A recent study has shown that senior volunteers in Singapore contribute more time to charitable causes than their younger counterparts. Conducted by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) and the Singapore Management University, the study aimed to help social service agencies attract and retain volunteers by identifying what drives people to volunteerism and areas for their own growth. The study surveyed 180 volunteers from 112 social service agencies across different stages of life.
While younger volunteers may be enthusiastic about helping, they could be constrained by a lack of time as a result of work or family commitments. On the other hand, senior volunteers, though fewer in number, are more consistent, contributing three times more hours than their younger counterparts on average.
One such volunteer is retiree Cyril Ong, 76 years old, who helps out at HCSA Community Services three times a week. He guides a team of four other volunteers at the garden on the premises, where they grow vegetables which are given to vulnerable families in the neighbourhood and also used in cooking classes that the organisation holds for ex-offenders.
“There were so many things that I wanted to do but I couldn’t do it. But as I’ve retired, I’ve had so much time and I just want to give back to society, and what better place to get back in rather than in this operation,” he said, adding that seeing other people happy motivates him.
The study also urged social service agencies to understand their volunteer pool better and suggested letting them fill leadership and management roles within the organisations. At New Life Stories, a non-profit body that aims to prevent intergenerational incarceration, volunteers play a role in co-creating programmes, and can also rely on the organisation’s relationship managers for support.
Its CEO Saleemah Ismail told CNA that giving the volunteers more responsibilities helps to retain them. “At six months we have 100% retention and at one year about 97% retention. So definitely, getting them involved in how we support the family or the child, particularly, is important,” she said.
New Life Stories’ efforts are supported by NCSS, which funds the salaries of its relationship managers. Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli said that the government will continue to provide such support, as volunteer management becomes increasingly important.
“Good volunteer management can have an enormous impact on the work that we do. It can enable SSAs (social service agencies) to scale up their programmes, sustain their efforts and in fact serve even more beneficiaries,” he said.
He also encouraged the social service groups to tap into the available resources from NCSS and SG Cares Volunteer Centres, reports Channel News Asia.
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