Singapore has long been seen as a favourite location for multinational companies looking to set up their regional bases.

Over the years, the likes of banks, pharmaceutical giants and aviation companies have all opened offices here.

But also thriving in this little red dot are international non-profit organisations (NPOs), which have more than quadrupled over the last decade to around 150 now.

The number is in line with the Economic Development Board's (EDB's) 2008 target to have at least 150 such outfits by next year.

Hitting the target, however, is only the beginning, Kelvin Wong, EDB assistant managing director, told The Business Times, noting that there was still a lot of work to be done.

"We recognise that it is not a numbers game that we are after," he said. "At the end of the day, it is about being able - for Singapore to be able to present itself as an effective place for many of these NPOs to use as a base."

Forming corporate partnerships between companies and NPOs is one aspect that the EDB is looking at to drive further synergies between the sectors.

Mr Wong said there was promise and potential, with some projects already taking place, but more could be done. He added that one way the EDB could help was in identifying key areas for collaboration.

Possible projects could range from water sanitation to health and education.

Mr Wong said: "I think people see the potential, but they are already busy with their current mode of business, so it's about being able to draw their attention to the potential and get something going to inspire the rest."

Another dimension of work that the EDB is looking at is how Singapore can leverage on its status as a financial hub to help NPOs tap on Asian wealth.

Singapore began looking at ways to engage NPOs when it became apparent that their presence was necessary to realise its goal of becoming a great city.

One reason for this is to service the needs of the corporates, who want to be more engaged in the non-profit sector to enhance their employer value proposition, Mr Wong said. "They want to stand for the right values by giving back to the right causes, and by having the important and key partners here, we are making it easy for them to get that going."

Besides corporate involvement, he noted that the NPOs also bring value to the country and its people.

"Through our collaboration with the likes of World Bank, with the likes of Interpol, by supporting them in establishing the Asia-Pacific hub here, indirectly we are also enabling Singapore to play our role as a member of the global community more effectively," he said.

Laurence Lien, CEO of the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, said: "Everyone can contribute in some way, and I think a bootcamp (organised by Yale-NUS college) is great to help them deepen that contribution as volunteers, supporters and donors in future."