Charity groups may soon be able to tap an app for a volunteer
This may soon be reality with a platform similar to ride-hailing apps matching organisations with volunteers
Get a volunteer on demand?
In the future, organisations may be able to "Uber a volunteer" with the relevant skills and expertise to meet a particular need.
Matching volunteers to those who need them through a platform similar to private-hire car apps might soon be a possibility, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
Veterans in the charity sector welcomed the move, which follows Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu telling Parliament last Wednesday about tapping technology to promote volunteerism.
She said: "Today, about 50 per cent of Singaporeans are familiar with online giving, and 25 per cent actively support charitable social media campaigns.
"Technology has made it easy and convenient for us to provide quick help, collaborate and form community.
"We will study how to harness the power of technology for social good and provide a one-stop avenue... where Singaporeans, especially those with the desire to help but do not know where or how to start, can easily find volunteering opportunities."
When asked about such an app, MCCY told The New Paper last Thursday it hopes to have a platform that can better match people by interests, skills and time availability to the volunteering opportunities.
This can range from connecting people to ad hoc tasks and informal opportunities, such as walking dogs and buying groceries, to matching an organisation to volunteers for sustained help, such as befriending.
The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) will also study if artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to match volunteers to openings.
Charity Council chairman Gerard Ee told TNP: "This is a definite possibility and a great idea.
"The platform could function as some sort of concierge service whereby someone who needs something is matched to someone who is able to meet that need."
He said countries such as the United States and Britain have such platforms that match volunteers to, say, elderly people with limited mobility who need help buying groceries.
"It is a lot more efficient and saves time as well," he added.
With AI, people can even be matched by geographical distribution and preferences, Mr Ee said.
Singapore Children's Society chief executive Alfred Tan said that having a database of volunteers on the platform would make it easier to match them with organisations.
Mr Ee said users of such a platform will still need to exercise caution.
"You are still dealing with strangers, so there has to be an administrator with protocols to safeguard users and do basic verification of those in the database," he said.
Mr Delane Lim, executive director of the Character and Leadership Academy, a charity for youth development, added that long-term volunteer engagements such as befriending may also require additional interviews and assessments of the volunteers, even after they have been matched with an organisation.
He said: "If I am looking for volunteers to do logistics work or selling flags, then the app will be useful. But if I am looking for volunteer befrienders, then I need to be careful who I am selecting."
Besides encouraging volunteerism, steps will also be taken to help charities reach out to donors.
The Commissioner of Charities (COC) will establish shared services in mid-2018 to help small charities in particular comply with regulatory requirements in areas such as finance.
To promote informed giving, the COC will develop a visibility guide to help charities show donors how their money is helping beneficiaries.
This will build the trust of the public in charities and encourage them to donate.
As Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, told Parliament last Thursday: "To cultivate a caring society, we require a strong charity sector that inspires confidence and encourages people to step forward and contribute with peace of mind."