How to get and keep volunteers

New toolkit for voluntary welfare groups gives tips such as redesigning job roles

A volunteer management toolkit was launched yesterday to help welfare groups better attract and retain volunteers. The 88-page book includes tips for voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) on how to train, support and recognise volunteers.

The aim is to engage volunteers more effectively so that they can complement the roles of full-time staff and expand manpower in the social service sector, at a time when fewer people are volunteering.

A survey by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) last year found that one in five people volunteered, down from one in three in 2012.

Developed by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) with the NVPC, the toolkit was launched at the annual NCSS Members Conference at Marina Bay Sands. It is available on NCSS' website. "It's a systematic framework that helps to guide VWOs, in a step-by-step way, in recruiting, developing and retaining volunteers," said Ms Von Leong, director of sector manpower at NCSS.

Included in the kit is a guide to redesigning job roles for volunteers.

There are opportunities for volunteers to do more "non-core activities", she said, freeing up full-time staff to focus more on work that may require more specialised skills.

"Redesigning job roles gives volunteers more satisfaction as they take on greater responsibility for non-core work such as planning and organising activities, which are still an essential part of the work process," she added.

The section on job redesign also offers tips on how to write clear job descriptions for volunteers - something that is already done at Care Corner-Teck Ghee Youth Centre.

Its chief executive Yap Poh Kheng said: "The job fit would be better and they can then have a more meaningful engagement with us... We also want to make sure that our volunteers are involved not in an episodic manner, but as part of the team that supports our clients."

At the conference yesterday, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, the guest of honour, and NCSS president Hsieh Fu Hua both called for stronger partnerships and ideas to involve the larger community in volunteerism.

Citing taxi booking app Uber, Mr Hsieh said: "Perhaps we could venture into an 'Uber of social service', matching services and volunteers to people who need help."

Mr Tan told the audience of about 600 people: "Volunteering nourishes the souls of those who serve... We have the privilege to not only change the lives of those we help, but also to transform the lives of those that we bring in to help."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2015, with the headline 'How to get and keep volunteers'. Print Edition | Subscribe