The value of Volunteering Support Services

22 Jun 2018

This report provides a socio-economic analysis and evaluation of the value of Commonwealth-funded Volunteering Support Services. This includes establishing a baseline range of operational indicators and the value Volunteering Support Services deliver to the community, Commonwealth and other stakeholders.

Place-based services, such as Volunteering Support Services, provide the critical infrastructure required for safe, effective and sustainable volunteering. They are responsible for the promotion, resourcing and support of volunteering in local communities, and assist thousands of organisations across the country to recruit, retain and manage their volunteers. Volunteering Support Services promote, resource and support volunteering in local communities across Australia. They provide infrastructure in communities to lead, enable and build capacity to recruit, develop and retain volunteers in a wide variety of organisations and services, for example, from the human services and community sector, to environmental, animal welfare and sporting groups.

To capture the value of Volunteering Support Services, two surveys and a Census were distributed to Volunteering Support Services themselves, as well as to Volunteer Involving Organisations and volunteers engaged by Volunteering Support Services. The report outlines that the analysis conducted has its limitations, and notes that not all Commonwealth-funded Volunteering Support Services appeared to respond, and some responding organisations reported receiving no Commonwealth funds. The limitations of convenience sampling methodology are also highlighted, with the responses only representative of a selection of the broader volunteering population or users of Volunteering Support Services.

Methods of analysis include a demographic overview, an analysis on the impact of Volunteering Support Services on volunteers, the socio-economic impact of these services in the wider Australian community, the value they present, interpreted through the use value and contingent valuation methodologies. All calculations utilised can be found in the methodology found on page nine.

The results of the data analysed show that in 2017, the Commonwealth funded 52 Volunteering Support Services through the Volunteer Management Program. The purpose of the program is to support “…the delivery of Volunteering Support Services and one-off innovation and collaboration projects to encourage, support and increase participation in volunteering.” Further, in 2018, 52 Volunteering Support Services will deliver 70 programs across each State and Territory across Australia.

Volunteering Support Services enabled nearly 12.3 million volunteer hours in 2017. This volunteering is worth $477.5 million, and would not have occurred without the engagement of Volunteering Support Services. It is noteworthy to highlight that Volunteering Support Services would not exist without the $5.7 million investment from the Commonwealth. This represents a return on investment of $83 for every dollar invested by the Commonwealth.

The analysis outlined in this report provides evidence that despite an increasing demand for the services of Volunteering Support Services, government contribution has remained static.

The challenge for Volunteering Support Services will be to demonstrate the collective contribution they make to the wider community. For example, it is essential to consider the economic and social contributions of Volunteering Support Services, and their role in building social capital, community cohesion, and in the delivery of long-term and agile service provision.

In doing so, Volunteering Support Services will not only be better positioned to communicate the broad and often understated extent to which they advance community well-being and economic growth, but can also take internal stock of their stakeholder ecosystem and make better informed decisions about their operational conduct and strategic intent.

This report outlines the challenges for Volunteering Support Services in respect to short-term funding, increasing costs and overheads, staffing capacity and retention, and increasing demand for services. This includes recommendations to consider the benefits of appropriately resourcing and investing in these organisations to not only ensure their longterm sustainability, viability and success, but their value for the broader Australian community. It also highlights that there should be adequate consideration and allowance of the value of Volunteering Support Services in government policy and planning to guarantee the best possible outcomes.

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