Volunteering In Singapore: Challenges And Effectiveness

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Introduction

Like what the late American author H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more”. Material wealth does not genuinely make us happy. It will only give temporary joy and happiness. However, the same cannot be said for our family and friends. When it comes to happiness, our nearest and dearest are the ones that matters most, and that is what truly brings happiness. Although our family and friends are important to us, we should also dedicate some of our “free” time to contribute to the happiness of others. Having said that, it does not necessarily mean we have to over-commit and dedicate most of our time towards helping others. Weekends and public holidays are the only time we can spend precious quality time with them, or perhaps for some, even some much-undervalued “me-time”.

Hence, we should try to strike a balance to truly achieve happiness, by sparing a thought for the less fortunate who might not have this privilege, and helping them whenever we can.

Challenges of Volunteering

It is inevitable that some do face certain challenges during their course of volunteering. Among the young volunteers, one issue highlighted was the lack of time commitment to a regular programme due to their studies (One Size Does Not Fit All, 2014). The pressures of having to compete with peers to enter an elite university, working for a prestigious company and trying to stay relevant and competitive in a rapidly-evolving economy, has meant that volunteering has never always been on the top of the agenda for the majority of young Singaporeans (Chan, 2018).

For working adults, most will prefer to relax and spend quality time with their loved ones over the weekends after a hectic work week.

Even for those who have been dedicating their time towards volunteering, they encounter this issue of inspiring volunteer leadership. Some volunteers are always active and involved, but after some time, they go off the boil and then subsequently leave, whereas some may be consistent and dedicated, but are not willing to be a volunteer leader. In local context, however, there is cause for optimism. In 2018, it has been reported that there has been a surge in volunteering for good causes in Singapore, in addition to the much-renowned five ‘C’s in our materialist city-state, namely, cash, car, credit card, condominium and country club membership (Chan, 2018).

Analysing the Pros and Cons of Volunteering

The benefits of volunteering are innumerable, and these include social, emotional and physical perks. With regards to the social aspect, volunteers will make new connections with the people they are helping and forge new friendships with fellow volunteers as well. Thus, it helps people improve their social interaction, which then results in improved mental and physical health (Troyer, 2016). Moving on, many young adults nowadays encounter many different issues such as depression, social anxiety or eating disorders. Should they choose to volunteer, they will feel much better emotionally, as they are able to connect with others and develop feelings of self-worth (Fritz, 2019).

Lastly, the lesser-known benefit of volunteering is that it improves physical health. In this day and age, many people live sedentary lifestyles, which could potentially increase health risks such as obesity and diabetes. Thus, people can instead choose to volunteer their time by walking around and serving the elderly at a nursing home or playing with the less fortunate kids at the local YMCA. These activities help them to stay active and improve their physical well-being, and lowers health risks in the process. On top of that, volunteering has the “feel good” effect with the release of dopamine to the brain, which means the more you volunteer, the happier you will be, and these positive emotions are also reflected in improved physical well-being (Segal, 2019).

On the flip side, there are certain factors why people shun volunteering. Firstly, the opportunity cost of time. The time spent volunteering could have been spent with their loved ones, for whom they already have limited time with. Secondly, volunteering may be seen as overbearing, especially when it involves loads of manual labour, which will result in people being physically exhausted. Lastly, some people volunteer because their family or friends asked to accompany them, thus the commitment levels will be significantly lower. They will not show as much interest in volunteering and just do the bare minimum, which could leave the dedicated volunteers frustrated and annoyed.

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Evaluating the Effectiveness of Current Volunteering Programmes

With the changing needs of the volunteers and the external environment such as aging population and globalisation (Leong, 2018), it is evident that organisations need to continually adapt their approach, in order to support the volunteers in their volunteering journey. There were collaborations among the associations to reach out to more citizens who have not volunteered before. This includes the establishment of “Giving.sg” by National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) which allows the public to sign up for ad-hoc and regular volunteering events based on their interests and the cause they believe in (Giving.sg, 2017). However, it was not as effective as expected, as there was a slight fall from 35% in 2016 to 29% in 2018, taking into account all Singapore residents and non-residents who have volunteered over the past year (MCCY, 2019). On the other hand, we see that a large percentage (89%) of corporate giving is through philanthropy.

This underlines the importance of creating new opportunities for volunteers to continue to contribute to the community, make use of their expertise and meet the tight schedules of most working adults and students.

Creating a Volunteering Program ‘Uniquely Singapore’

Volunteers deserve to be recognised, and monetary rewards would be meaningless to them, for they volunteer because of their passion and desire to help others in need. However, volunteers themselves may feel underappreciated if they feel that their contributions are not being recognised. In hope that we attract new volunteers and retain existing ones, there is a need to come up with appropriate rewarding mechanisms which volunteers can look forward to. In the case of Zeles (Zeles, 2020), volunteers can earn points for their participation, and thereafter, it can be used to redeem vouchers for their own consumption.

