Corporate Giving Made Easy: Tractors Singapore’s Case Study on APSN and Giving Week

Once a year, Singapore comes together for one beautiful week to celebrate the spirit of giving and encourage giving as a way of life through Giving Week. Cat® equipment dealer Tractors Singapore Limited was proud to take part in Giving Week 2019 and the company is eager to share this case study on corporate giving to show how easy it is for companies to get started.

APSN Centre for Adults with corporate supporters Tractors Singapore, Mecomb Singapore and FG Wilson Asia (Photo: Tractors Singapore) 

Corporate giving, a subset of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), has enabled businesses to contribute skills and resources to serve a larger social or environmental purpose, such as raising the employability of people with special needs, or fostering inclusion by helping those with limited financial means to access quality healthcare.

Companies keen to embark on CSR can sign up for Giving Week, an annual event championed by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) to promote corporate giving.

For Giving Week 2019, Tractors Singapore held an internal fundraising drive that featured delicious cookies baked by the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN)’s Centre for Adults, a social service agency that provides education, vocational skills training and a full range of employment support to people with mild intellectual disability (IQ 50-70) aged 16 years and above.

APSN has four schools for students between aged 7 to 21, as well as a student care centre and APSN Centre for Adults (CFA).

APSN CFA houses the Bakery Enterprise, where cookies are baked fresh. Baking cookies for sale allows APSN trainees to hone their skills, earn an allowance and facilitate their inclusion into mainstream society and employment.

To top it off, every bag of cookies sold by Tractors Singapore’s CSR Committee included a “goodwill profit” that went to Assisi Hospice, a charity that provides quality palliative care for patients regardless of background and ability to pay.

Therefore, each bag of cookies sold helped two charities, allowing Tractors Singapore to multiply the effect of its corporate giving.

Left: Cookies baked at APSN CFA’s Bakery Enterprise (Photo: APSN Centre for Adults)

Right: Mr Philip Li, Deputy Director, APSN, explains the visual aids to guide trainees in food handling (Photo: NVPC) 

Having bought cookies and other baked goodies from APSN for years, Tractors Singapore’s CSR Committee galvanised the support of sister companies, Mecomb Singapore Limited and FG Wilson Asia Pte Ltd, to broaden the customer base for the cookie fundraising. With encouraging response from both sister companies, the combined order for Giving Week 2019 was the highest that Tractors Singapore has ever placed with APSN.

To pursue effective CSR, companies should understand and believe in the cause supported. In conjunction with Giving Week 2019, APSN and Tractors Singapore’s CSR Committee organised a learning journey to APSN CFA for the management and selected employees of Tractors Singapore, Mecomb Singapore and FG Wilson Asia to better understand persons with special needs.

Located at Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub, APSN CFA provides training and sheltered employment for about 170 trainees. The Centre houses APSN Café for All, and is equipped with realistic training facilities in bakery, catering, building and maintenance, retail, horticulture and contract work. The facility even boasts hydroponics and vertical farms that produce local leafy vegetables, making for a truly farm-to-table experience for diners at APSN Café for All.

Mr Li introduces the vertical farm to visitors during a break between harvests (Photo: NVPC) 

One key takeaway from the learning journey was the implication of intellectual disability as an invisible disability, potentially causing misunderstanding from employers and colleagues. This is why APSN CFA provides employment support for its newly hired beneficiaries and alumni . APSN also trains employers on how best to manage their new colleagues with special needs, and provides ongoing pastoral support for the alumni, thereby ensuring a structured transition from sheltered employment to real-world employment.

APSN Centre for Adults’ retail lab prepares trainees for employment in the retail sector (Photo: Tractors Singapore) 

Dr Christopher Tay, CEO, APSN, welcomed the initiative led by Tractors Singapore. “Collaborations with companies like Tractors Singapore, empower persons with special needs to contribute relevant skills and talents to society,” he said. “Year after year, several members from Tractors Singapore have made orders with APSN CFA’s Bakery Enterprise in support of our quality-assured products and cause. Together, we can move towards building a more compassionate and inclusive society.”

As a bonus, CSR has been shown to yield spin-off benefits for companies. According to The Business Times, a study by NVPC showed that companies, which engage in corporate giving, enjoyed better employee retention and morale. The same article cited the interesting finding that customers are three times more likely to be loyal when they endorse the corporate giving efforts of the company. Ernst & Young also cited research to show that socially responsible companies enjoy long-term financial gain – such companies have performed as well, if not even better, compared to “traditional” companies.

Mr Alan Ow, Managing Director of Tractors Singapore, agreed. “Our CSR efforts have not only helped the charities. Through working together, staff from various departments got to bond and this has helped to build better teamwork amongst staff.”

The next project on the agenda? Tractors Singapore will rally its sister companies to gather orders from employees and place a combined order for Chinese New Year goodies from APSN CFA.

Here are 5 ways that companies can get started with corporate giving to APSN:  

  1. Purchase and Snack – Buy APSN’s cookies and goodies, especially for major festive seasons, in-house fundraising drives, gifts for customers and general pantry stock.

    Apart from cookies that are available throughout the year, APSN CFA also produces goodies during festive seasons including Lunar New Year and Christmas. The delicious treats are great for internal fundraising before a festive season, and also serve as thoughtful conversation starters at customer meetings. APSN offers free deliveries for orders above $200.

  2. Eat – Arrange business lunches at APSN Café for All.

    Live out your values by choosing to bring your stakeholder or customer to APSN Café for All for business lunches, and enjoy both good food and food for thought. The 50seater cafe has been given a 5-star rating by well-known local food blogger, and supports the training and inclusion of people with special needs.

  3. Procure – Acquire APSN CFA’s other services for your regular business functions.

    What better way to do corporate giving than to align your regular business expenditure with CSR? Apart from the bakery and café, APSN CFA also offers food catering, building and maintenance, and contract work services.

  4. Volunteer – Take part in a CSR Activity at APSN CFA’s Bakery.

    Build teamwork and do good at the same time by participating in a half-day programme, where volunteers are trained to bake cookies alongside trainees with special needs. The programme costs a nominal fee of $400, all of which goes to covering the cost of cookie ingredients, operation cost of the bakery kitchen and allowances for the trainees. There will also be a briefing by APSN CFA staff to raise awareness on persons with special needs, and educate volunteers on how to interact
    with them. Volunteers also get to bring home the cookies that they’ve made on the day.

  5. Donate – Leverage company resources to donate in cash or in kind (and bring your sister companies on board).

    Companies can donate any time to APSN at Alternatively, companies can donate in kind by contributing the time and skills of their employees such as marketing and photography skills. Food delivery apps and dining recommendation apps are also uniquely positioned to help expand the awareness and reach of APSN Bakery Enterprise and Café for All via their platforms. Finally, doing corporate giving with sister companies enhances team bonding between companies, while maximising the support for APSN.

Theodore Pang, CSR Committee Chairman and Assistant Manager – Strategy and Business Development of Tractors Singapore contributed this piece. Contact him to discuss ideas on collaboration ([email protected]). For more information on APSN Centre for Adults and their services, get in touch with Philip Li, Deputy Director ([email protected]). APSN Café for All opens from 9.30am to 4.30pm every weekday and is located at Kembangan-Chai Chee Community Hub, 11 Jalan Ubi Block 4, #01-31 Singapore 409074.