More giving time, money directly to causes they support: Survey

More giving time, money directly to causes they support: Survey
TODAY file photo
Published: 4:00 AM, March 16, 2017
Updated: 5:27 PM, March 16, 2017

SINGAPORE — More people are now giving their time and money to directly support causes that resonate with them or to start their own campaigns, rather than doing so through organisations.

This was one of the findings from the latest Individual Giving Survey conducted by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC).

Speaking to the media yesterday, Mr Jeffrey Tan, director for knowledge and advocacy at NVPC, said that the centre has observed a “giving revolution” based on its biennial study. The last survey was done in 2014.

“There is a very strong ground-up resurgence happening right now, where people are volunteering and donating informally, directly with beneficiaries, without going through the formal routes (such as charity organisations),” he added.

Of the 389 people surveyed from last December to January this year, almost three in four have volunteered or donated informally. The survey questioned respondents’ about their giving behaviour over a 12-month period from December 2015 to last November.

Volunteering informally — as defined by the NVPC — could involve, say, people coming together to help stray dogs on the street instead of doing so via an animal welfare group.

About half (51 per cent) of the respondents had volunteered directly with beneficiaries, up from the 25 per cent in the 2014 survey.

Likewise, 41 per cent of the respondents donated money through informal means, a three-fold increase from the 13 per cent in 2014.

Asked which were the top sectors to which they gave their time and money, more respondents replied that they gave directly to causes and beneficiaries they chose to support.

Religious organisations, education, health and the social services sectors were the next most popular sectors.

Stand Up for Our SG is one example of the social movements and causes supported by donors. Founded in 2012, it managed to raise S$32,000 for hawkers who lost their stalls and livelihoods during the fire in Jurong West last year, for example.

Its founder, Wally Tham, said that the group does not have a fixed pool of volunteers, and encourages people to step forward each time there is a new project.

“Usually, the people who come to us don’t regularly volunteer,” he added.

The “resurgence” of informal volunteerism could also have contributed to an overall increase in volunteerism, the survey found — 35 per cent of the respondents volunteered last year, compared with 18 per cent in 2014.

However, on average, a volunteer served fewer hours a year — a drop from 93 hours in 2014 to 84 hours last year.

Findings from the survey also showed that people were turning more towards niche and “under-served” causes. These include green efforts such as environmental protection. More people also volunteered their time in the arts and heritage sectors, and in animal care.

In all, people are also giving more money: S$2.18 billion was donated to organisations last year, almost double the S$1.25 billion in 2014.

On average, an individual donated S$910 to organisations last year, which is more than double the S$379 in 2014.

When the survey results were broken down by age groups, there were higher volunteerism drop-out rates for those aged between 25 and 34, as well as those aged between 55 and 64.

Mr Tan said that this could be because younger workers are hesitant to take the lead in volunteer work, for fear of being seen as “goody two-shoes”.

As for the older group, they might want to use their retirement years to relax.

NVPC chief executive officer Melissa Kwee added that this older group might also feel that they have lost a sense of identity upon retirement.

“From a sense-of-self-worth perspective, the involvement in the community addresses those particular issues, (where) you can use your skills and experience to contribute back (to society) … (People) really value somebody with more skills and experience as opposed to seeing you as being a useless old person,” she added.