QLD To Investigate Volunteer Numbers
6 August 2015 at 2:58 pm
New research into how and why Queenslanders volunteer may be key to combatting the decline of people who volunteer regularly, according to the Cancer Council Queensland.
Researchers at Cancer Council Queensland and Griffith University have received a $220,000 Australian Research Council grant to improve understanding of motivations for volunteering.
Cancer Council Queensland CEO and lead researcher Professor Jeff Dunn AO said the study could help to improve social and economic well-being by stimulating volunteering.
“Not for Profits such as Cancer Council Queensland rely heavily on volunteers to carry out work in cancer control, ensuring the delivery of vital community services and fundraising events – which is why it’s imperative we invest time and research into this area,” Prof Dunn said.
“At the moment, little is known about why people take up volunteering, and the factors that inspire them to volunteer on a short or long-term basis.
“It is important to support and recognise people who give their time to help build better communities and to remove barriers to volunteering to make it easier and more accessible.
“Our aim is to address knowledge gaps about short-term volunteering, to improve uptake of regular volunteering, and to evaluate the economic and social impacts of volunteering.
“The findings will inform recommendations for sectoral policy and practice on volunteering.”
In June new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed volunteering rates in Australia were declining for the first time in almost 20 years with 75 per cent of people surveyed saying they felt too rushed or pressed for time.
Results of the ABS 2014 General Social Survey provide a snapshot of Australia’s progress on aspects of wellbeing, such as life satisfaction and community participation, and reports that volunteering in Australia has fallen by five per cent since 2010.
Volunteering Australia CEO Brett Williamson said the rate of volunteering was a key indicator of healthy communities and any decline in community participation was troubling.
“It raises questions about whether our social capital is being eroded, and if it is, why is that happening and how can we reverse the trend?” Williamson said.
“The ABS report shows that in 2014, 31 per cent of Australians volunteered compared to 36 per cent just four years ago.
Griffith University and Cancer Council Queensland Research Fellow in Psycho-Oncology and Community Engagement Dr Mel Hyde said a range of methods would be used for the new volunteer study.
“We plan to do interviews and quantitative surveys, as well as focus group discussions with volunteers and staff who manage them, to better understand how and why people volunteer episodically,” Dr Hyde said.
“Episodic volunteers are vital to non-profit organisations and make a valuable contribution to organisations and to the community more broadly.
“It is critical that we understand how we can make short-term volunteering a satisfying experience to encourage longer-term relationships.
“Each year, more than 40,000 people across the state support Cancer Council Queensland’s work in cancer control in addition to thousands of community members who give their time for events and other projects.”
Professor Dunn said volunteering was a key indicator of healthy communities.
“We simply could not do what we do without our volunteers – they are the heart of our work,” Prof Dunn said.
The project, Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back. Episodic Volunteering for Non-Profits, will also involve partners at the American Cancer Society, the Union for International Cancer Control, and Volunteering Queensland.
The three-year grant is one of only nine awarded the ARC Linkage Grant nationally in the field of psychology, and one of two in Queensland.