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‘Far more S’poreans willing to donate than to volunteer’

SINGAPORE — Many Singaporeans are willing to dip into their pockets to make a donation, but far fewer would help a stranger or give their time to volunteering for charity.

SINGAPORE — Many Singaporeans are willing to dip into their pockets to make a donation, but far fewer would help a stranger or give their time to volunteering for charity.

These were findings from the World Giving Index 2013 that was released yesterday, where Singapore ranked 64th overall, out of 135 countries. This was an improvement from the Republic’s 114th position out of 146 countries in the same report last year.

The survey, which takes into account three aspects of giving behaviour — donating money, volunteering time and helping a stranger — saw Singapore coming in second from bottom for helping a stranger, and 75th for volunteering their time. But Singaporeans fared better when it comes to donating money to a charity, taking 17th position in the report.

The United States was ranked at the apex of the overall index, and also clinched the top spot when it comes to helping strangers.

Notably, Myanmar occupied second place jointly with Canada and New Zealand in the overall rankings, and the Myanmarese were also found to be more likely to donate to charity than any other country in the world — more than four out of every five had done so within a month of the survey.

In terms of volunteering, Turkmenistan was far and away the most generous, being the only country where the majority of its population spares time to help others in a typical month.

The results from last year’s report drew comments from Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who wrote on his Facebook page that the low giving rankings were “a shame”, considering the Republic’s top global positions in maths and science tests and other areas.

Commenting on this year’s findings, Mr Laurence Lien, the Chief Executive Officer at the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), said: “The World Giving Index findings are consistent with ours (the NVPC Individual Giving Survey) in the sense that giving has improved.”

Results from the NVPC survey, which saw an increase in volunteerism rate and donor participation, were obtained by tracking giving over a year. In contrast, the World Giving Index tracked giving within a month of the survey.

Singaporeans, Mr Lien added, tend to give occasionally, rather than weekly or monthly.

Giving his take on Singapore’s poorer showing in terms of volunteerism and helping strangers, Dr William Wan, the General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, said: “While we are innately kind and generous, most of us express it in terms of giving money in response to an appeal ... On our own initiative, we tend to mind our own business, perhaps it is a cultural thing — an innate shyness.”

Likewise, Mr Lien felt that there was still “some way for giving to grow in Singapore”. For instance, more ground-up movements and initiatives can be encouraged through grants for informal groups and individuals, he suggested.

More can also lead by example, said Dr Wan. “It’s like a tipping point, if more people start to do it (volunteering and helping others), eventually one influences the other, (and) when people see others doing it, it gives them courage to do (so too).”

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