How We Started
Year 2000
S R Nathan

The late S R Nathan initiated President’s Challenge in 2000 shortly after assuming the Presidency. The social service sector was always something very close to his heart and he decided to help raise funds for this sector and place a spotlight on those in need. When Mr Nathan stepped down from office after 12 years as President of Singapore, the movement he started had raised more than $100 million and benefitted more than 500 programmes in social service organisations that reach out to needy children, families, seniors, disabled and other social service endeavours.

Moving Beyond
Year 2012

President Tony Tan Keng Yam continued President’s Challenge in 2012. He announced his plans to expand the scope of President’s Challenge beyond fundraising. Two initiatives were shared – the President’s Challenge Volunteer Drive and the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Award. These new initiatives encourage people from all walks of life to not only give money but to also give their time and talent, using their business skills to help the less fortunate.

Year 2015

President’s Challenge celebrated its 15th anniversary on March 2015 at the President’s Challenge 15th Anniversary Commemorative Dinner held at the Istana. During the event, President Tony Tan recognised 32 organisations and individuals who made special contributions to the causes supported by President’s Challenge through the years. Dr Tan also highlighted the importance of establishing a strong community in nation-building. President’s Challenge would now seek to play a bigger role in nurturing stronger communities by expanding support for programmes beyond the social service sector and to encourage all ages to get involved in community work.

On September 2015, Dr Tan initiated the President’s Challenge Silver Volunteer Fund, which supports beneficiary organisations by building up their capabilities so they can boost senior volunteerism and encourage seniors to stay active in their communities. President’s Challenge will be raising part of the $40 million fund needed to recruit an additional 50,000 senior volunteers by 2030.

In 2015, President’s Challenge with the support from the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) initiated the “Start Small Dream Big” project to inculcate positive values in pre-schoolers and encourage them to give back to society. Through community service projects, over 62,000 children have participated in the annual project and raised more than $450,000 since the project’s inception.

In the same year, the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) took over the function of President's Challenge Secretariat and overseas the secretariat duties, fundraising efforts and volunteerism drive under President's Challenge. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and Principal Private Secretary to the President continued as co-chairs of the President's Challenge Steering Committee.

Year 2018

Over the past 17 years, the President’s Challenge focus has been on creating a culture of giving, not just in monetary sense but also in time and skills. These efforts are important and should continue but as the social service landscape in Singapore changes, President’s Challenge will also have to evolve with the changing needs.
Going forward, President Halimah Yacob hopes for Singaporeans to look into more customised and upstream support, to be able to help the most vulnerable amongst us and change their circumstances. As the old saying goes, it is “better to teach one to fish than to merely give him a fish”. Whether it is through skills upgrading, capacity-building or empowerment, it is the President’s hope that together we can bring about more sustained changes to the lives of those we impact.

At the President's Challenge 2018 Launch, President Halimah Yacob announced the new "Empowering for Life Fund" (ELF), a fund supporting vulnerable groups through skills upgrading, capacity-building and employment. Donations to ELF will receive dollar-to-dollar matching from the Government. This means that over the next five years, $20 million will be set aside for ELF programmes under the President's Challenge. 

ELF will focus on supporting customised, dedicated services to the most vulnerable groups and facilitate their integration into society. The programmes that it funds will handhold the most disadvantaged people on their journeys to improve their circumstances. The aim is to help them bounce back quickly from setbacks and stay adaptable.

Photo Credits: MCI