Run VWOs like businesses to raise their game

A social service institution can be viable only if it plays a pivotal role in charting the direction and strategy of the organisation ("VWOs 'should be called social service enterprises instead'"; July 20).

As the landscape for voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) is evolving and changing with time, it is imperative that we relook their operational management aspects.

To be viable, a social service institution needs to improve its internal operations and enhance the organisation's accountability, transparency and corporate governance.

All this is possible if and when it is run more like a business entity.

To this end, non-profit organisations should attach greater importance to human resource practices, staff training, business development and information technology.

Volunteers who possess entrepreneurial skills and business acumen can offer their time, talent and experience to nurture a more creative and innovative corporate culture in VWOs.

Some established non-profit institutions have deployed volunteers and members to engage in consultancy work in various fields, such as finance, process control, customer service and communication skills.

The revenue generated from these projects is ploughed back into the organisation to sustain existing community programmes and to embark on new initiatives to cope with growing volunteer membership.

Given the fact that the profile of volunteers has also changed, social institutions would do well to review their existing strategic plans to ensure that they stay relevant and effective in serving the community.

It is, thus, important to identify members' strengths, build on them and then convert their specific skills into a source of service that benefits the organisation and those it serves.

The current social service sector is increasingly competitive, and unless VWOs adopt a more business approach, they are likely to be left behind.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2016, with the headline 'Run VWOs like businesses to raise their game'. Print Edition | Subscribe