Volunteers are the lifeblood of emergency services in Australia, and are integral to the nation’s emergency management capabilities and overall disaster resilience. The concurrence of an increase in the risks posed by a range of climate change-related natural hazards and a decline in formal volunteering rates threatens Australia’s emergency preparedness.
The Valuing Volunteers Study aims to provide a better understanding of the primary motives for formal volunteering in Australian emergency services, and the broader contemporary influences on such important civic participation. The research aims to generate evidence-based outputs that inform policies and practices, with the ultimate goal of maximising the retention of emergency service volunteers.
The research applied the Schwartz Theory of Basic Human Values and associated Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ-40) survey to determine the shared and contrasting values of a large State-wide emergency service volunteer workforce. The research revealed statistically significant variations in values preferences within the existing emergency service volunteer workforce by gender and generation, with females expressing a stronger preference for altruistic (other-oriented) values, and males and younger volunteers expressing a stronger preference for egoistic (self-oriented) values.
The research affirmed the crucial role of values as primary motives for emergency service volunteering, and the values differences revealed by this research have important implications for how the divergent values needs of distinct sections of the volunteer workforce can be acknowledged and accommodated. Values are powerful motivators, and shared values can reinforce volunteer commitment and retention, while conflicting values can contribute to volunteer turnover. Satisfying and managing the different values needs of an increasingly diverse volunteer workforce will require a more nuanced and responsive approach, with a greater emphasis on building an organisational culture founded on the values of encouragement, respect and inclusion.