Getting more seniors to volunteer

by | May 15, 2017

The volunteerism rate among those aged 55 years and above remains the lowest across the other age groups.


The volunteerism rate among seniors is low compared to the other age groups, according to a NVPC study.

The volunteerism rate among those aged 55 years and above has the highest proportion of non-volunteers compared to the other age groups, according to the Individual Giving Survey (IGS) 2016, a biennial study by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) that examines how people in Singapore give in terms of volunteerism and philanthropy. Specifically, among those aged 55 to 64, 40 percent of them have never volunteered before, while among those aged 65 and above, 53 percent have never volunteered before.

However, in breaking down the age groups of those 55 and above, there were slight increases in the volunteering rates. The volunteering rate for those 55 to 64 was 20 percent, up from 18 percent in 2014, while for those 65 years and above, it was 19 percent, up from nine percent in 2014. These figures are dismal, compared with the other age groups which showed significant increases in 2016 – the volunteering rate for those aged between 45 and 54 years old was 43 percent, and those aged between 35 and 44 years old was 48 percent.

Sharing a hypothesis in explaining the senior volunteering numbers, NVPC’s Jeffrey Tan, director for Knowledge & Advocacy said: “This group is preparing themselves for retirement. They have worked hard and they just want to enjoy themselves. Time is also an issue as some of them may have grandkids. Once that is settled, this is when they tend to volunteer.”

Companies should be more pro-active in getting those who are preparing to retire to volunteer, shared a NVPC spokesperson.

The overall IGS findings for 2016 though had lots of reasons to cheer. The volunteerism rate has increased with one in three who volunteered in 2016, as compared to one in 10 in 2000. This could be related to the increase of informal volunteerism where people volunteer directly without going through an organisation. The average volunteer hours per volunteer in the last 12 months has decreased from 93 hours per volunteer in 2014 to 84 hours in 2016.

There was also good news on the donating front. Most donors continued to donate on an occasional basis with almost a third of all donations going to religious organisations and almost 15 percent for transnational (or overseas) purposes. The IGS findings found that one in three non-donors or 36 percent have a high propensity to give. “People are looking at more engaging ways to give back,” said Jeffrey.

Most volunteers continue to serve on an occasional basis and almost one in two former volunteers have a high propensity to serve in the future. The majority of volunteers are also donors. Even among non-volunteers, more than two-thirds or 71 percent are donors. Volunteers donate five times that of non-volunteers. This has grown from 3.6 times in 2014, suggesting a relationship between volunteerism and donating.

Other trends – informal giving (volunteering or donating without going through an organisation) is on the rise where people support causes that resonate with them and start their own initiatives or ground-up efforts. “They do it on their own terms,” emphasised Jeffrey. The IGS 2016 survey showed that almost three in four givers have volunteered or donated informally.

He added that companies should be more pro-active in getting those who are preparing to retire to volunteer and they should consider a top-down approach, getting management to also walk the talk. “When they leave their workplace, their worth and identity are lost. Involvement in community can address this as they get to use their skills and experience to contribute back,” he explained.


(** PHOTO: RSVP Singapore)







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