International Non-Profit Organizations



Singapore is currently home to around 140 International Non-Profit Organisations (INPOs) - a number that has more than quadrupled since 2005. They span a range of organisations including inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with a social, humanitarian or environmental focus, industry associations, philanthropic foundations, think tanks and corporate sustainability-related organisations. We are also seeing a growing number of social enterprises which incorporate a social or environmental cause into a sustainable business model.


Despite the rising Asian wealth, the region also holds some of the greatest challenges, including natural disasters, poverty, urbanisation and environmental degradation. INPOs are increasingly recognising the need to have a strong presence in Asia to truly understand the complexity of the region, and achieve a contextualised approach to serving the causes they champion and achieve maximum impact. Many now use Singapore as a launch pad to manage and execute their key regional functions and activities, taking advantage of Singapore's neutrality, global connectivity, pro-business environment, global talent pool and rising interest in philanthropy.

Moreover, INPOs are also looking for new innovative solutions to the increasingly complex and multi-faceted challenges they face. Many choose to leverage Singapore strengths to develop these solutions, from the strong research institutions to compact sector ecosystems that are conducive for cross-sector partnerships/initiatives. For instance, the World Bank’s Infrastructure Finance Centre of Excellence has structured Public-Private infrastructure-related partnerships and projects out of the Singapore office, while corporate-sustainability INPOs are looking to establish strong working relationships with companies, agencies, industry associations, and non-profit organisations to drive sustainability initiatives out of Singapore. A Kuhne Foundation-National University of Singapore collaboration also saw the birth of the KF-NUS Humanitarian Logistics-Asia Pacific Education Centre, tapping on Singapore’s logistics strengths to train disaster relief providers from INPOs such as WorldVision and Save the Children.


INPOs can tap on Singapore's pro-business environment, which has been rated number one in the world (World Bank, 2012). Singapore is a global logistics base complete with strong air, sea and land connectivity and a seamless, reliable telecommunications network. All of these are important enablers for INPOs to gain access to the region and respond quickly to needs. In addition, the state's comprehensive, state-of-the-art meeting and convention facilities can support a range of events and activities from board meetings to global conventions.

With the growing importance of leveraging private sector expertise and capital to address the world’s most pressing problems, Singapore as a home to 38,000 international companies is also a choice location for INPOs to collaborate and form strategic partnerships in areas from corporate sustainability, Public-Private-Partnerships, to social entrepreneurship, inclusive businesses, impact investment and venture philanthropy.


Setting up shop in a place like Singapore, which enjoys political stability and neutrality, is crucial for INPOs. Singapore's strong rule of law and sense of corporate governance also discourages corruption and makes the environment conducive for managing programmes throughout the region. INPOs are also an increasingly important part of Singapore’s vibrancy and social fabric as a global city, where the interests of both the international business and local communities are moving beyond economic considerations towards social, philanthropic, environmental and humanitarian issues. 


Singapore is a magnet for international talent to work, live and play in a cosmopolitan city state, with many experts in various fields choosing to locate themselves here. Singapore’s highly-educated, multi-cultural, English-speaking workforce is groomed from three local and 16 leading foreign tertiary institutions. Within the non-profit sector, Singapore aims to be a focal point for research and thought leadership in Asia, and this includes being a centre for education and training. Key institutions include the Lien Foundation Centre for Social Innovation at Singapore Management University, NUS ASCEP and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. All these factors contribute towards a strong pool of talent and volunteers that INPOs can readily tap on for their human capital needs.


In the latest World Wealth Report 2012, Asia-Pacific topped North America to become the single largest home to HNWIs in 2011 for the first time. According to the Asia-Pacific Wealth Report 2012, the region’s HNWI population also increased to 3.37million in 2011, with the region having 7 out of the top 20 fastest growing HNWI populations globally.

The 2011 UBS-INSEAD Report on Family Philanthropy in Asia also highlighted the strong motivations for Asian families to engage philanthropy as means to ensure continuity of family values or create lasting legacy. To this end, Asian families give most to their home countries, and are increasingly looking to give to other less advantaged regions as philanthropy in Asia continues to grow in sophistication and awareness. In Singapore, charitable donations have more than tripled from S$341million in 2006 to S$1.10billion in 2012, based on figures from the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre Individual Giving Survey 2012.

