Benefits of One-on-One Care For Charities Uncovered
8 January 2019 at 4:58 pm
Increasing the one-on-one time between charity volunteers and those in need by just over an hour can reduce the number of times people come back for help by up to 25 per cent, new research shows.
Researchers from University of Queensland (UQ) used over 10 years of data from St Vincent De Paul Society Queensland – showing the number of times someone requested charity, or the organisation went out to help people – and found when volunteers spent an hour and 20 minutes with a person seeking support, rather than the average of 20 minutes, it reduced repeat visits significantly.
“This remarkable evidence, to our knowledge the first of its kind, suggests that the time spent by volunteers with people in need is fundamentally helpful at reducing further requests for charity,” the report said.
UQ Business School Professor Cameron Parsell, one of the authors of the report, told Pro Bono News the longer time spent with people made them feel valued, and formed a connection and relationship that placed them in a better position for the future.
“Those factors of human connection are really important for people being in a better position, and not needing to come back to that charity next month or six weeks later,” Parsell said.
He said social work literature had long shown that social connections and a feeling of connectedness promoted good health outcomes, but the research showed an easy way to achieve that for charities, aside from just material relief or one-off donations.
While the report said there was no way to find – through empirical evidence – what had actually happened to the people who didn’t re-present, Parsell said he was cautiously optimistic that for those who didn’t re-present, a positive change had been made.
“People who re-presented did so because their lives were either worse than the first time, or equally bad,” he said.
“We don’t know for sure that not re-presenting is a good sign, but we we are cautiously optimistic that it’s a very strong indicator that there is positive change.”
The report said researchers were now seeking to address the gap by linking the recipient’s data with national and state services to confirm if people’s income, housing, and other life circumstances had changed.
Parsell encouraged the charity sector to re-think how resources were delivered, and ensure that volunteers were spending actual time with their customers to establish a relationship and form a human connection.
He said this could be done by proxy of delivering material resources, such as connecting people to counselling services, or access to housing.
“We would argue for most people who are reliant on charity often just the one provision of a passive resource is probably not going to do much good in the long run,” he said.
“We need to think about it in a much more sophisticated way… and the personal connection of someone feeling valued and someone’s feeling listened to is a really key component of it.”