Saturday 2 February 2013

More people do volunteer work: NVPC Individual Giving Survey 2012

One in three involved in doing good, but many help out only occasionally
By Leslie Kay Lim And Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 1 Feb 2013

MORE people than ever before are volunteering in Singapore, a survey showed yesterday.

One in three now helps out for a good cause - the first time the proportion has crossed the 30 per cent threshold.

But many volunteer only occasionally and on an informal basis, meaning it is not done via any organisation, according to the 2012 Individual Giving Survey commissioned by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

They also spent less time doing so, compared with the last survey in 2010.

The survey, which is conducted once every two years starting from 2000, polled more than 1,500 people aged 15 and above. Respondents were asked if they had volunteered at least once in the preceding 12 months.

The findings came as a surprise to some Singaporeans, who felt they were too optimistic.

Explaining the rise in the volunteerism rate, NVPC chief executive Laurence Lien said it was largely due to the growing number of people helping out informally. A third of volunteers belonged to this group, up from just a tenth in the last survey.

"We've always wanted to see more direct, people-to-people volunteering," Mr Lien told a press conference yesterday. "You don't need to go through an organisation to befriend."

More people are also volunteering on an occasional basis, contributing to the increase. "We have to be realistic in Singapore," he said. "For some people, ad hoc is the only way they can contribute."

He added that the challenge for non-profit organisations is how to turn occasional volunteers into regular ones. Better management is one area to concentrate on.

While volunteering is on the rise across all age groups, it rose particularly sharply among those aged 35 to 44. Mr Lien said one reason could be that many are parents who volunteer at schools and religious organisations.

Singapore Red Cross secretary-general Benjamin William said that age group may be more established in their careers, and have a little more time to spare.

They could also have already reached the point in their lives where "they feel a need to give back to society", he said. His organisation has a volunteer pool of roughly 4,000, of whom 90 per cent are occasional volunteers.

Still, some said they were surprised by the findings, given that Singaporeans are not known to be active volunteers.

Insurance agent Peter Lim, 36, said: "I don't know many people who do volunteer, and with the need to balance work and family, there's very little time left to volunteer."

The recent World Giving Index, for instance, ranked Singapore 140th out of 146 countries when it came to volunteering one's time. The index, compiled by British-based Charities Aid Foundation, took into account only formal volunteering over a one-month period.

But informal volunteering should be included, said National Council of Social Service chief executive Ang Bee Lian, "as long as the outcome is people helping one another".

Besides giving time, more Singaporeans are also giving money to good causes, the NVPC survey found. Nine in 10 respondents said they had done so. But they gave less on average, about $305 each, down from $331 in 2010.

Across income levels, those in the least well-off group - earning $1,000 or less a month - gave the most in terms of percentage of their salary.

Ms Pauline Tan, a research associate at the National University of Singapore's Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy, said the phenomenon is not new and it is not limited to Singapore. "Studies show that poorer people, because of their own vulnerabilities, notice other people in need more," she said.

Madam Lily Ng is among those who volunteer despite having to juggle career and family commitments. The mother of two started visiting the CARElderly Senior Activity Centre in Circuit Road two years ago to befriend senior citizens and give them facials.

The 42-year-old, who works as an operations manager at a laboratory equipment company and runs an online skincare business, said: "When I volunteer on weekday mornings, I make up for the lost time from work by staying later or working on Saturday.

"The smiles on the faces of the elderly make it all worth it. It is very meaningful to me."

- 32.3 per cent volunteered (up from 23.3 per cent). They spent an average of 72 hours a year each (down from 104 hours)
- One in three volunteers did so only informally (up from one in 10)
- Volunteerism rate saw the biggest jump among those aged 35 to 44
- Most common types of volunteer work: People-oriented like befriending, running errands; administration and general like cooking, cleaning, clerical; and fund-raising

- 91 per cent donated (up from 85 per cent). Total donations went up slightly to $1.1 billion (from $1.07 billion)
- But average donation per person fell from $331 to $305
- Half of the donations went to religious groups
- Those earning below $1,000 per month gave 1.82 per cent of their income - the highest among all income groups surveyed. Those earning $5,000 to $5,999 gave the lowest proportion - 0.52 per cent of their income.
Figures in brackets refer to findings from the last survey in 2010

Informal volunteers can make a difference

THE National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre's (NVPC) Individual Giving Survey has measured formal and informal volunteering since 2000 ("Do a third of us really volunteer?"; Monday).

