Volunteering Trends Toward the Internet & Young People
17 February 2011 at 11:21 am
A new report finds Australian volunteers have a growing preference for online volunteering and more young people want to get involved.
The report, commissioned as part of the National Volunteering Strategy Consultation, polled more than 800 volunteering groups and found that traditional forms of volunteering remained popular but new forms of participation were emerging and needed to be accommodated.
The Minister for Social Inclusion Tanya Plibersek responded to the report saying changes include a growing preference for online volunteering, more young people and highly skilled early retirees wanting to volunteer, and an increasing interest in short term or project based volunteering.
The report will inform the National Volunteering Strategy, which the Gillard Government plans to release later in 2011. The strategy is expected to outline the Government’s vision for volunteering over the next 10 years and will provide a framework which encourages volunteering.
The report says a diverse range of issues arose in relation to the engagement and retention of volunteers which it describes as the major concern for the Not for Profit sector.
The report found that:
- Governments and communities need to better promote volunteering as a positive avenue for community contribution, as well as specific opportunities for volunteer participation. Promotional activities need to target a diverse cross-section of the community, such as culturally and linguistically diverse communities and young people.
- Suggested mechanisms for achieving greater awareness of volunteering include the establishment of a national online database, use of new forms of technology to engage with, and disseminate information to, a range of audiences, and promotion of volunteering opportunities through local media.
- Increased promotional efforts should be matched by the development of appropriate and diverse opportunities for volunteer participation within volunteer?involving organisations.
- The various costs associated with volunteering, both for volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations, can be significant barriers to participation.
- Training and skills development opportunities should be increased in the emergency management sector to help engage new volunteers and grow the pool of potential volunteers.
The report says issues related to volunteer protection, risk management and training also emerged as significant from the consultation process.
- National standards for volunteer-involving organisations are useful, but need to be flexible, available online, free of charge and relevant to a range of organisations and different sectors.
- Regulatory and legislative protections for volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations are vital, but also cumbersome due to their quantity and lack of consistency across jurisdictions. Greater collaboration between regulatory bodies and more in-depth consultation with the volunteering community are required in order to reduce red tape, establish streamlined, uniform and relevant regulations, and eliminate duplication.
- Police and working with children checks are essential, but costly and time consuming to undertake. They need to be transferrable between organisations and jurisdictions.
- Liability insurance is essential for volunteer-involving organisations but is overly complex and expensive. Suggestions for alleviating the financial and administrative burden include the introduction of a national insurance system, umbrella insurance coverage for small agencies, and government subsidisation of the cost of insurance.
- Effective volunteer management helps improve the efficiency of organisations and increases their capacity to comply with and implement risk management strategies.
- Ready access to appropriate and inexpensive training for volunteers and volunteer managers is vital and needs to be increased.
The report says feedback from consultation highlighted the changing nature of volunteering in Australia and the increasingly diverse range of ways in which people want to volunteer.
- People increasingly want to volunteer with a range of different organisations, participate in episodic and project-base volunteering, combine travel or work with volunteering, and volunteer online.
- Volunteer?involving organisations need to accommodate and encourage these emerging trends through the development of suitably flexible opportunities for involvement, while continuing to cater for traditional forms of participation.
- Information technology, especially the internet, can be better harnessed by volunteer-involving organisations to make participation in volunteering more accessible.
- Some emerging forms of volunteering may pose new challenges in regulation and insurance. Solutions to these new challenges are needed.
The report says a range of views were expressed through the consultation process relating to volunteer recognition, including how and by whom it should be undertaken.
- Recognition and celebration of volunteer efforts is important and would encourage more volunteers to get involved.
- There are diverse ways to recognise volunteers, including large-scale celebratory events, smaller community-based activities and the distribution of tangible items to volunteers such as certificates of appreciation.
- Volunteer managers and coordinators are important but often unrecognised and inadequately supported.
- Volunteer recognition should incorporate practical support measures, such as improved resourcing, accreditation of skills gained through volunteer work, increased training opportunities for volunteer managers and, from the corporate sector, time off/paid leave for employees to volunteer.
The Report says the feedback to the consultation process is evidence of a committed and engaged volunteering community that cares strongly about its future.
It says the diversity of views expressed will be a valuable source of information in the development of the National Volunteering Strategy.