Hiring a manager can boost volunteer retention, study finds

Voluntary organisations can increase volunteer numbers - and hold on to people for longer - by having a dedicated manager to handle them, a study has found.

A two-year study of 10 organisations found that when they hired a volunteer manager, their volunteer pool grew from 27,000 to 41,000 in all. Regular volunteer hours rose from 189,000 to 422,000.

The study by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) from 2016 to last year aimed to pool together the industry's best practices. The results were released yesterday at a networking session at Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability.

NCSS director of volunteer resource optimisation Andrew Lim said: "The (social service) sector, on its own, is unlikely to be able to meet manpower needs, with the evolving social needs.

"Enhancing volunteer management capabilities and recruiting volunteers based on needs will help cushion the impact of a manpower shortage."

Manpower Minister and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo last year predicted the social service sector will need about 16,000 professionals this year - 1,000 more than last year.

According to a separate NCSS survey last year, only 38 per cent of 242 social service agencies had over 100 regular volunteers.

With the volunteer managers, the 10 participating agencies used technology and a structured framework to improve their volunteer recruitment and retention process - and serve 60 per cent more beneficiaries.

The study included in-depth interviews with each of the 10 agencies' executive directors and volunteer managers, as well as a survey of more than 500 of their volunteers.

Social service organisation Awwa saw its volunteer pool rise from 67 to 726 over the two years. This led to a 67 per cent rise in the number of beneficiaries it served.

Another charity, Lions Befrienders, launched a volunteer training programme with its volunteer manager's help. As a result, volunteer hours rose from 5,900 to 22,500 over the past year.

Speaker of Parliament and NCSS adviser Tan Chuan-Jin, who hosted the networking session, said: "Better volunteer management leads to volunteers who are more engaged and committed. With higher volunteer commitment, social service agencies and services users get better support."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2019, with the headline Hiring a manager can boost volunteer retention, study finds. Subscribe