New Study Identifies Need for a Framework for a Quality Volunteer Experience in Singapore’s Social Service Sector

First-of-its-kind study by NCSS and SMU aims to enable Social Service Agencies to develop data-backed volunteer management strategies for more effective outcomes, attracting and retaining more volunteers in the long run
By the SMU Corporate Communications team

Singapore, 29 May 2023 – Volunteers at different life stages have different resources, responsibilities and motivations. This finding, which was established in a new study titled "Transforming the Volunteer Experience in the Social Service Sector", highlights that this understanding is critical when managing volunteers so that the volunteering experience can be enhanced.

The National Council of Social Service (NCSS) partnered with Singapore Management University researchers at the SMU Lien Centre for Social Innovation (LCSI) for the study. By gleaning insights to understand and enhance volunteerism in Singapore’s non-profit sector, it aimed to improve the design and development of its volunteer management strategies.

NCSS supports the development of Social Service Agencies (SSA) by leveraging the assets of partners and strengthening social service agencies’ volunteer management capabilities to ensure a sustained pool of volunteers.

“Volunteers augment the manpower capacity in the non-profit sector. This volunteer experience study, a collaboration between NCSS and SMU, provides us with valuable data and insights on what motivates different groups of volunteers. NCSS can then better direct our work with non-profit organisations to strengthen volunteer management practices, enabling volunteers to better support those in need,” said Ms Tan Li San, Chief Executive Officer, National Council of Social Service.

SMU Lien Centre for Social Innovation is delighted to continue to build capacity and thought leadership in the social impact sector. Identifying the five key features of enhancing the volunteer experience will allow Social Service Agencies to maximise a sustainable and mutually beneficial strategy in uplifting both clients and volunteers,” said Mr Steve Loh, Executive Director, Lien Centre for Social Innovation.

Methodology of Survey Findings

LCSI designed and carried out the study in two phases. First, the study incorporated a quantitative survey to understand the perspectives of volunteers in the sector. Second, researchers sought to understand the perspectives of volunteer managers through a series of qualitative interviews.

Through insights mined from data with 180 volunteers across 112 SSAs in Singapore, LCSI developed a framework for what constitutes a quality volunteering experience and recommended practical and actionable steps that Social Service Agencies (SSAs) can consider adopting. 

The findings helped to establish that SSAs can implement Know-Your-Volunteer (KYV) strategies and adopt Volunteer-Centred Organisational Strategies. Some KYV strategies that SSAs can adopt include administering a simple survey to do a volunteer-oriented needs assessment and profiling to understand volunteers better.

In terms of adopting Volunteer-Centred Organisational Strategies, SSAs could examine the way volunteers are viewed and adopt a more inclusive approach of including volunteers into the organisation’s management which could be done for example, by empowering volunteers to progress into leadership roles.

Framework for a quality volunteering experience to attract and retain volunteers

The study found that a quality volunteering experience comprised Enjoyment, Exposure, Impact, Connectedness and Flexibility. This framework could be considered by organisations when looking at the challenges and opportunities of volunteering.  

Access the full survey report by SMU Lien Centre for Social Innovation, here.