Why Don’t We Like To Volunteer?

By City Of Good  /
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An NVPC survey of Singaporeans’ giving habits shows that volunteering is less popular than donating and informal acts of kindness. Why is that?

In the latest NVPC quarterly survey of Singaporeans’ giving habits, we found that whilst as many as 78% of respondents said that they either donated or helped a stranger in the past 12 months, only 38% volunteered during the same period. Furthermore, less than half said they are likely to volunteer in the next year, compared to making a donation (72%) or helping a stranger (68%).

Why is volunteering less popular?

Based on our findings, volunteering starts to decline among those of working age – particularly those between 45 and 54, the group that records the lowest volunteerism rate at a mere 30%.

Is that necessarily a bad thing?

If we consider Singaporeans of a working age (those between 25 and 54), we find that there is an inverse relationship between their donation and volunteerism rates. Put simply: Whilst less and less of them volunteer, more and more of them donate. Case in point, while volunteer rates may have been dismal among the 45-54 age group, a whopping 82% of them donated – the highest across the board.

This could be due to a shift in one’s life priorities. As Singaporeans start their own families and devote more time to raising children in their late 20s and 30s, they may feel that takes away time from them to volunteer.

They may also increasingly accumulate financial capital (alongside more work experience) and thus opt to give money as opposed to time.

But what if one simply doesn’t see the point in volunteering?

One popular myth is that charities only need money, or money is the ‘best’ way to help. In truth, it will depend on the charity you choose. For instance, Singhealth Community Hospitals would like you to offer companionship. Joining mahjong sessions will help its patients at Sengkang Community Hospital improve their social, cognitive and physical functions.

Mahjong resize
Singhealth Community Hospitals seek ‘mahjong khakis’ for patients to sharpen their minds.

If one is concerned that volunteering is time-consuming, there is research that shows that those who volunteer actually possess a greater sense of work-life balance. Instead of spending time on one’s self, spending time on others actually boosts one’s sense of time affluence – that is the feeling that one has sufficient time to pursue activities that are meaningful.

Think of something you already enjoy. Is it cooking? Is it singing? Is it reading? Imagine your current hobby, and how a person or community would benefit from you sharing it.

As it’s the beginning of the year, consider integrating a giving element to your new year resolutions. Don’t underestimate the impact you may bring this year.

Our quarterly survey is sponsored by Toluna. These 1000 respondents are nationally representative across age, gender, race and housing type.