One of the most dramatic statistics that turned up over recent editions of NVPC’s biennial Individual Giving Survey is that donations from volunteers are five times that of non volunteers. It may seem staggering, but think of it this way: volunteers gain first-hand experience of the issues and challenges that a particular cause faces, so they’re more likely to donate generously or rope in friends and family. It’s what we at NVPC call the giving journey – every individual has a cause that matters to them, so it’s really about awakening that spirit and connecting them to places where they can make a difference.
It’s always bittersweet to find that, consistently, people from the lowest income bracket give a bigger percentage of their income compared to those from the highest bracket. I believe that’s a function of visibility – many problems are simply invisible to people in more privileged circles. Instead we have to raise this awareness so that the people who can make a difference see they’re needed and come forth.
“The definition of giving is blurring”
That said, I abhor parading the needy in a way that strips them of their dignity to get the pity penny. It’s better to show how people can be empowered and make positive changes with the help they receive. To change the narrative on who is a Singaporean hero and show how giving is part of our identity and history, NVPC collaborated with local filmmakers to produce “15 Shorts”, a series that highlights Singaporeans who have gone beyond their comfort zones to challenge the status quo to create dignity and space for others.
The definition of giving is blurring. Historically, people primarily volunteered and donated through institutions. Now, it’s often ground-up initiatives by communities or individuals, such as people pledging birthdays to charities. It’s so important to nurture informal giving because it makes people feel like they can make a difference, and fosters a sense of community.
There are challenges, though. Regular volunteering is declining, and non-profits urgently need to think about how to redesign both paid and voluntary roles to keep up with the changing environment. Donor fatigue is also on the horizon. We blanket-market causes instead of helping people connect to the cause that truly moves them. It’s also about how well you’re able to market your cause. Unfortunately, most time and attention naturally go to the large and popular causes. Some day I’d love to run a competition where advertising agencies take on the least popular causes to work their magic.
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This article was originally published in the April 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine