National study finds link between giving & happiness

Non-_profit organ­i­sa­tions can spur future giv­ing by giv­ing vol­un­teers and donors a pos­i­tive experience.

Giv­ing is not only good for the soul and it is also good for non-_profit organ­i­sa­tions, as accord­ing to a national study com­mis­sioned by the National Vol­un­teer & Phil­an­thropy Cen­tre (NVPC), highly sat­is­fied vol­un­teers and donors will con­tinue giv­ing. This is the first time that NVPC research, using a nationally-_representative sam­ple, has found a link between giv­ing and their expe­ri­ence with non-_profit organisations.

Lau­rence Lien, CEO of NVPC, said: “Be it in vol­un­teer­ing or donat­ing, it is impor­tant that NPOs man­age vol­un­teers and donors effec­tively. NPOs play an impor­tant role to spur future giv­ing and should engage their givers bet­ter to develop a pos­i­tive giv­ing expe­ri­ence. Doing that increases the like­li­hood for vol­un­teers and donors to con­tinue giving.”

Happy givers give more

The study, which mea­sured responses of 1,512 indi­vid­u­als age 15 and above, found that vol­un­teers who had a high sat­is­fac­tion with their expe­ri­ence with the NPOs, 88 per­cent of them intend to vol­un­teer in the future, com­pared to 70 per­cent for vol­un­teers who had low sat­is­fac­tion. And for donors who had a high sat­is­fac­tion with their donor expe­ri­ence with the NPOs, 92 per­cent intend to donate in the future, com­pared to 78 per­cent for donors who had low satisfaction.

It also found that those who vol­un­teered and donated were happy. Two-_thirds or 66 per­cent of those who vol­un­teered and/_or donated were sat­is­fied and happy with their lives, i.e. they had high lev­els of sub­jec­tive well-_being (SWB), in con­trast to the non-_givers – less than half had high lev­els of SWB. Fur­ther­more, a higher pro­por­tion of those who served 12 or more vol­un­teer hours in the last 12 months had high SWB com­pared to those who served less (71 per­cent vs 63 percent).

This also mir­rored the donat­ing side – a higher pro­por­tion of those who gave $100 or more in the last 12 months had high SWB com­pared to those who gave less (72 per­cent vs 59 per­cent). This study is part of NVPC’s Indi­vid­ual Giv­ing Sur­vey 2012, where a por­tion of the sur­vey find­ings were released ear­lier this year.

Explain­ing these recent find­ings, Prof David Chan, Lee Kuan Yew Fel­low, pro­fes­sor of Psy­chol­ogy and direc­tor of the Behav­ioural Sci­ences Insti­tute at Sin­ga­pore Man­age­ment Uni­ver­sity (SMU), who was NVPC’s pro-_bono con­sul­tant in the study on giv­ing and SWB, said: “The find­ings … on giv­ing and the giver’s well-_being are con­sis­tent with research from else­where which showed that giv­ing and well-_being can influ­ence each other. Happy peo­ple are more likely to give, but peo­ple who give also tend to become hap­pier. This is because the act of giv­ing not only ben­e­fits the recip­i­ent but also leads to pos­i­tive out­comes for the giver.

“When you give, you derive a sense of per­sonal mean­ing from help­ing oth­ers. You also become more grate­ful for your own life con­di­tions as you appre­ci­ate the sit­u­a­tion of those who are less for­tu­nate. The out­comes can also be indi­rect. For exam­ple, when help­ing oth­ers, your inter­ac­tions with the recip­i­ents and other givers pro­duce pos­i­tive social rela­tion­ships and a sense of community.”

On what all this means to the Repub­lic, Prof Chan said: “Efforts that enhance indi­vid­u­als’ sub­jec­tive well-_being are likely to increase their ten­dency to give. Con­versely, efforts that pro­mote giv­ing are likely to have a pos­i­tive influ­ence on the givers’ well-_being. There­fore, encour­ag­ing giv­ing and increas­ing sub­jec­tive well-_being will lead to a pos­i­tive spi­ral in Sin­ga­pore soci­ety, and it ben­e­fits both givers and recip­i­ents in many ways.”

Hav­ing a good experience

Alvin Goh, 26, wanted to try his hand in vol­un­teer­ing this year for the first-_time and wanted to work with an elderly non-_profit. He was rec­om­mended to such a non-_profit but because it did not fol­low up with him, he decided to try another non-_profit. Sec­ond time was a charm. Today, he is vol­un­teer­ing each week with Lions Befrien­ders; he started befriend­ing one elderly and now it has ­in­creased to two elderly each week near his home.

“Look­ing back at my vol­un­teer­ing expe­ri­ence so far, I would say that it has pos­i­tively impacted my life in more ways than one. I wish that more vol­un­teers would join the cause and give back to soci­ety because when you look back at life, it’s not about money or social sta­tus. It’s about feel­ing con­tented with hav­ing led a mean­ing­ful life by bring­ing hap­pi­ness to those who need it most,” said Goh. He shared that through vol­un­teer­ing, he saw that the elderly “live a very sim­ple life and yet seem so happy and con­tented all the time” and he even got influ­enced – “as a mat­ter of fact, I’ve even started enjoy­ing lis­ten­ing to oldies because of one of the elderly would always have her radio tuned to Gold90.5FM all the time we’re there”.

** To help build up capa­bil­i­ties in vol­un­teer and donor man­age­ment, NVPC has released check­lists and guides on how to work with vol­un­teers and donors. These are avail­able – free of charge – at, while exam­ples of best prac­tices in vol­un­teer and donor man­age­ment are also freely avail­able at