Donation rate falls but donors in Singapore are giving more: Survey

Other life priorities could be reason why smaller proportion of people are donating

Overall donation rates dipped from 91 per cent in 2008 to 79 per cent in 2018.
Overall donation rates dipped from 91 per cent in 2008 to 79 per cent in 2018.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

A smaller proportion of people in Singapore have been donating to charities, but overall donations have gone up over the past 10 years, going by the findings of a biennial survey.

That is because the average donor is contributing more, according to the Individual Giving Study, which aims to track trends in volunteering, philanthropy and other forms of giving among people here.

The overall donation rate fell from 91 per cent in 2008 to 79 per cent last year, the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) said yesterday.

But the average contribution of donors more than doubled in the same period, from $300 to $661.

Last year also saw $2.11 billion donated to organisations, a climb from the $960 million they received in 2008.

One reason for the dip in the donation rate could be that other life priorities, such as family commitments and financial security, may have held some people back from contributing.

The study found that while nine in 10 people here showed strong intention to donate and seven in 10 to volunteer, other factors got in the way.

The top priorities for people here were family commitments, health, financial security and staying employed, according to the study, while contributing to society ranked 14th on their list.

"Financial security is among the top three life priorities for Singaporeans, which suggests that in times of perceived economic uncertainty, more Singaporeans may hold back cash giving," said Mr Jeffrey Tan, director of knowledge, marketing and advocacy at NVPC.

The study, which is in its 10th edition, also revealed that despite the ubiquity of digital platforms, most people in Singapore have used only offline modes to donate (77 per cent) and to register for volunteering opportunities (63 per cent).

Some of the biggest barriers to giving via digital platforms are perceived scepticism towards online calls for donations (43 per cent) and a lack of trust in providing online channels with personal data when it comes to donating (36 per cent).


These findings reflect a need for charities to become more transparent and accountable in order to engage potential and existing givers through online channels, said NVPC.

"Giving thrives when there is trust. One way to build integrity in the system is to maintain strong and credible go-to online platforms such as the SG Cares app and," said Mr Tan.

The study also found a growing pool of former volunteers. These are people who have volunteered previously but have not done so in the past 12 months.

Over half (53 per cent) of former volunteers said their volunteering experiences had not met expectations, with the most common reasons being a lack of flexibility (28 per cent) and a perception that the activity created little meaningful impact (25 per cent).

NVPC said that besides recruiting new volunteers, charities may need to pay attention to retaining existing ones.

On how to get more people to contribute to society, Sree Narayana Mission (Singapore) chief executive S. Devendran said charities need to reach out and engage the community more effectively.

"We need to communicate and, in particular, leverage social media platforms to tell compelling stories and sharpen the articulation of causes that pull at the heartstrings and the purse strings," he said.

The survey covered 2,100 res-pondents aged 15 and above, including Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2019, with the headline 'Donation rate falls but donors are giving more: Survey'. Subscribe