Just as many industries within Australia are facing skills shortages, the NFP sector is also facing a volunteer shortage, according to SEEK Volunteer’s 2023 Volunteer Report
SEEK Volunteer are vocal advocates for the personal and professional enrichment that comes from volunteering. In this increasingly tough economic environment, it is understandable these opportunities are often casualties of the times. For organisations relying on volunteers, times are also tough, so they may need to adjust their volunteer model to meet volunteers in the middle.
Trends in opportunities and volunteer applications
In the year to July 2023, 25,700 opportunities were advertised on SEEK Volunteer, a 7% rise from the year prior. Opportunities had also grown 3% in the year before that as Australians emerged from lockdowns and organisations returned to more normalised operations.
The most common causes requiring volunteers are Community Services, Seniors & Aged Care, and Education & Training, followed closely by Health, Young People, and Disability Services. These sectors represent a significant portion of volunteer opportunities and have for some time been the most commonly advertised on SEEK Volunteer.
However, while opportunities have grown, and visitation to SEEK Volunteer increasing year-on-year, this is not translating to a rise in applications. Volunteer applications declined by 3% in the year to July, following a substantial 25% decrease in the prior 12 months.
This is not a trend unique to Australia and reflects the economic and social constraints being felt across the globe. Volunteering rates tend to fall in line with declining unemployment rates, and with Australia’s unemployment rate at record-lows, more Australians find themselves in full-employment, and with less time on their hands. As time commitments and financial constraints intensify, capacity to give back naturally declines.
And yet, despite the tough economy, the benefits of volunteering should not be overlooked. Volunteering offers an opportunity to acquire new skills, enhances personal development, and looks impressive on any resume. It’s also a powerful tool for improving mental health. Stepping away from daily routines and engaging in volunteer work can significantly enhance personal wellbeing, while also contributing to the betterment of others and the community.
Bridging the demand and supply gap
With volunteer applications slowing, attracting and retaining volunteers is becoming increasingly important, and just as the approach to workplace flexibility has changed, so too does the volunteer model need to adapt.
In the past year, 74% of opportunities required a minimum commitment of six months. Although this percentage has decreased from the previous year (78%), it still doesn’t align with the short-term, flexible commitments many prospective volunteers seek.
Our research shows volunteers are more than twice as likely to apply for one-off volunteering opportunities compared to longer-term commitments. Opportunities requiring only a few hours of commitment receive an average of over three applications per opportunity, whereas those looking for a six-month or more commitment receive less than one application per opportunity.
Additionally, only 12% of opportunities posted in the past year could be undertaken virtually or remotely, a decrease from 16% in the previous year. In the new world of hybrid and flexible workplaces, organisations that can provide opportunities to volunteer from home would undoubtedly gain significant volunteer interest.
Refreshing the volunteer model
Of course, this all sounds logical on paper, but given most causes requiring volunteers are those within Health and Human Services, some volunteering simply cannot be managed remotely.
Roles like providing care, assisted driving, and education for disadvantaged communities are naturally in-person activities. And while commercial businesses may have been able to transition into hybrid and remote working practices during the pandemic, many organisations within the Community and NFP sector are without the means to upgrade processes so quickly.
In the short term, SEEK Volunteer recommends organisations look at how flexible volunteering might work for you, even as one-off experiences. Our research shows once new volunteers have one experience with a given organisation, 50% of those volunteers are more likely to develop an ongoing relationship with that organisation. So, it pays to get volunteers through the door.
This may require additional resources and streamlining onboarding processes. Some organisations are doing it currently and managing well, dividing tasks into offline and online opportunities to provide a mix of both in-person and remote opportunities. Others have removed any kind of long-term commitment requirement altogether. These organisations are not only thriving but seeing volunteers return time and time again.
If your organisation is interested in refreshing your model to attract more volunteers but don’t know where to start, we encourage you to get in touch with us at SEEK Volunteer or head to our site where we have a suite of tips and tricks to help you attract, retain and thrive in the current climate.
SEEK Volunteer is one of Australia’s largest free online source of volunteer opportunities and is the preferred destination for those who want to volunteer. Visit volunteer.com.au for more information about SEEK Volunteer and to read the 2023 SEEK Volunteer Report.
Rebecca Miller has been Head of SEEK Volunteer for 6 years. With a diverse background working in the sports industry, local council and ASX listed companies, Rebecca is passionate about helping businesses have a positive social impact. Through her role at SEEK Volunteer, she is motivated by the valuable role volunteers play in the community and the mutual benefits individuals can get from volunteering including improvements to wellbeing and useful career experience.