From raging bush fires and floods to the busy family soccer games, NSW volunteers have been supporting their communities through it all.
However, the continuing impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in a staggering one in three not returning to formal volunteering roles.
“In normal times – if we have them anymore – we know there are around six million volunteers across NSW. But over the Covid period, we have seen a marked decline in formal volunteering, with about a third of volunteers not returning [after the extended lockdowns],” told Gemma Rygate, CEO of The Centre for Volunteering.
There are numerous barriers preventing people from volunteering and to uncover the full impact of these challenges and barriers on NSW volunteers and volunteer involving organisations, The Centre for Volunteering is launching their NSW State of Volunteering survey.
“This is vital research for the volunteering sector, the NSW community, and for all who believe in the value and power of volunteering. It provides a comprehensive evidence base which we can build a better understanding of the value of volunteering, its status in the community, the true cost to our people and the benefits to our state,” said Ms Rygate.
2TM's Monte volunteering at the sausage sizzle stand at the 2022 Bra-B-Q.
Volunteering comes with myriad benefits including keeping people and communities connected and giving one a sense of achievement.
But barriers such as continuing health risks, the cost-of-living crisis and lack of time are stopping volunteers in their tracks.
“The cost-of-living crisis has put an extra burden on people wanting to volunteer, particularly in regional areas because we know there’s not great access to public transport or cheaper means of getting to volunteering activities,” continued Ms Rygate.
“We’ve also seen that people are having trouble finding the time to volunteer for those more formal situations like volunteering in a shop, however, we do think this has led to more informal volunteering, where people just simply help out where they see a need.”
The 2023 State of Volunteering Report for NSW is a follow up to the inaugural 2021 report which identified important issues that organisations were facing, as well as the top three areas of support that were needed.
These included volunteer management, access to funding, and volunteer recognition inside their organisation.
The current report aims to collect the first comprehensive data about volunteering in NSW post-COVID-19, and to engage under-reported areas of the volunteering sector, such as recent migrants and people living with a disability.
“We have a lot of anecdotal evidence, but the research and survey will actually give us the concrete evidence to say what is happening in volunteering and also help us to get people into the areas that need some help at the moment,” explained Ms Rygate.
The inaugural report found volunteering contributes $270B worth of effort to the NSW economy and this number is expected to remain the same in this year’s report.
“We can’t afford to not have that contribution being made and so we really hope that everybody who is involved in volunteering will participate in the survey,” said Ms Rygate.
As for the state of volunteering in NSW as a whole, Ms Rygate is optimistic because unlike the past, this year’s report will be focussing on both formal and informal volunteering roles, saying the number of people getting involved in their communities has been underestimated.
“We’re hoping the results will come back to say the numbers of people volunteering are the same or similar, it’s just they’re doing things differently,” she said.
To participate and for more information, NSW Volunteer Managers and Volunteers can head to: 2023 NSW State of Volunteering Report Survey - The Centre for Volunteering.