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How much Australia’s Volunteering Support Services are really worth

Volunteering Australia has found the key challenges Volunteering Support Services are undergoing in the dynamic sector

Volunteering Australia has outlined the challenges and effects of Volunteering Support Services (VSS) across the nation in its new report.

The study found that services accounted for 12.3 million hours of community work in 2017, coming to $447.5 million worth of volunteering. As the demand for services increases, the report also found government contribution has remained static.

Director of Volunteering at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Karl Wilding, said: “In a world where there is unequal access to volunteering opportunities and where myths about volunteering are still perpetuated, our voice is more important than ever.”

In 2017, the Commonwealth invested $5.7 million into Volunteering Support Services. This represents a return of investment of $83 for every dollar.

The Commonwealth funded 52 services in 2017 to support “[…] the delivery of Volunteering Support Services and one-off innovation and collaboration projects to encourage, support and increase participation in volunteering.”

On top of this, the Federal government’s annual contribution of $5.7 million represents 37.9 per cent of the total expenditure for organisations that perform as VSS.

“The volunteering sector is undergoing significant change as the Australian Government reviews the primary model for volunteer management,” the report read.

“This is occurring while there is a national decrease in formal volunteer participation, and an increase in the demand for services that volunteers provide.”

The report outlined the various ways in which the sector is undergoing changes. Relationships with key stakeholders were seen as a future risk.

Specifically, the sector’s main challenges include the lack of community awareness to the role of VSS, attracting and recruiting volunteers, responding to changes in volunteer demographics and expectations, supporting disadvantaged volunteers and support smaller Volunteer Involving Organisations.

“While there has been a push for greater sustainability and self-sufficiency within the volunteering sector to diversify funding and become less reliant on government funding, this is not an easy prospect,” the report identified.

More than 70 per cent of VSS reported delivering training to volunteers was within the scope of their organisation. This accounts for 1,620 training days in 2017 to over 32,900 volunteers and stakeholders for a $12.6 million value.

Survey respondents also noted just under 150 Volunteering Involving Organisations were registered as a VSS in Australia. This number has grown on average by 17 new registrations for each VSS last year and saved on average $9,500 per year.

“There is little understanding of the critical role performed by volunteer managers in the recruitment, induction, training, support and management of volunteers,” the report read.

“This includes the invaluable support provided by volunteer managers or volunteer coordinators to Volunteering Involving Organisations.”

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