Small acts matter: National study finds strong relationship between simple acts of caring and kindness, and other giving behaviours

Individuals who display spontaneous “micro giving” behaviours are more likely to engage in deeper, more intentional acts like donating, volunteering and advocacy. Could everyday actions transform Singapore’s culture into a more giving one?

Singapore, 16 May 2019 – Close to eight in ten Singaporeans have demonstrated micro giving behaviours, according to the Individual Giving Study (IGS) 2018 conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). Micro giving is defined as a voluntary, spontaneous and everyday act of giving, such as providing directions to someone who is lost, giving way to others on the road, or returning one’s food tray after a meal.

Now in its 10th edition, this study is the first time NVPC has examined a wider spectrum of behaviours beyond volunteerism and cash donations to provide a more holistic snapshot of Singapore’s giving landscape.

One of the new behaviours examined, micro giving, was found to have a strong relationship with other forms of giving, such as volunteering and donating. Individuals who engaged in micro giving were, for instance, about twice as likely to volunteer compared to those who did not, and were 29 percentage points more likely to make cash donations. Other new giving behaviours tracked in this study include mindful consumerism and advocacy, and both were found to be closely correlated to volunteerism.

“There is a perception that Singaporeans are kiasu and competitive, and yet our findings show that many engage in micro giving acts. As we grow a culture of giving in Singapore, let’s celebrate these simple victories – they may well be the building blocks of large-scale, generational change,” said Ms Melissa Kwee, chief executive officer of NVPC.

Giving Outlook: Volunteerism and Philanthropy

In spite of fluctuations in recent years, Singapore’s volunteerism rate has been increasing gradually over the past decade. Almost a third of individuals (29%) volunteered in 2018, compared to 17% in 2008. And through their volunteering, Singaporeans contributed a high of SGD 2.43 billion worth of value to society last year, up from SGD 0.6 billion in 2008.

While the overall donation rate in Singapore has seen a general decline from 2008 (91%) to 2018 (79%), the average contribution per donor has more than doubled from $300 in 2008 to $661 in 2018.

“Financial security is among the top three life priorities for Singaporeans, which suggests that in times of perceived economic uncertainty, more Singaporeans may hold back on cash giving,” said Mr Jeffrey Tan, director of Knowledge, Marketing & Advocacy with NVPC.

The study also uncovered the following key insights:

1. Micro giving and volunteering are positively correlated to other giving behaviours

Individuals who engage in micro giving and volunteerism were more likely to participate in more varied giving activities, from in-kind donations to advocacy.

Micro givers tend to engage in more ways of giving (an average of 2.5 types) compared to non-micro givers (1.3 types). Due to its low time commitment, micro giving could be celebrated as the first step toward a giving journey for busy Singaporeans.

Volunteering also had a strong influence on other giving behaviours. Current volunteers are about twice as likely to be mindful consumers (purchasing goods from non-profits, social enterprises or from sustainable sources), as well as advocate for a cause, compared to non-volunteers.

2. Singaporeans have a willing heart and a pragmatic mind

When asked about their attitudes towards giving, Singaporeans displayed a strong intention to donate (nine in ten) and volunteer (seven in ten). They generally have altruistic views of giving, seeing it as a selfless act that comes from the heart.

Yet respondents were also pragmatic, rating family commitments, good health and financial security as their top-most life priorities, with contributing to society coming in at 14th place. In addition, almost two-thirds were interested in practical volunteer opportunities that benefited them, including activities conveniently located near their homes (34%) and those aligned to their hobbies and interests (29%).

This suggests an opportunity for social organisations and charities to tap into individuals’ innate willingness to give. For a start, they could offer practical solutions such as location-based volunteerism, as well as integrating giving into Singaporean’s current life priorities such as promoting volunteerism as an activity that can be done with family or colleagues.

3. Lack of trust – a hindrance to a Smart (Giving) Nation

Despite the ubiquity of digital services and platforms in Singapore, most Singaporeans have only used offline modes to donate (77%) and register for volunteering opportunities (63%).

Some of the biggest barriers around giving via digital platforms are a perceived scepticism toward online calls for donations (43%) and volunteers (18%), followed by a lack of trust in providing online channels with personal data when it comes to donating (36%) and volunteering (17%). These findings reflect a need for charities to become increasingly transparent and accountable as a way to engage potential and existing givers via online channels.

“Giving thrives when there is trust. One way to build integrity in the system is to maintain strong and credible go-to online platforms like the SG Cares app and,” said Mr Jeffrey Tan.

4. Working adults – an untapped pool of potential volunteers

Interest to volunteer exceeds available opportunities in the workplace. While 58% of all working adults were keen to volunteer, only 33% said their employers had organised volunteering activities in the past 12 months.

Businesses can look at providing more prominent and diverse platforms for employees to give – for instance, forming long-term partnerships with charities to create meaningful company volunteering programmes that benefit both parties.

5. Former volunteers – a series of mismatched priorities and expectations

Another growing trend is the number of former volunteers (individuals who had previously volunteered, but not in the past 12 months). Over half (53%) of former volunteers indicated that their volunteering experience had not met expectations, with the most commonly cited reasons being a lack of flexibility (28%) and a perception that the activity created little impact or meaning (25%).

Many individuals who had stopped volunteering further identified school and work (44%), leisure and learning new skills (37%) as well as family (33%) as key priorities, which resulted in less time for volunteering opportunities.

These findings suggest that besides recruiting new volunteers, charities may need to pay attention to retaining existing ones. By aligning volunteering opportunities with interest, skills and expectations, this mismatch can be bridged.

The full Individual Giving Study 2018 report with detailed findings is available at

For media queries and interviews, please contact:

Jeanne Tai, NVPC
DID: 6550 9593

Christopher Sim, RICE
DID: 3157 5686

About the Individual Giving Study 2018 (IGS)

Since 2000, IGS is a biennial study conducted by NVPC to find out how people in Singapore give through volunteerism, philanthropy and other behaviours. IGS has a nationally representative sample of age, gender, race and housing type in Singapore (within four percentage points of Singapore’s population). The sampling framework consists of a list of representative households from the Singapore Department of Statistics.

Individual Giving Study 2018, conducted by Consulting Group – Asia Insight Pte. Ltd. for NVPC, sought to gain insights on volunteerism, philanthropy and other giving behaviours in Singapore. The study was done in two phases, beginning with a quantitative phase, followed by a qualitative study. A total of 2,100 surveys were completed from August 2018 to November 2018 for the quantitative study. Statistical weighting was applied to the sample data to arrive at national estimates. In the second phase, 18 face-to-face in-depth interviews, comprising 6 individual interviews and 6 dyad (paired) sessions were conducted from January 2019 to February 2019.

About National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC)

NVPC is a non-profit organisation promoting a giving culture in Singapore through catalysing development in volunteerism and philanthropy to build a City of Good. We facilitate partnerships with non-profits, companies, public sector bodies and individuals to enliven the giving ecosystem within Singapore.

We curate and celebrate stories about giving to inspire and encourage more to take action. We conduct research on giving motivations and behaviours, create roadmaps of the giving sector, and aspire to be the go-to-place for giving. We honour and recognise giving champions who demonstrate that giving is part of Singapore’s DNA. We connect and convene networks and build communities to impact the giving space on a national level.

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