Cover_IGWI_7-14.jpgBy Richard Hartung

3 November, 2014


Is giving worth it? It’s a question you probably ask yourself many times, such as when the school asks for a donation or a non-profit asks you to organize an event. When there’s so much else to do, from finishing projects at work to taking care of the family and even just shopping for groceries, it might seem like it’s not worth it to give up more of your time, talent or treasure to yet another cause.


The academic answer to the question, though, is easy. Plenty of studies show that volunteering increases happiness, improves health and even makes people feel they have more time. Yet even though the academic studies may sound good, it’s perhaps more important to ask people who actually give for their views.


To find out whether giving is actually worth it, the Centre for Non-Profit Leadership (CNPL), the Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS) and the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) commissioned volunteer author Richard Hartung to talk with more than two dozen people from all walks of life who give to non-profits here in Singapore. Their stories are compiled in a new book, Is Giving Worth It, that was launched in August and is available in bookstores as well as online and in the library.


Recent graduates in their twenties, successful businesspeople running large companies, a nonagenarian who has been giving for decade and a slew of others all talked about how they started volunteering, what they do, and whether it’s worth it. They tell how good they felt when they brought a smile to a grandmother’s face, saw a man walk for the first or watched children learn to play the guitar, and more. They do indeed find that giving is more than worth it, and some were so profoundly affected by giving that it changed the entire course of their lives. 


Hearing young graduates like Adrian Phoon and Angela Ong tell how they decided to use their free time to make a difference, for example, is inspiring. Hundreds of people have benefitted from Shawn Lum using his decades of experience as a biologist to promote conservation and from Chua Ai Lin taking her knowledge of history to promote Singapore’s heritage. Andrea Tay learned to play the guitar so she could teach guitar to underprivileged youth. And these are just a few of the many people profiled in the book who said the joy they receive from giving is worth far more than the time, talent or treasure that they contribute.


The stories have also shown how important giving is for the givers. As Disabled Peoples’ Association president Nicholas Aw said, “making money is just part and parcel of life. When I do (volunteer) work, I feel I make a difference in someone’s life.” And many, like Oliver Bettin, cannot understand why anyone would not give back. “If those who are more fortunate don’t give back,” he said, “we will have problems. You have an obligation.”


The stories in Is Giving Worth it will touch your heart and perhaps even inspire you to say “yes” when someone asks for your support, as people tell how they’ve created new meaning in their lives as they’ve turned into passionate givers. 


Richard Hartung is a consultant on cards and payments strategy with over 20 years of experience in financial services, primarily in Asia. He volunteers with the American Club, Jane Goodall Institute and other organizations.