The 2012 study defines volunteering as "activities done out of your own free will without expecting financial payment to help others" and "may be formal, through organisations, or informal, without going through any organisation".

This definition is consistent with the United Nations Volunteers' broader position on volunteering, which includes "acts of volunteerism that take place outside of a formal context. This wide-ranging definition reflects what we strongly believe to be the universal nature of volunteerism".

These include running errands for mobility-impaired neighbours, babysitting to help a busy neighbour, and cooking and delivering food to the needy.

Informal volunteering builds compassionate and engaged communities and should be counted.

The survey found that the average number of hours put in by those who only volunteered informally was 41 hours, a significant number.

The NVPC believes that everyone can do good through volunteering, whether formally or informally. One informal volunteering initiative, Vertical Kampong, aims to bring back the kampung spirit. Under another NVPC initiative, SG Cares, a group of volunteers started Project ABC or Appreciate Bus Captain.

They handed out thank-you cards printed in four languages to 120 bus drivers. This initiative shows that informal volunteers can make a difference without having to rely on an organisation.

Ultimately, we hope to create a nation where giving is part of the DNA.

We thank all volunteers, especially informal ones who serve without organisational support and recognition.

Laurence Lien
Chief Executive Officer
National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre
ST Forum, 7 Feb 2013

Do a third of us really volunteer?
Doubts over poll claiming that more help out in free time than ever before
By Leslie Kay Lim And Janice Tai, The Straits Times, 4 Feb 2013

SCEPTICS have questioned the results of a survey showing that one in three people in Singapore volunteers for a good cause.

They said it was hard to believe that so many working adults found the time to help out.

However, the organisation that commissioned the research said it stood by its findings. It added that the figure was high because it included people who volunteer informally - meaning they do not do it via any particular group.

More than 1,500 respondents aged 15 and above were polled on behalf of the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

The results showed more people in the Republic are giving up their free time than ever before.

But not everyone is convinced this reflects the reality on the ground. Student Timothy Ang, 24, said: "I'm surprised so many working adults are able to find the time to volunteer." Housewife Tracey Tan, 56, added: "One out of three sounds like a lot."

Others questioned the criteria used in the survey. Research associate Pauline Tan of the National University of Singapore's Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy said when most people think about volunteering, they imagine doing it through an organisation, not informally.

"If it is not stated clearly, readers may have the wrong perception that formal volunteerism has risen so sharply," she said.

Ground-Up Initiative founder Tay Lai Hock wondered whether the numbers were being artificially inflated by "lumping all things together". The 49-year-old, whose environmental non-profit group connects people to nature, said: "Volunteerism should be helping somebody you don't know, for a cause."

The survey's results have also raised eyebrows because they contradict the findings of the recent World Giving Index, which ranked Singapore only 140th out of 146 countries.

NVPC chief executive Laurence Lien said this could be due to the fact that the index included only formal volunteering. It also measured people's contributions over one month, while the latest survey asked them whether they had volunteered in the past year.

When asked whether it was right to include informal volunteering - such as dog-sitting for a neighbour - in the poll, Mr Lien said researchers had used the United Nations' definition of volunteerism. This is: "Time individuals give without pay to activities performed either through an organisation or directly for others outside their own household."

Mr Lien added that "people-to -people" volunteering was something that the NVPC promoted. "There can be limits at non-profits for volunteer opportunities," he said. "If you do it in the community, it's limitless."

National Council of Social Service chief executive Ang Bee Lian said: "Informal volunteerism has always been around, it is just that some from the older generation may not call it such."

Singapore Red Cross secretary-general Benjamin William added that ad hoc volunteering sometimes turned formal.

"If it opens the door to more people eventually becoming regular, formal volunteers then that can only be a good thing."

Social service veteran Gerard Ee expressed his firm belief that informal volunteerism was valid. "How can you care for the elderly in a home far away when you don't first start caring for your neighbour who lives alone?"

No comments:

Post a Comment