As a key wealth and financial hub in Asia Pacific, Singapore is therefore well positioned for INPOs to access and cultivate their Asian donor base. Regional social finance and impact investing activity is also growing in Singapore, representing an opportunity for INPOs who are looking to tap such alternative financing solutions for their work.  Examples of social finance intermediaries that have set up base in Singapore include Bamboo Finance,  Asian Venture Philanthropy Network (AVPN), Endeavor Global, as well as the Impact Investment Exchange Asia (IIXA) and its sister organisation, IIX Shujog. 


To help facilitate international INPOs in setting up base in Singapore, a dedicated International Organisations Programme Office (IOPO) was established in 2007 as a multi-agency initiative. Our office is a one-stop shop for INPOs interested in establishing a presence in Singapore, and continues to assist the needs of INPOs even after setting up in Singapore

IOPO is housed in the Economic Development Board, and engages a range of INPOs, including developmental/environmental NGOs, foundations & philanthropic organisations, industry and professional associations and inter-governmental organiations.

IOPO also works with other government agencies to develop a conducive environment for INPOs – including improving the policy and regulation space, securing infrastructure resources for INPOs, and engaging professional service providers who contribute to the nonprofit ecosystem. 


The Tanglin International Centre (TIC) is a dedicated cluster of 2 refurbished buildings as office space for the international non-profit community. Situated amidst lush greenery and located close to key business districts, shopping, leisure and F&B outlets, the TIC offers competitive rental rates, shared services such as meeting and conference rooms, and outdoor gazebos for events. More importantly, the centre offers a conducive platform for organisations to interact, share ideas and foster collaborations.

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  •  Singapore is currently home to around 140 international non-profit organisations.
  • Building on Singapore’s infrastructure, governance and finance strengths, intergovernmental organisations such as the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have established regional presences in Singapore. The World Bank Group has also set up an office in Singapore, the first outside Washington DC to co-locate the World Bank (IBRD/IDA), MIGA, and IFC. The Singapore office is also the location for the Bank’s Urban Hub and Infrastructure Finance Centre of Excellence.
  • As business growth continues in Asia, industry associations are increasingly looking serve to the needs of their sectors and members in the region from Singapore by offering insights, research, training, best practices and standard setting. There are currently close to 50 industry associations in Singapore, and some of them have global functions. For instance, in the education space, International Baccalaureate (IB) has chosen Singapore as one of their 3 global centres. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) have also established regional HQs here. Professional bodies like Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) are also using Singapore as a hub to grow their Asia presence.
  • There is a growing cluster of private banks providing philanthropy services to their HNI clients. This includes banks like UBS, RBS Coutts and Standard Chartered. In particular, Credit Suisse launched the SymAsia Foundation in early 2011 as a dedicated grant-making institution to manage donor advised funds for its clients who give towards local or regional philanthropic causes. International philanthropy advisory bodies are also coming to Singapore to engage local and overseas donors. One example is Charities Aid Foundation Southeast Asia that was set up in 2008.
  • Five of the world’s top environmental conservation NGOs—Worldwide Fund for Nature, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, Birdlife International and Fauna & Flora International, have their regional HQs in Singapore, conducting strategy, management  and corporate functions, as well as, increasingly, partnership and research development.
  • Earth Hour, one of the world’s largest sustainability campaigning brands, relocated its Global Headquarters from Sydney to Singapore in mid-2012. Earth Hour manages its global branding, media outreach, advertising and corporate engagements from Singapore, and is looking to grow “beyond the Hour”, by harnessing the power of social and digital media to inspire and instigate behavioural change.
  • Health-related non-profits are also looking at Singapore as a good base from which to address the health and nutrition concerns of the region. IUATLD is a leading global scientific organisation that promotes lung health in low- and middle-income countries. Their HQ in Singapore serves as a base for its regional TB, TB/HIV and tobacco control programmes through technical assistance, clinical trials coordination, and grant monitoring. The regional HQ also runs the education component - the International Management Development Programme - for health professionals.


Mr LEE Eng Keat

Mr LEE Eng Keat

Executive Director
Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Natural Resources, International Organisations Programme Office

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