Need to replace volunteer? Charity can turn to app

Food From The Heart can now send alert to hundreds of delivery volunteers at one go

Some charity food items have to be delivered urgently, but what if some regular volunteers are not free?What does a charity do? At Food FromThe Heart (FFTH), it can turn to anewmobile app that can broadcast messages to hundreds of volunteers at one go when a replacement is needed. It is similar to taxi booking app Grab Taxi and said to be one of the first such apps for the social sector.

The app, which was launched yesterday, comes weeks after calls to involve more people in volunteerism and better engage them.

At FFTH, about 100 volunteers are needed to collect unsold bread from 100 bakeries and deliver them to beneficiaries at some 150 locations islandwide each day.

But a volunteer may not be able to make a delivery because of other commitments. This means a staffmemberhas to find a replacement from its huge pool of 1,700 volunteers. The challenge is compounded when up to 40 replacements are needed in a day.

But with the charity's new Volunteer Broadcasting Systemapp, multiple replacement requests can be managed. If a volunteer cannot make his delivery, he ''de-registers'' from the route through the app, and an alert is sent to other available volunteers whose home addresses are in the same area as the bakery.

Volunteers can also see other assignments if they wish to deliver from bakeries, for example, near their offices.

Ms Carol Wee, senior executive for special projects at FFTH, said: ''Sending push notifications ismuchmoreefficient than broadcasting a message via Facebook or e-mail.''

Earlier this month, National Council of Social Service (NCSS) president Hsieh Fu Hua had called for ideas to promote volunteerism.

Citing another taxi booking app, he said then: ''Perhaps we could venture into an 'Uber of social service', matching services and volunteers.''

NCSS chief executive Sim Gim Guan said: ''The use of technology can transform the way we engage volunteers, overcoming resource constraints in the sector. ''

A spokesman for the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre said: ''The app will definitely get more immediate help delivered on time to the needy...

We hope that even with technology, we will not forget the humantouch .''

FFTH said there will still be staff findingreplacements if necessary.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 23, 2015, with the headline ''. Print Edition | Subscribe