National Survey of Volunteering Issues
Tuesday, 8th December 2009 at 12:23 pm
The 2009 online survey of more than 2000 volunteers, 1400 organisations and 33 businesses is the largest volunteering survey carried out in Australia.
Some of the key trends include:
• volunteers’ continued commitment to making a difference to causes and communities through volunteering;
• increased implementation of the National Standards for Involving Volunteers in Not for Profit Organisations by volunteer-involving organisations;
• organisations’ continued struggle to attract, support and retain volunteers;
• unchanged public policy areas affecting volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations, but with increasingly positive, as well as negative impacts; and
• volunteering as a way of increasing the health, wellbeing and social inclusion of Australians.
The survey report says these emerging trends and changes come amidst significant national and global events that are impacting, and putting expectations on volunteers and volunteering in ways that may not yet have been fully realised or captured.
It says climate change, as witnessed through the tragic Victorian bushfires and the Queensland floods, has presented ongoing challenges for emergency and relief services to provide spontaneous and sustained response to crises, primarily through volunteer effort.
More than half of the organisations surveyed (55%) reported that they experienced barriers to involving volunteers.
This is the same finding reported in 2008. Respondents contributed 714 qualitative comments about what barriers they are experiencing and many reported multiple issues that create barriers. Preliminary review of this data can best be summarised as:
Lack of organisational capacity (funding and time) to recruit, engage, manage and support volunteers.
Not enough capacity (funding and time) to provide necessary volunteer training and skills development to take advantage of available resources.
Cost and administration associated with legislative compliance and procedural requirements.
Attracting, recruiting and retaining suitable volunteers.
Volunteering Australia CEO, Cary Pedicini says that the survey attracted a record number of participants with more than 3,700 respondents taking part ensuring a wide cross section of opinions was received.
Pedicini says the costs of volunteering remains a significant impost with 44% of volunteers who flagged this concern reporting that out of pocket expenses affected their ability or desire to volunteer.
The most common cost problems were fuel (84.6%) and telephone charges (65.4%). Only 17% of volunteers reported that their organisation offered full reimbursement of their out of pocket expenses. 27% of organisations said that out of pocket expenses had a negative impact on their ability to attract, recruit, train and retain volunteers.
He says volunteers also reported that volunteering increased their health and well being (71%), while 82% reported that volunteering increased their sense of community belonging.
However, he says it is disappointing to note that 36% of volunteers surveyed had not received any recognition or appreciation for their work in the previous month.
Pedicini says many volunteers do their good work for nothing more than the satisfaction they get from knowing that they are helping others in their community, but organisations must work harder to ensure that they recognise and thank their volunteers regularly.
34% of volunteers reported that their organisation did not have, or they did not know whether their organisation had a formal recognition process.
More specifically the survey found that:
• Substantial increase in the number of organisations reporting that they have implemented the National Standards for Involving Volunteers in Not for Profit Organisations.
• Highest response rate of all surveys conducted since 2006.
• ‘Knowing that my contribution would make a difference’ is most important to volunteers in their decision to volunteer (selected by 80% of volunteer respondents).
• ‘Being accepted as a valuable team member’, ‘personal thank you’ and ‘feedback about my contribution’ are the most significant methods of recognition that volunteer respondents reported made them feel valued as a volunteer.
• 30% of volunteers would like to have more opportunities to participate in the decisions of their organisations.
• Some evidence in the survey suggests that police checks are being used by organisations to assess suitability for people to volunteer regardless of the roles they may be fulfilling.
• 30% of organisations surveyed have not been able to access adequate information about the protection of volunteers under occupational health and safety legislation.
The report can be downloaded at www.volunteeringaustralia.org