What the Numbers Tell Us about Growing our Social Purpose Entities

What the Numbers Tell Us about Growing our Social Purpose Entities

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Mention non-profit organizations and you would most definitely and naturally find the presence of a team of volunteers in them.

But how do we make good sense of the role of volunteers in our non-profits and how do we strategically partner them to bring about growth in our organizations?

These are the very questions we aim to answer in this article.

The Close Ties Between Non-Profits & Volunteers

The relationship between non-profit organizations and volunteers goes back a long way. In fact, according to Michael Sherr (2008) in his book “Social Work with Volunteers”, he explains how the role of volunteers is closely linked with the emergence of the social work profession.

In response to needs, volunteer movements were formed to begin to serve the needy in a systematic way. However, with the increasing “importance of comprehensive assessments, clear record keeping, and effective coordination of services, there was a growing recognition of the need for people to be professionally trained to work with the poor and needy” (Sherr, 2008), thus giving rise to the development of the social work profession.

Even though so, social workers and volunteers continue to work closely together:

During the Great Depression and World War II, social workers turned to volunteers as necessary personnel for addressing social needs. In the 1950s, volunteers were partners in auxiliary social work services, helping as fundraisers, educators, office assistants, and drivers. In the 1960s, some volunteers moved into direct service roles, offering lay therapy in child abuse and neglect programs, counseling on telephone crisis lines, advocating in domestic violence programs, and participating in self-help and mutual aid groups… More recently, in response to the shortage of professionals available, social work is again turning to volunteers.”

Sherr goes on to write:

Mary Richmond (1908) believed that social workers could never completely stand in as the social servants of the community. She believed instead that a basic responsibility of the social work profession was to guide and support the efforts of volunteers.”

Volunteerism & Its Impact

Indeed, there is power in the strategic alliance between social workers and volunteers; each with their specific roles to play. In addressing Social Service Agencies, Speaker Tan Chuan Jin at the recent ‘Collaborative Partnerships for Common Good Series – Volunteer Partnership’ Networking event encouraged the agencies to look at their volunteer programmes beyond the functional point of view (its effectiveness and efficiency in bringing about missional success). This so that they will not miss out on the opportunity to grow empathy and build our society, as we provide opportunities for members of our society to be involved in voluntary work, to contribute to others, and to also grow in the process of volunteering.

Speaker Tan Chuan Jin addresses Social Service Agencies at the Network (Photo by National Council of Social Service, extracted from GatherHere for the Social Service Sector)

While a study by Carnegie Mellon University have shown that volunteering brings about health benefits, there are very few studies which show the impact of volunteerism on the whole society. An ambitious but yet insightful study in 2018 by The Conference Board of Canada for Volunteer Canada found that volunteering has economic value, strengthened and empowered individuals and communities, benefited volunteers and their employers, improved life satisfaction and the health of volunteers, brought about positive outcomes for service users, integrated new immigrants and also found correlation between donations and volunteering. In fact, Volunteer Canada published the Value of Volunteering Wheel to give us a good sense of the impact volunteering brings to the different levels of society.

This provides a good basis for us to start to make sense of the impact of volunteers, which has also prompted us in Emmaus to help design an Impact Assessment Toolkit for Social Purpose Entities. A little more on that later.

The State of the Union on Volunteering in Singapore

And with the recent release of the insights of the Volunteer Manager Funding Scheme by the National Council of Social Service and the Individual Giving Survey 2018 by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre, we begin to have a clearer picture of how we can strategically partner volunteers to grow the work of Social Purpose Entities here in Singapore.

We reviewed the studies and put together the below infographic on what the various numbers would mean to Social Purpose Entities:


The Upcoming Launch of the Volunteer Partnerships Impact Assessment Toolkit

Emmaus will be releasing a free guide to assess the impact of Volunteer Partnerships. The Volunteer Partnerships Impact Assessment (VPIA) Toolkit is the first-ever of such guide developed and provides a step-by-step guide to understanding and implementing impact assessment for your volunteer programmes.

Stay tuned to the launch of the toolkit.

You may also join our mailing list to continue to receive resources on strategic volunteer partnerships. Do also check out our strategic volunteer partnerships consultancy and training programmes.


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What the Numbers Tell Us about Growing our Social Purpose Entities

by James Lim
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