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How to turn seasonal volunteers into regular helpers

Third Sector spoke to Volunteering Australia CEO, Adrienne Picone, to find out how organisations can find Christmas volunteers, attract them to stay on board past December and encourage lifelong giving commitments

A large number of volunteers are likely to join charities and not-for-profits over the Christmas period, but organisations may see a significant drop-off again come January.

To attract these seasonal volunteers into becoming year-long volunteers, Volunteering Australia suggest that organisations should see to the happiness and the fulfilment of their volunteers, including updating standards and policies around management.

“Research tells us that volunteering makes a difference to people’s happiness,” CEO of Volunteering Australia, Adrienne Picone, told Third Sector.

“If volunteers enjoy working with an organisation and are experiencing the many benefits of volunteering, they are very likely to make an ongoing commitment.”

To first find volunteers willing to contribute their time, Picone suggested advertising any opportunities online, including on the GoVolunteer website. Once the organisation has generated interest, it should evaluate its practice in managing volunteers.

According to the peak body’s National Standards for Volunteer Involvement best-practice guide, organisations can best do this over the Christmas period by meeting and maintaining respectful relationships to ensure an ongoing positive environment for volunteers to practice their giving.

“The Standards provide a sound framework including guidance and benchmarks to help organisations attract, manage and retain volunteers,” Picone said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the most common reason for people to continue volunteering was wanting to help the community. Personal satisfaction and wanting to do something worthwhile were also listed as motivators.

Quality management and the continuous improvement of volunteering guides will see that the organisation has a way of monitoring progress in order to then encourage an ongoing commitment long past the Christmas period.

In some cases, organisations may become overwhelmed with the number of people willing to volunteer their time, leading many to turn them away.

“We know anecdotally that many organisations receive an increase in the number of volunteering enquiries over the holiday season when they have time off from work,” Picone said. “Some organisations are unable to accept all the offers for help they receive, and people can be disappointed when there isn’t a role available.”

To avoid discouraging volunteers from applying in future, Picone suggested that NFPs should direct volunteers to other opportunities in the community.

“Volunteering Australia recommends that charities contact their State and Territory peak body, local Volunteer Resource Centre or direct volunteers to the GoVolunteer website or app to find volunteering opportunities over the Christmas period.

“If someone wants to volunteer and a formal role is not available, we would suggest thinking about volunteering in their local community,” Picone said.

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