50 Key Messages – Volunteer Recruitment and Recognition

Today is the final day of Volunteering Australia’s National Volunteering Conference so we are going to take a look at volunteer recruitment and recognition.

Almost all charities responding to the Giving Australia charity survey had help from volunteers in carrying out their mission in their most recent financial year (93.4%). Charities were most likely to have between 1 and 19 volunteers (46.2%) or 20–99 volunteers (35.2%). Only 12% of charities had 100 or more volunteers.

In terms of the management support provided to volunteers, of the respondent organisations with volunteers, 56.7% had a training program (for 18% this was a formal program, and for 38.7% this was an informal program), 39.3% had position descriptions for volunteers, while only 6.4% had formal contracts for their volunteers. Managers of volunteers were seen by many focus group and interview participants as critical to the success of the organisation but it was challenging to support ad hoc volunteering arrangements while trying to meet the organisation’s need for certainty around the timing and quality of particular outputs of volunteer work. Managers of volunteers, when interviewed felt that there can be a lack of understanding and support for their role perhaps due to it growing organically from an existing role until there are substantial numbers of volunteers.

Some 62.3% of respondents to the charity survey actively recruited volunteers in 2016. Organisation size did not affect the likelihood of volunteer recruitment. Word of mouth was the most common method of recruiting volunteers, but a paid manager/coordinator of volunteers was considered the most useful. Organisations with a manager of volunteers (paid or unpaid) had greater success recruiting volunteers (52.7% quite or extremely successful) than organisations without a manager of volunteers (37.8%).

The top reason respondents to the charity survey did not engage in volunteer recruitment in the past financial year was having no need for extra volunteers. This was followed by not having the staff or volunteer resources to undertake recruitment. Under-resourcing, including due to government grants described as insufficient to meet costs, was also noted as impeding volunteer recruitment efficiency, and inclusiveness.

… it is really hard for under-resourced organisations to be inclusive in their volunteering practices. So we know that there are multicultural communities who embody the principles of volunteering in their everyday life but they don’t connect with the formal volunteering sector because there are no pathways for them to do so, and we find the same thing with people with mental health barriers, people with disabilities and that sort of thing as well, organisations – so 46% of organisations that we surveyed cannot, because of under-resourcing, take on volunteers with barriers.

– Interview, Volunteering peak body, ACT

In terms of volunteer recognition, public acknowledgment of individual volunteers was the most commonly reported way to recognise volunteer contributions (55.7%), followed by a special gathering/celebration or personal written thank you. However, close to 15% of respondents reported that their organisation did not provide any formal recognition to their volunteers.

To read the full reports and factsheets, go to https://www.communitybusinesspartnership.gov.au/about/research-projects/giving-australia-2016/

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