Engage volunteers on long-term basis

It has been suggested that people can volunteer their services on an ad hoc basis, even without proper training or relevant skills sets ("Different ways one can volunteer" by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre; Aug 5).

While I agree that volunteerism can be done beyond the confines of charitable organisations, a pool of regular volunteers can be built up by such groups when individuals better understand the vision, mission and goals of the causes they serve.

Volunteers have to enhance the work of voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) by bringing valuable skills, experiences and energy, as well as a commitment of time. Such people can champion causes and often provide fresh perspectives while demonstrating a commitment to serve.

According to the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre's Individual Giving Survey 2014, only 36 per cent of volunteers offer their services on a regular - such as weekly or monthly - basis.

The demands on time for most working adults and students in Singapore permit them to volunteer only on an ad hoc basis.

In order to make volunteerism sustainable in the long term, volunteers must be made to feel like an established, valued and integral part of any VWO. Volunteerism must benefit the individual as well as the VWO, which must provide an inclusive, stimulating, friendly and supportive environment .

VWOs must clearly explain what the organisation sets out to do for its volunteers and what it expects in return. All this has to be relevant to everyone concerned with the recruitment, support, development and coordination of volunteers, as well as to volunteers themselves.

Recruiting volunteers should never be just a means to get tasks done. Volunteers must learn first-hand about how charities make community care more comprehensive and accessible.

Individuals have to benefit personally in many ways, including the acquisition of new skills, experiences and social contacts.

Every organisation needs to have a volunteering policy that reflects the high esteem in which it holds volunteers. Through such a policy, volunteers must feel that they are treated respectfully and professionally, and that their needs are fully considered.

This will ensure that individuals are instilled with a keen spirit to give to others on a long-term basis.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2015, with the headline 'Engage volunteers on long-term basis'. Print Edition | Subscribe