Managers key to increasing regular volunteer numbers
NCSS survey shows that having a volunteer manager led to an increase in regular volunteer hours
There is a growing concern about the shortage of regular volunteers helping in social service agencies.
According to a survey done by the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) last year, only 38 per cent of 242 social service agencies reported having more than 100 regular volunteers.
The NCSS defines regular volunteers as those who offer at least 24 hours of service, with a frequency of at least four times a year.
To address the shortage, NCSS conducted a pilot study involving 10 social service agencies which participated in the Volunteer Manager Funding Scheme from 2016 to 2018.
The study found that having a dedicated volunteer manager led to an increase in regular volunteer hours from approximately 189,000 hours in 2016 to 422,000 hours in 2018.
At an event yesterday where the key findings of the study were shared, Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of Parliament and adviser to NCSS, said: "It's not just a numbers game, it's about allowing us to do our work and fulfil our purpose in a more efficient fashion if we are able to leverage on more people coming forward."
Mr William Loh, chairman of Lions Befrienders, championed the advantages of having a volunteer manager.
The social service agency launched a volunteer training programme with the support of its volunteer manager. As a result, its volunteer hours rose from 5,900 to 22,500 hours over the past year.
Said Mr Loh: "We were able to scale up our department so that we can do recruitment, training, and most importantly, sustaining."
He added: "The increase in man-hours is still very much episodic at the moment. Volunteers come forward on a one-event basis only, but it is also useful because it opens the door for them to see how a few hours' contribution spent with our beneficiaries can light up their faces."
Ms Ler Lay Guat, a volunteer with Lions Befrienders for over 10 years, said: "It is easy to get people in to volunteer, but many drop out because of commitment issues."
Another volunteer with Lions Befrienders, Mrs Agnes Lee, agreed.
She said: "I've tried to get my friends to join and volunteer, but they are unable to commit regularly."
One of the agencies involved, social service agency Awwa, saw its volunteer pool increase from 67 to 726 over the two year period.
This led to a 67 per cent increase in the number of beneficiaries the organisation served.
In addition to a volunteer manager looking after volunteer welfare, technology is also being used to help volunteers better engage with beneficiaries.
For example, Awwa created e-orientation modules to improve efficiency in training volunteers.
"These days, volunteers are very innovative. When they come forward they will bring along their own ideas," said Mr Loh.