Pilot App Attracts Young Volunteers
7 April 2016 at 10:47 am
Initial testing of a new app to attract volunteers has shown huge potential to engage young people and add value to the Not for Profit sector, with the research results being revealed at the national Volunteering Australia Conference in Canberra.
Volunteering SA&NT has been trialling a mobile app where users can search and apply for roles, log hours, redeem rewards and get a formal volunteering record.
“There’s a critical need to attract younger volunteers to the sector – and with unique skills to offer, the challenge is to target them more effectively to boost recruitment and also ensure there are suitable roles for them to fill,” the Executive Manager of business at Volunteering SA&NT, Sue Keith, told Pro Bono Australia News in the lead up to the conference.
“Initial testing of the volunteer app from the pilot project showed it has huge potential to engage the younger demographic and add real value to the sector.
“What we found from the research was that young people are generally quite aware of volunteering but they they are not aware of volunteering opportunities.
“They were saying: ‘Yes we know what it is and we have done a little bit of it but we don’t know where to look.’
“So marketing volunteer opportunities to young people is a big challenge and the other thing that comes up as a big challenge for young people – especially when they leave high school and go onto tertiary studies or work – is they are generally studying part time or full time plus working part time and they have very little free time. So they are finding that a lot of the volunteer roles, when they do find them, are not tailored to their particular lifestyle needs.
“That’s providing quite a challenge for the sector and volunteering organisations to be able to design volunteering roles and to be more adaptable to the needs of young volunteers because they certainly bring a whole range of wonderful skills and experience and outlook on life to an organisation but we have got to meet them part way.”
Keith said the pilot rolled out a prototype of the app called WeDo Volunteering and found that young people were encouraged by it.
“They thought it was a good idea and that it would definitely make them more likely to volunteer if they could go in and easily find roles,” she said.
“When it came down to the issue of rewards what I found was very heartwarming results in that young people thought that getting a reward was not the be all and end all and it was not what they wanted. They were saying things like a thank you or a nice card would be good or maybe a voucher for a cup of coffee. They felt that rewards were counter intuitive to the the whole idea of volunteering.”
She said one of the key issues that came out strongly from the research was the ability to get a formal transcript of their volunteering records.
“Something that was authenticated that people could use as part of their resume or portfolio to help them gain paid employment, so we did build that into the app and that was an element of the program that was very very successful,” she said.
“Through the app they could actually press a button or click through and then it would ask: ‘Do you want a transcript?’ And it would then be emailed to them.”
Keith said there were a number of technical challenges in making that happen because the the Not for profit organisations have to then work with the system to then validate and verify the hours that people have volunteered.
“It sounds really good but it is not as easy to do. It is something that we will definitely be going on with,” she said.
“What we are doing now is that we are continuing with the program. So we are developing the the app to a commercial stage and launch which will happen later this year.
“What we did with our prototype is add some positive reinforcement – a little message that came up to tell people who were applying for volunteer roles that said: ‘Thanks for volunteering, thanks for registering, you are doing a great job, keep it up.’
“And they were very favourably received and we will be progressing on to the transcript so elements of the reward elements will be phased in over a couple of years.”
Keith said that a lot of work had to be done with the Not for Profit sector to help them design volunteer roles that were attractive to young people and help them to advertise them effectively so they can attract young people. Each element tested in the pilot would then be brought into the app in stages.
“If we do it all at once it will take too long to get it to market so we want to get it out there and building improvements and enhancements to keep people engaged,” she said.
“We got funding from the Government of South Australia and we worked with them on the project. We are really excited by the work and the whole project was only undertaken in less than six months so it was an an extremely intensive project and and extremely rewarding one.
“It certainly set a direction that we can go down and it’s going to have some profound impacts on getting young people aware of and into volunteering roles.”