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The Real Costs of Volunteering - Study

18 December 2006 at 9:59 am
Staff Reporter
A new report by Volunteering Australia has found that over 80% of volunteers believe that increasing out-of-pocket expenses, and in particular the cost of petrol, are making it more difficult for people to volunteer.

Staff Reporter | 18 December 2006 at 9:59 am


The Real Costs of Volunteering - Study
18 December 2006 at 9:59 am

A new report by Volunteering Australia has found that over 80% of volunteers believe that increasing out-of-pocket expenses, and in particular the cost of petrol, are making it more difficult for people to volunteer.

And the study found that one in four volunteers are planning to reduce or stop their volunteer work.

The preliminary findings of the Costs of Volunteering Survey reveals that over 76% of volunteers had some out-of-pocket costs due to their volunteer work in the last 12 months; including car and public transport costs, uniforms, compulsory safety equipment, telephone, accommodation and travel, computer and general stationery costs.

While most individuals had out-of-pocket expenses under $200 a year, some respondents were facing costs of over $3000 that were not reimbursed.

Kylee Bates, the Acting CEO of Volunteering Australia says we must recognise that while 6.3 million Australians give 836 million hours of their time each year; volunteering costs people money as well as time and deserves tangible recognition.

Bates says while these initial findings reveal that Australians are still some of the most dedicated volunteers in the world

– three out of four respondents volunteered at least once a week – we can’t expect their goodwill to continue considering the rising costs many face.

She says if the sector is to encourage more people, including young people and the growing number of retirees, to give their time, then we must lower any cost barriers.

Over half of all respondents to this year’s survey believed governments should be responsible for covering volunteer out-of-pocket expenses; and nearly 77% of volunteers said they would not claim any expenses from their not-for-profit organisation given the financial pressure many organisations are under.

The survey was launched in mid-October 2006 and included 1245 responses from volunteers, Not for Profit organisations and businesses with employee volunteering programs, together representing several hundred thousand volunteers, as part of the Cost of Volunteering Taskforce’s research phase.

The Taskforce was established to consider the impact of increasing costs on volunteers and provide advice following Senator Guy Barnett’s submission to Government on volunteering earlier this year.

The Taskforce’s recommendations will be made available in early 2007.

Taskforce member and Scouts Australia Chairman, Ian Langford-Brown, says that while some organisations were able to provide volunteers with partial reimbursement, the volunteers often still carry other significant costs including training and orientation.

In 2005, as part of an organisational review, Scouts Australia, which has 20,000 adult volunteers, found that out-of-pocket costs were a key reason behind volunteers leaving Scouts.

Langford-Brown says here needs to be a fair system where volunteers can claim their out-of-pocket costs without feeling they are hurting their organisation.

The Costs of Volunteering Survey results support similar research conducted during last year’s fuel price crisis that found that over 50% of volunteers were considering reducing or stopping volunteer work due to out-of-pocket costs.

A breakdown of the survey findings show:
– 1245 surveyed (volunteers & managers) representing up to 400,000 volunteers
– 76% of volunteers reported some out-of-pocket expenses stemming from their volunteer work
– 77% of volunteers would not claim any expenses back from their organisation
– 54% of respondents believe government should be responsible for volunteers’ out-of-pocket expenses.
– 74% of respondents volunteer at least once a week.
– 88% of volunteers use their own car at least some of the time for their volunteering.
– 50.5% of organisations claim to have a reimbursement policy.
– 20% of volunteers surveyed believe their organisation has a reimbursement policy.
– 79% of respondents believe out-of-pocket expenses are a barrier to volunteering
– 27% of organisations report an increase in reimbursement requests in the last 12 months
– 25% of volunteers said they were reconsidering their commitment due to costs

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