The SET Foundation: A Season for Giving Back

Phra Farang

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Peter Robinson and the SET Foundation…

For those interested in reading about the life of a monk in Thailand, Phra Farang (written by a former farang monk), is a worthwhile read.

There are many excellent book reviews and interviews around, so I won’t do a repeat here. Yet.

What I’d like to focus on instead is the remarkable SET Foundation, created by Peter Robinson.

And most impressive about SET is the money angle.

Every Baht you give goes directly to help our students: SET has very low overheads and administration costs – no staff wages, no office rental costs, no staff vehicles and no fundraising expenses. In 2008, less than 3% of income was spent on administration.

When I worked corporate, we were all encouraged to donate to United Way.


United Way organizations typically suffer from an administrational overhead of 10%-20% instead of 5%-15% that many other well-known charities have.

Some workplaces that donate money to UW do not follow commonly used ethical procedures when soliciting donations.

Employees may be pressured into donating through peer pressure tolerated or even encouraged by management.

I was one of those employees. And ever since, I rarely donate cash to established organisations such as the United Way. I offer of my time and skills to smaller charities instead.

But with the SET Foundation, I will make an exception.

About SET…

The SET Foundation has a very specific aim: to make a difference. That difference is between a youngster being able to study at a vocational college or university, or instead having to labor in the rice paddies, on a Bangkok building site, or in some other mundane, dead-end job.

By giving scholarships and other practical support, SET is making the difference for an increasing number of disadvantaged Thai students. We’ve been doing it for fifteen years. We do it voluntarily, enthusiastically and very cost-effectively.

More than 3,000 students have already benefited from our Scholarship Program. Hundreds more have benefited from our Student Welfare Program, receiving cash grants to pay for uniform, books, tools, bus fares, lunch or dormitory accommodation.

To see where your donations go, check out: What does it cost to make the difference?

500 baht (US$15) will buy a pair of school shoes.

5,000 baht (roughly US$150) will cover one semester for a college or university student (accommodation, food and bus fares included).

PS: They even accept Paypal 🙂

14 thoughts on “The SET Foundation: A Season for Giving Back”

  1. Reiner, that’s fabulous. The SET Foundation is a wonderful cause to support. Educating deserving kids is extremely important and I especially admire how much of the donation gets to them. Thank you for your confidence and donating to SET 🙂

  2. Hi Catherine,
    this morning I thought about it, to let you get some money for your excellent blog. From my own work I know how much time and money it would cost to manage a blog.
    But since you take no money, I followed your link, and have donated to SET. While reading their website I think that the people behind SET make an excellent job.
    The education of children is an important investment in the future for the children and for society. The kids get a perspective and it is a step against poverty.
    I myself have four children (12, 18,19, 22 years old).
    Best regards

  3. Martyn, Excellent to hear. And Merry Christmas to you too! Great to hear from you, btw. I was beginning to get worried (thoughts of you camping out at Heathrow did enter into it).

    Have fun, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing all about it when you settle (either here, or there).

  4. Catherine a great cause and I will donate on my return to the UK. A merry Christmas to you and have a wonderful New Year. Hopefully I’ll get some serious internet time soon and catch up on yours and everyone else’s posts. Best wishes from Ban Dung. It ain’t half hot.

  5. Rick,

    Lucky you, back in BKK 🙂 It’s cold, wet, and miserable out here (UK).

    I did donate to UW because it was made known that when the job cuts came around (as they did, often) those who donated would be looked kindly upon. I wonder just how much damage to charities that attitude did?

    SET does have it covered: Food, shoes, clothes, books, accommodation, and travel. And for those who want to donate more, they can chose by semester, or the entire school year.

  6. I’m just catching up as I’m back online at normal volumes (and back in BKK) . . . I too felt pressured at work to donate to United Way. In fact, several bosses sent emails out to staff that basically ordered people to give. I was never a donor to UW because of the above reasons, my preference being international and that for me is Oxfam.

    Education is vitally important but you need food to get through the day and learn at “normal” levels. I see SET does both. This sounds like a very good organization and will check it out right now. Thanks for the great idea, Cat.

  7. Steve, There are many needs in Thailand, but as further education is a passion of mine, the SET Foundation suits me. is a great one too. I would like to keep my donations in Thailand, so if they ever do make it here I will certainly do my part.

    It is very difficult knowing just what organisation to donate to. So I do agree with you on the need for transparency.

  8. This post is so timely Catherine as I have been actively looking for a good charity organization to start making regular donations to. SET is one of the few that I found that seems transparent enough for me to consider donating to. Another option I am waiting for in Thailand is Rumors I’ve heard say they were through Thailand last August trying to get things going and that we may be able to work with Thai entrepreneurs through them by May/June of 2010.

    I’ll be posting on Thai charities in the near future as well and will definitely be pointing people back to this post.

  9. Catherine, just finished writing it up and posting it…hopefully more people will take up the challenge and maybe spare some of their holiday cheer money for this cause.

  10. Talen, with your heart, I just knew that you would see how important this charity is. And with your incredible following, a post coming from your site would be fantastic (and I’m sure that Peter would be honoured).

  11. This is awesome Cat!

    I can think of several major charities in the States that have 97% administrative costs and only 3% goes to those in need. This is indeed a worthwhile cause and something that is so important to Thailand’s poor youth. I’ll be heading straight over to the charity to do my part.

    If it’s okay with you I’d like to write something up and point people to this post….it’s important.

  12. Charlie, it is great that you give 1000 baht per month to help a child (Thai?) I am always on the lookout for ways to help, and the SET Foundation fits the bill. Besides, one can’t be too careful these days…

  13. What a wonderful way to help with a child’s future. We currently give 1000bht month to help a child with their future education and it feels very good. It’s helping the country as well as the individual which is great.


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