The e-Forum on the Cost of Volunteering
Monday, 19th January 2009 at 2:21 pm
The cost of volunteering continues to be a constraint and potential barrier to community involvement according to the findings of Volunteering Australia’s e-Forum.
As part of the International Volunteer Day celebrations in December an e-forum discussion on the costs associated with volunteering took place.
Volunteering Australia says while some of the comments were familiar there were new slants presented as well as some options to allay the negative impact of the costs of volunteering.
The question about whether all volunteers wish to be reimbursed was raised.
VA’s National Communications Manager, Peter Cocks says whatever solutions are found, they do not envisage that all volunteers will want to be reimbursed as they consider the costs part of their commitment to volunteering.
He says Volunteering Australia continues to raise the issue of the costs of volunteering and seek solutions.
The issues touched on in the e-forum were:
• Pensioners find the costs of volunteering hard to meet. It is known that volunteering has real benefits for health, wellbeing and social involvement. The worry caused by the impact of costs could be detrimental to pensioners continuing to volunteer and ultimately feelings of wellbeing.
• Reimbursement of costs would enable people to volunteer more often.
• A suggestion that volunteers and minimum paid employees be reimbursed for trips made at the direction of the organisation during working hours.
• The point was made that even though volunteers might be reimbursed for the cost of fuel, they will continue to make a financial contribution towards their volunteering because the costs of vehicle depreciation including insurance, registration, tires, etc. remain.
• Another cost, quite often overlooked is the cost to family. Volunteers give freely, but the cost to family is sometimes considerable. Support from government, industry and organisation could help alleviate some of the stresses on volunteer families by providing some special services or events to help families gain quality time together. While this issue has been explored through the research carried out at Latrobe University as part of Bushfire CRc it is yet to be explored widely outside the fire/emergency area.
• Volunteers have changing needs. There could be someone in their family who has lost his/her job, and a subsidy could at least help them even in a little way, deal with their crisis in life. Parking fees and phone call expenses have started to affect them too.
And finally, Volunteering Australia says it has been made aware of continuing research on the impact of the costs of volunteering. Emergency Management Australia is developing a national survey to examine the negative direct cash costs and in kind contributions that volunteers make over a 12-month period.
The Research and Planning Unit of Anglicare Sydney has carried out the first stage of this two-stage project and has designed and piloted a questionnaire on one of the Forum agencies – the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol.
In 2008 the Federal Government recognised the cost burden can cause people to think twice about continuing their volunteer endeavours. To allay these costs, the Australian Government topped up the Volunteer Grant Program by $15 million for the next 3 years to assist Not for Profit organisations reimburse volunteers for their costs, including fuel.
Volunteering Australia says this is a good first step.
Volunteering Australia’s 2008 National Survey showed that nearly half of all volunteers surveyed (47%) do not receive any reimbursement of their out-of-pocket expenses. 28% of organisations surveyed offer full reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses; 22% of organisations surveyed cannot afford to reimburse out-of-pocket expenses.