New assessment tool helps social service agencies manage, retain volunteers

Better engagement of volunteers is key, said DPM Heng Swee Keat at a carnival organised for social service beneficiaries. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Volunteers at social service agencies can expect their talents and energies to be better managed and harnessed with the roll-out of a new digital assessment tool.

Called the Volunteer Management Maturity Matrix, it helps social service agencies assess their volunteer management capabilities and identify any gaps in the way the agencies handle volunteers.

The tool, developed by the National Council of Social Service, is expected to help the agencies retain and increase their pool of quality volunteers.

Questions cover areas such as organisational culture, and the selection, training and engagement of volunteers.

Better engagement of volunteers is key, and more can be done to mobilise the energy and ideas of volunteers, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Friday.

Speaking at a carnival organised for social service beneficiaries, DPM Heng said that volunteer centres under the SG Cares movement can help bring opportunities to donate and volunteer closer to everyone.

He said: “The volunteer centres will serve as central nodes in each town to coordinate the efforts of volunteers from various community stakeholders, schools, corporates (and) religious organisations.”

Mr Heng said that while the volunteer centres are still quite new, they have shown promising results.

There are 24 volunteer centres in Singapore, with one of the first centres opened three years ago in Bedok.

The SG Cares Volunteer Centre @ Bedok, which is run by non-profit Filos Community Services, has a staff strength of 27 but manages a volunteer force of close to 2,000 that served more than 37,000 beneficiaries in 2021.

Of the 2,000 volunteers, around 10 per cent or 207 are regulars who volunteer at least four times a year.

Since it opened in 2019, the centre has helped 55,000 beneficiaries in Bedok with the aid of more than 7,000 volunteers.

Filos Community Services executive director Foo Fung Fong said on the sidelines of the carnival that social service agencies may sometimes focus resources on service provision and their beneficiaries, putting volunteer management in the back seat.

“But increasingly, you see the value that volunteers can bring to an organisation. They are your co-partners and help to provide your services to the beneficiaries. So it is important to learn to look after them properly and manage them well,” said Dr Foo.

She said that there are challenges in both recruiting and retaining volunteers, especially those who can offer service-based volunteering, where volunteers regularly go out with staff to help beneficiaries.

A lot of volunteers come in to help out once or twice and then are not seen until the next festive event, she added.

“Service-volunteering is harder as it means they (the volunteers) have to commit to regular volunteering, sometimes on a weekly basis, for anything from three months to a year.”

She said the agency has put in effort to manage their volunteers and retain them through training, engagements and check-ins on their experiences.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said the Volunteer Management Maturity Matrix helps social service agencies assess their volunteers. This is incorrect. The tool helps assess their volunteer management capabilities. We are sorry for the error.

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