Targeted strategies can boost regular volunteerism

For years the Government has sought to encourage more Singaporeans to volunteer, and even though the focus is now on "volunteering over a sustained period of time" ("Moves to boost regular volunteering"; Dec 1), no significant breakthrough has been achieved in recent years.

Besides the lack of useful information about volunteer patterns and their impact - beyond the Individual Giving Survey conducted by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre and the World Giving Index by the Charities Aid Foundation, both of which rely on survey data, or the anecdotal feedback gathered by the National Council of Social Service - strategies to get more individuals involved in the non-profit sector must be more specific, more targeted.

At the moment, the first challenge appears to be the matching of volunteers to more sustainable projects, given that "certain needs remain underserved while others, such as organising Christmas parties for elderly residents and children in homes, were catered to in excess".

One way to build partnership is to encourage schools and companies to engage with a particular charity over a few years, or with a particular sector - with at-risk youth or in eldercare, for instance - so that volunteers have a longer timeframe in mind.

A constructive arrangement in this regard would be commitment to a regular, weekly engagement through which shifts can be rotated, supplemented by bigger events every once in a while.

A second trend perhaps worth looking at is the transition from the classroom to the workplace.

The lack of time and bandwidth are oft-cited reasons for not volunteering, yet in theory, the community service or service-learning programmes in the schools - under the Values in Action umbrella - should serve as springboards for adult volunteerism in the future. Retention rates in non-profit organisations should also provide clues, and finding a match between these organisations and volunteers can, therefore, be useful.

And finally, schools and companies are seen as platforms to boost volunteerism rates, when it could be argued that families or households play important roles as well. If it can be established through empirical studies in Singapore, that parents who are active in the community or in the non-profit space are more likely to encourage their children to do the same, that siblings can urge one another to contribute, or that volunteerism through the family is more effective or sustainable, then steps can be taken to further boost it.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline 'Targeted strategies can boost regular volunteerism'. Print Edition | Subscribe