NTUC FairPrice (FairPrice) today announced “We Care: Lighting up Lives”, the FairPrice Volunteers’ Programme, that targets to increase staff volunteer hours to 2,300 hours per year by 2016. In 2011, FairPrice saw 200 volunteer hours through its ad-hoc volunteer initiatives. At an event hosted by FairPrice CEO, Mr Seah Kian Peng, FairPrice, officially appointed and gave recognition to 13 Volunteer Leaders, specially selected from various departments within the co-operative, who will drive this ground-up approach to encourage volunteering among FairPrice staff.
The company recognises that in addition to giving back to the community in cash and kind donations, giving back in time is just as important. In fact, local research data has shown that volunteerism tends to fall as school leavers enter the workforce and companies play a key in promoting volunteerism. Volunteering activities also serve as a platform to help build a more engaged and motivated workforce. This strategic move sees FairPrice putting in place a clear structure and long-term targets to change their existing ad-hoc approach towards volunteerism.
Mr Seah Kian Peng, CEO, NTUC FairPrice said: “As one of the largest employers in Singapore, we are in the position to create a bigger impact and encourage other employers to also engage their staff to give back to the community. Many employees take pride that we are a retailer with a heart but we have also recognised that beyond philanthropy, a culture of volunteerism not only lights up the lives of others but is also key in creating a caring and motivated workforce.”
Companies Need to Promote Volunteerism in Singapore
Local research has shown that volunteerism falls from 23% amongst 20-24 year olds to 16% amongst those aged 25 to 29. According to the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), these are the ages when school leavers begin to build their careers in the workforce, and hence less time is devoted to other areas of their lives, like volunteering. Volunteering then only picks up when the individual is much older or retired. Research shows that there is a strong role for corporate volunteering as volunteer activities organised by employers attracts former and non-volunteers, expanding the circle of volunteers.
With “We Care: Lighting up Lives”, FairPrice looks to increase from 200 volunteering hours in 2011 to 2,300 hours per year by 2016. It also plans to increase the number of volunteering activities held from 12 in year 2011 to 75 activities per year by 2016.
A Structured and Sustainable Approach towards Volunteerism
To develop the structured and sustainable staff volunteer programme that will engage staff at all levels and better connect with the community, FairPrice is leveraging the strong experience of YMCA. It is also working with VWOs – Food from the Heart, RenCi Nursing Home and Society for the Physically Disabled. These have been long-time partners with FairPrice where FairPrice has supported them through volunteerism and donations. In the past three years, FairPrice contributed over $1 million in funds, food vouchers and essential items to these VWOs to help those in need.
Intended to be a ground-up initiative, the FairPrice Volunteers’ Programme will be driven by 13 Volunteer Leaders, who have stepped forward and were endorsed by their supervisors as passionate about volunteering. All volunteers will also undergo the necessary training to be equipped with basic knowledge in volunteerism and practical tips on working with beneficiaries. Activities in the programme will include food packing to redistribute food to those in need, gardening activities, excursions and visits to homes.
Building an Engaged and Motivated Workforce
FairPrice recognises that volunteerism can also contribute to building a more committed and motivated workforce as well as higher staff retention. Staff benefit from the energy and pride they gain from their exposure to community-based organisations. Volunteer activities also enhance teamwork, leadership and communication, resulting in a higher personal morale.
One Volunteer Leader is Mr Eugene Goh, 49, Service & Administrative Department Manager, NTUC FairPrice, said: “I started volunteering only last year when I helped out in organising some volunteer activities for FairPrice. To be able to bring joy and laughter to the less fortunate brings about a great sense of fulfillment and hence I agreed to help out as a Volunteer Leader for the FairPrice Volunteers’ Programme.”
Ms Chantal Ong, 25, HR Executive, NTUC FairPrice, added: “I used to volunteer actively as part of the Community Service Club in university but did not find the time to do so when I started work. So when this opportunity came about, I was more than happy to help out. Many Singaporeans want to volunteer but they just do not how to get started. Having a corporate programme in place provides them an avenue to do so.”
At the launch event, 20 clients from Food From the Heart, Society for the Physically Disabled, RenCi Nursing Home and YMCA were also treated to a shopping trip at FairPrice. Each client was given $50 in FairPrice vouchers to buy essentials and daily needs.