However, we aim to create something ‘uniquely Singapore’ (Singapore Tourism Board, 2010). We live in a society where everyone is obsessed in trying to outdo one another, in fear of losing, which is otherwise known as ‘kiasu’. Thus, we propose volunteer organisations to incorporate gamification into their systems. A little incentive and competition, even in volunteering, can spur more Singaporeans to join or continue volunteering. Dubbed “Are You Game to Volunteer?”, this program aims to encourage present and potential volunteers to be part of the cause. Volunteers will be given a free account, and when they complete an activity, they will earn points, depending on the scale and length of the volunteer event. From time to time, they can sign into their accounts to view the events they have participated in, as well as the accumulated points. On the organisation’s website, there will also be leaderboards which volunteers can view online, where the top achievers of that particular sector or age group will be shown.

The leaderboard, along with the points accumulated, is to promote healthy competition while adding value for the volunteers. Points will not be redeemable for tangible benefits such as cash or vouchers. The rationale behind it is the heart of volunteering, where volunteers are spurred on by intrinsic, rather than extrinsic rewards. Hence, when volunteers’ contributions are being recognised through the leaderboard, it will further encourage them to participate in future volunteering events. On top of it, as part of the program, it is also possible for volunteers to nominate their fellow volunteers for various awards such as “Most Determined Volunteer of the Year”, “Most Friendly Volunteer of the Year” and “Never say Never Volunteer”. This platform encourages recognition of volunteers in the hope that they can continue their hard work and effort in the course of volunteering.

In addition, feedback from volunteers will be welcomed and encouraged with regards to the programs, from which the organisation will subsequently decide on the appropriate programs to implement to suit the various needs and wants of the volunteers. Feasibility and the frequency of the feedback raised up by volunteers will be taken into consideration when deciding its suitability. This is in hope that they will continue to do good for the society and the causes that they believe in.

All in all, this program is designed in such a way to suit the ‘kiasu’ culture of Singaporeans, who always try to be the best, and not wanting to lose out, even when it comes to volunteering.

Conclusion

It is always better for us to give than receive. We hope that this report can be a motivation for new volunteers to embark on their journey in this field and write a new chapter in their lives. On the other hand, existing volunteers can make use of this report to continue contributing to the cause they believe in, while creating new experiences, forging new friendships and making a difference in people’s lives.

It is inevitable that there will be challenges and obstacles along the way, such as communicating with seniors, managing the various commitments one has and the absence of monetary rewards. At the end of the day, intrinsic motivation continues to play a major part in driving volunteers and retaining them. Every small action counts.

References

  1. Bautista, C. (2012, April 5). 7 Ways to Appreciate Your Volunteers: Engaging Volunteers Blog. Retrieved from https://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2012/04/05/7-ways-to-appreciate-your-volunteers/
  2. Chan, T. (2018, January 5). Add another C to five Cs in Singapore: caring, as volunteerism surges. Retrieved from https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2126520/volunteering-singapore-why-its-rise-and-groups-looking-add-sixth-c-caring
  3. Findlay, R. (2013, November 15). What can charities do to improve the volunteering experience? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/voluntary-sector-network/2013/nov/15/charities-improve-volunteering-experience
  4. Fritz, J. (2019, June 24). 15 Reasons to Get Off the Couch and Volunteer. Retrieved from https://www.thebalancesmb.com/unexpected-benefits-of-volunteering-4132453
  5. Learn: Giving made simple, fun and meaningful. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.giving.sg/learn
  6. Leong, G. (2018, December 4). Volunteerism rate needs to be 70 per cent with ageing population: Grace Fu. Retrieved from https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/volunteerism-rate-needs-to-be-70-per-cent-with-ageing-population-grace-fu
  7. Morand, T. (2019, September 27). The Top 5 Challenges Volunteer Managers Face – And What You Can Do About It. Retrieved from https://www.wildapricot.com/blogs/newsblog/2019/09/27/volunteer-challenges
  8. One Size Does Not Fit All: A Volunteer Management Guide. (2014). Retrieved from https://cityofgood.sg/resources/one-size-does-not-fit-all-a-volunteer-management-guide/
  9. Shabatura, J. (2018, March 19). Using Bloom’s Taxonomy to Write Effective Learning Objectives. Retrieved from https://tips.uark.edu/using-blooms-taxonomy/
  10. Values in Action (2019, January 09). Retrieved from https://www.moe.gov.sg/education/secondary/values-in-action
  11. Volunteerism & giving statistics and publications. (2019, December 24). Retrieved from https://www.mccy.gov.sg/about-us/news-and-resources/statistics/2019/jan/volunteerism-and-giving-statistics-and-publications
  12. Volunteer Management Toolkit. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncss.gov.sg/Press-Room/Publications/Detail-Page?id=Volunteer-Management-Toolkit
  13. Yotopoulos, A. (n.d.). Three Reasons Why People Don’t Volunteer, and What Can be Done about it. Retrieved from http://longevity.stanford.edu/three-reasons-why-people-dont-volunteer-and-what-can-be-done-about-it/

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Volunteering In Singapore: Challenges And Effectiveness. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 7, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/volunteering-in-singapore-challenges-and-effectiveness/
“Volunteering In Singapore: Challenges And Effectiveness.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/volunteering-in-singapore-challenges-and-effectiveness/
Volunteering In Singapore: Challenges And Effectiveness. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/volunteering-in-singapore-challenges-and-effectiveness/> [Accessed 7 Aug. 2022].
Volunteering In Singapore: Challenges And Effectiveness [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Aug 7]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/volunteering-in-singapore-challenges-and-effectiveness/
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