Study: More volunteer for informal community causes

Overall drop in volunteering, donations but median amount given doubled from 2018

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 this year.

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

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 or religious organisation.

But overall, 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.

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 was 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.

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 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 said.

NVPC's director of knowledge and insights Fazlin Abdullah said: "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 also highlighted the potential for more volunteerism and donations in Singapore as the economy recovers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Study: More volunteer for informal community causes'. Subscribe