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

29 May 2023

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.

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.

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. Please refer to Annex for details.

About Singapore Management University
Established in 2000, Singapore Management University (SMU) is recognised for its disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research that addresses issues of global relevance, impacting business, government, and society. Its distinctive education, incorporating innovative experiential learning, aims to nurture global citizens, entrepreneurs and change agents. With more than 12,000 students, SMU offers a wide range of bachelors, masters and PhD degree programmes in the disciplinary areas associated with six of its eight schools - Accountancy, Business, Computing, Economics, Law and Social Sciences. Its seventh school, the SMU College of Integrative Studies, offers degree programmes in deep, integrative interdisciplinary education. The College of Graduate Research Studies, SMU’s eighth school, enhances integration and interdisciplinarity across the various SMU postgraduate research programmes that will enable students to gain a holistic learning experience and well-grounded approach to their research. SMU also offers a growing number of executive development and continuing education programmes. Through its city campus, SMU focuses on making meaningful impact on Singapore and beyond through its partnerships with industry, policy makers and academic institutions.

About National Council of Social Service
NCSS is the umbrella body for over 500-member social service agencies in Singapore. Its mission is to provide leadership and direction in enhancing the capabilities and capacity of our members, advocating for social service needs and strengthening strategic partnerships, for an effective social service ecosystem. Community Chest is the fundraising and engagement arm of NCSS and Social Service Institute (SSI) is the human capital development arm of NCSS.

Media Contacts


Dr Dalvin Sidhu
Senior Programme Manager, LCSI
Tel: +65 91013790

Valerie Won
Assistant Director, Corporate Communications
Tel: +65 9734 2969


Melissa Anne Manuel
Senior Manager, Communications & Marketing
Tel: +65 6210 2488

Chew Kia Huey
Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing
Tel: +65 6210 2635

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 and 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. This included Know-Your-Volunteer (KYV) strategies, which enable organisations to enhance their volunteers' experience in a strategic and targeted manner. The findings and recommendations provide valuable insights for SSAs, volunteer managers and policymakers to enhance their volunteer management strategies and empower volunteers to make a difference in their communities.

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