More S'pore residents supporting informal causes as volunteering, donations dip amid pandemic

More than 2,000 people were asked about their giving habits in the past 12 months from April to September this year.
More than 2,000 people were asked about their giving habits in the past 12 months from April to September this year.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - More Singapore residents volunteered for informal community causes and donated to ground-up movements amid the Covid-19 pandemic, marking a shift in interest away from registered, established organisations.

Although volunteering and donations saw an overall decline during the pandemic, the median amount donated doubled from $100 in 2018 to $200 in 2021.

These were some of the key findings of the Individual Giving Study 2021 released by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) on Wednesday (Nov 24).

The study has been conducted every two years since 2000 to find out the volunteerism and philanthropy habits of people here, but was not done last year due to the pandemic.

More than 2,000 people were asked about their giving habits in the past 12 months from April to September this year for the 10th edition of the study.

Compared with 2018 when the last survey was done, volunteerism and donations each saw an 11 per cent increase in informal giving.

Informal giving is done on an individual level or to community-led initiatives - for example, giving money to a homeless person - without going through any registered organisation such as a charity, foundation or religious organisation.

Overall, however, the donation rate fell to 60 per cent, while the volunteerism rate fell to 22 per cent. In 2018, 79 per cent of respondents said they donated, and 29 per cent said they volunteered.

Nearly half of those who were previously volunteering said that they cut back due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The median number of hours fell to 12 this year, compared with 24 in 2018.

While regular volunteering fell, 73 per cent said they did occasional volunteering, compared with 68 per cent in 2018.

On the flip side, those who said they made monthly donations almost tripled - 32 per cent, compared with 12 per cent in 2018. Ad hoc donations fell to 63 per cent from 86 per cent in 2018.

The bulk of donations were made offline, but the use of online giving channels saw a 39 per cent spike.

There was also a 29 per cent increase in the number of respondents who signed up for volunteering online.

Seven in eight respondents reported performing small acts of giving, such as picking up litter or freeing up a seat for vulnerable individuals.

About 42 per cent of individuals who engaged in these acts also donated to formal charities.

NVPC recommended that community organisations pursue collaborations with one another and have hybrid - both offline and online - initiatives to engage residents and raise funds in the future.

Informal and formal organisations could also find more ways to collaborate and engage residents in the future. While smaller, informal groups were agile and quick to help beneficiaries directly, established charities could have better funding and resources to conduct initiatives, NVPC said.

Virtual galas, peer-to-peer fund-raising online - that is raising funds through word of mouth - and virtual runs were some of the ways formal charities raised money for their initiatives last year.

NVPC chief executive Melissa Kwee noted that virtual initiatives have helped to build solidarity among Singaporeans despite the physical distance brought on by the pandemic.

Community organisations, she said, must go forward "embracing digital and hybrid opportunities to strengthen bonds".

"The pandemic gave us a view into the compassion, innovation and resilience of Singapore and we must continue to strengthen these as cornerstones," she added.

NVPC's director of knowledge and insights Fazlin Abdullah noted the need to ensure that more support goes to sectors that usually get less donations and volunteers.

"As we recover from Covid-19, we need to ensure efforts are made to aid the recovery of the less supported causes such as those related to arts, culture and heritage, animal welfare, sports and youth, which have all taken a hit during the pandemic," she said.

Ms Fazlin also highlighted the potential for more volunteerism and donations in Singapore as the economy recovers.