their charges, much like how the government serves the people at large, without the exhorbitant fees we affectionately label "taxes".
Yet their day to day operations requires funds to function (supplies need to be bought, supporting contractors need to be paid), and the government is not going to be responsible for the income of these charities. (Ok, so the government does give grants, but such money is always insufficient, given that it is a case of many mouths fighting for the small pie). Charities therefore have to resort to goodwill money from the public to continue to operate.
Making matters worse is that other charities have to do the same in order to meet their costs. We end up with volunteers totting donation tin cans in the street every day, fund raisers on television on Sundays, and advertisements solicitating for monthly contributions. Other charities put up big prizes as a reward for donating. Among the ranks of charities in Singapore, the National Kidney Foundation musters the most might, with deep reserves.
Since young, I have always looked forward to fund-raisers: not only were they few and far between, they were also sincere, and were treated with good taste. I could still remember dialling the NKF donation hotline back when they still took $2 donations. I took money out of my pocket money to support the cause, and that really felt good.
However, in recent years, the landscape of NKF's charity shows have changed. No longer do they treat the suffering of the patients with dignity. Continuously reminding kidney patients of their suffering with many videos of real life cases in the bid to boost sympathy, not only do these patients get a harsh reminder of their exceptional vulnerability, they also feel exploited.
Television artistes commit dangerous stunts to awe spectators and their money. Some are hurt during practice, and make it to the actual event to drum up more sympathy votes instead of concentrating on recuperating in the hospital.
In addition to that, the NKF tries to lure in gamblers and practical donors with big prizes. A condominium. Big cars. Small prizes for multiple donations. Loyalty rewards for past donations. Call now, and get a chance to win these prizes!
This seriously undermines the aim and cause of charitable giving, degenerating it into a simple case of a business deal between a consumer and the organisation. The product? A chance at winning a nice car.
If this is the case, we need to relook the NKF's status as a non-profit organisation. With such a obvious purchase and sale of services, it is evident that NKF is operating as a commercial entity, and should thus be registered as such.
Entry into cancer and impact
These fund raising tactics, together with aggressive flag days, donation cards, monthly pledges by donors, have allowed NKF to reap in substantial profit over the years. In fact, a recent audit found that it had reserves capable of sustaining the organisation for 30 years if all fund raising activities were to halt at this point.
With all its aggressiveness at fund raising, and that massive reserves, kidney patients with NKF still find themselves paying hundreds of dollars for dialysis treatment. NKF subsidies only $300 out of the $2000 payable per month for an average kidney patient, who earns $1500 a month. With its runaway success, shouldn't NKF do more to help kidney patients?
Instead, the organisation chose to set up a cancer fund, in order to justify continuing their fund raising activities, muscling in on the Singapore Cancer Society and its patients with its massive marketing strength. Now, NKF Cancer patients are the only patients in Singapore with cancer. With its smokescreen advertising, it would appear that the Singapore Cancer Society and other charities do not already support cancer patients. This has resulted in funds originally destined for SCS being diverted to NKF's Cancer fund, leaving SCS's original patients with lesser support.
After cancer, what's next on your hit list NKF?
Recent events have shocked the country. More in the link above.
It appears that the CEO has been drawing so much bonuses without even justifying it to the public. He could fly on business class seats to other countries on public's donations while supposed recepients of NKF fork out money every month to continue dialysis, and bare their real life stories out to the whole country, to solicit for donations, all for the sake of more extravagent purchases by the management.
There is really something fundementally wrong with this system. Is this a real charity?
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