Predictions for 2018: Volunteering
5 February 2018 at 5:09 pm
2018 will be a busy year for the volunteering sector, writes Volunteering Australia CEO Adrienne Picone, as part of a series of 2018 predictions from leading experts across the social sector.
Volunteering Australia released an updated definition of volunteering in 2015. After 18 months of consultation and conversation, the sector determined that “volunteering is time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain”.
The new definition encapsulates the true depth and breadth of giving that is going on around us every day – in the arts, environment, education, sport, emergency services and community welfare. The former definition was more rigid and less inclusive, but in many ways made it easier to measure the numbers of volunteers, impact of their efforts, and best way to plan for the future.
In Australia, we know that 5.8 million people volunteer in formal roles in not-for-profit organisations. But it is fair to say that this is just the tip of the iceberg, with millions more contributing outside of the formal not-for-profit setting, or not using the label “volunteer” to describe the very important contributions they make in a more informal way.
The volunteering movement in its entirety makes an enormous social, cultural and economic contribution to this country, and we need to take this contribution seriously by ensuring that we comprehensively measure its impact.
Intrinsic to the sustainability and viability of the sector long-term is strategic planning and a considered, marked investment. Volunteering is woven into every sector of our community, and should be a part of every conversation about workforce planning, community cohesion and preventative health.
Volunteering Australia was delighted that Minister Porter, former department of social services minister, endorsed the development of a National Volunteering Strategy last year. A National Strategy will provide a nationally consistent approach to volunteering, a strategic direction for the sector, and address a range of challenges and opportunities. We look forward to working with all tiers of government, as well as the community and business sectors to progressing this important blueprint for the future.
Nationally there is a growing demand for volunteers, and this is tied with a national decrease in formal volunteer participation. The infrastructure that enables effective volunteering is now more important than ever before.
Currently, the sector is undergoing a national review of the Volunteer Management Program (VMP). Organisations funded under this program help to grow a culture of giving by making it easy for people to volunteer, and assisting organisations to find and support their volunteer workforce. The outcome of the national review of the VMP is expected to have a significant impact on the sector, staff and the delivery of important services across the country.
The Australian government is submitting its first Voluntary National Review (VNR) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) this year. Volunteers are indispensable to achieving the goals of the SDGs, and advancing the transformation that is required for the SDGs to take root in the community. Volunteer Involving Organisations are contributing locally, but having a global impact on progressing all 17 goals.
As civil society faces a critical juncture with the proposals to limit issues-based advocacy, the volunteering sector also faces a testing time in 2018. However, Volunteering Australia is ready to meet them through our continued advocacy work and collaborations with our sector partners and civil society stakeholders.
About the author: Adrienne Picone is the CEO Volunteering Australia.