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What is the state of volunteering?

Volunteering Australia recently launched the State of Volunteering in Australia report. To mark National Volunteer Week we look at some of reported findings…

Volunteers make an important contribution to our community. Over 5 million Australians aged over 15 years formally volunteered in 2014. Given this figure does not include informal volunteering the total is almost certainly a lot higher (1).

In April 2016, Volunteering Australia launched the latest in their State of Volunteering in Australia reports. Compiled by Volunteering Australia with support from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the report contains findings from a national survey of volunteers, volunteer involving organisations and corporate organisations. The report details trends, demographics, challenges and successes in the volunteering sector.

Although the data is not specified arts and cultural, it does provide valuable information on issues and trends in volunteering as well as new data regarding benefits of volunteers to individuals and organisations.

Some of findings of the report include: 

Volunteers benefit organisations

Over 65 per cent of volunteer involving organisations stated that volunteers bring new insights into their organisations (67%). Over 60 per cent also believed that volunteers improve the effectiveness and volume of operations (64% and 62% respectively)

Organisations need more volunteers

Some 86 per cent of volunteer involving organisations reported they are struggling to recruit volunteers. Lack of financial resources, finding suitable candidates and time constraints were frequently cited as inhibiting the organisation’s ability to engage volunteers.

Benefits to the individual

Volunteering can have real impacts on individuals. Most people indicated they volunteered to give something back to their community. Benefits to the volunteer included: development of personal skills (87%), development of new relationships (87%) and enhanced professional skills (77%). The most improved skill noted by volunteers was patience (60%) followed by teamwork (55%).

Why aren’t people volunteering?

Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests there has been a decline in formal volunteering over the past five years. Reasons provided in the report for not volunteering or stopping future volunteering included:
•    lack of flexibility in some volunteer roles
•    burden of out of pocket expenses
•    onerous administrative requirements.

Volunteers also indicated that often volunteer involving organisation do not respond fast enough to potential volunteers.  Respondents also indicated there is disconnect between the volunteering roles that people are interested in and the roles that organisations are offering. 

Informal volunteering is prevalent but support is required

In 2015, informal volunteering was recognised as a form of volunteering and was investigated for the first time in the report.

Informal volunteering is defined as ‘time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain, taking place outside the context of a formal organisation.‘ This might include: taking care of someone, mentoring or teaching and assisting sports clubs and teams

Although, 46 per cent of respondents had informally volunteering during the period, a third would like support to find opportunities.  To encourage more informal volunteering opportunities respondents suggest the development of a technological platform to help people connect 


For more data about volunteering including specific arts and cultural data see our Value Volunteering post.

For resources to help with volunteering in your organisation see our recent news story Making the most of volunteering.

(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4159.0 – General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2014, 17 September 2015.


Image: Freeimages/Rajibul Hasan