Sep 18, 2013

    One-stop portal to help a social cause

    SCAM artists soliciting donations or selling products for a "good cause" have tainted legitimate fund raisers and direct sellers, going by recent reports.

    But an online shopping site could help allay public fears of fund-raising scams, while raising the profile of social enterprises and non-profit organisations.

    Called Shop For Social (, the portal was launched in July and lists items from clothing and accessories to stationery and household products.

    The e-commerce portal is a member of the Social Enterprise Association - the national body promoting social entrepreneurship - and hosts a variety of nine social enterprises and non-profit organisations.

    It also boasts both local and foreign beneficiaries. This includes underprivileged women and mothers, as well as the disabled, from social enterprises such as Mother and Child Project, Gift and Take, and Friends of the Disabled.

    Shop For Social co-founder Serene Ow, 32, assures the public that the portal is not intended to be a fly-by-night phenomenon.

    She told My Paper: "I believe, to some extent, our portal will help raise public confidence in purchasing for charity."

    To the best of her knowledge, Ms Ow said that there is currently no common online platform based in Singapore that aims to highlight social enterprises, market their products, as well as list them for sale.

    She said: "We believe such a platform would be a good way to consolidate great products for socially conscious consumers."

    This comes on the back of a Straits Times report last week on illegal peddlers undermining the reputation of established charity groups and legitimate direct sellers by claiming to be volunteers from local charities.

    Ms Ow said her team meets with each social-enterprise partner to better understand their social mission, business model and beneficiaries. The team also checks that prospective participating enterprises are registered entities, said Ms Ow.

    Ms Roogmany Suppiah, executive director of non-profit organisation Friends of the Disabled, said that the online portal also helps to shed light on their collective social cause in the short write-ups on each participating enterprise.

    She adds: "People will better understand our social purpose. Being on an authorised platform like Shop For Social also helps to boost credibility."

    Mr Laurence Lien, chief executive of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre, said: "The online portal is more focused on raising the profiles and visibility (of social enterprises) to the public.

    "It can also help validate the authenticity of products sold."

    For now, response to the portal from the public as well as from social enterprises has been "encouraging", said Ms Ow.

    She added: "Many feel that this is a great way to hear about various social enterprises and to support their work, many of whom they would not have heard about otherwise."