The importance of volunteers
Do you have volunteers working in your not for profit organisation or association? Official Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) data from 2021 indicates that “more than half of Australia’s charities are run entirely by volunteers.”
While non-profits employ approximately 1.38 million Australians, it is estimated that around 3.6 million volunteers give their time and skills to charities, community organisations and other not for profit entities.
With such a huge number of people contributing to the success of the sector, we want to shine a spotlight on the importance of volunteers.
What is volunteering?
Volunteering Australia is the national peak body working towards the advancement of volunteering within the country. They define volunteering as “time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain.”
Volunteering covers an extensive range of different activities within society. It can include specific, structured volunteering within an official NFP organisation, association or agency or informal volunteering that is completed without connection to a registered organisation.
Most volunteering is performed by individuals, but businesses can also donate the time and skills of employees and have it recognised as volunteering.
Volunteering Australia also states, “Volunteering is often considered as contributing to community wellbeing and volunteering activities cover all sectors of society, leisure and hobby areas.”
Every single volunteer brings with them a unique set of skills and abilities, and utilising these talents appropriately is one of the most important things an NFP can do.
Sometimes you might just need extra hands to complete a physical project… like a conservation organisation planting trees or undertaking a wildlife survey.
But other times you might need a different set of skills a volunteer can provide – perhaps as a youth mentor in an outreach program, professional coaching in specific business areas or someone to bring a particular expertise to your board.
It’s crucial that you understand what your volunteers can offer and that you put their knowledge to good use. This will help increase their enjoyment and feelings of worth within their volunteer role, as well as being highly beneficial for your organisation.
There’s no doubt that volunteers provide essential financial benefits to NFPs. Without their help, many organisations would simply not have the financial resources to be able to deliver their important services to the community… and our society would be poorer for it.
ACNC’s 2021 report highlighted that “small charities, with annual revenue less than $250,000, made up 65% of the sector, and were more reliant on volunteers than large charities. Large charities were more reliant on paid staff to achieve their charitable purposes.”
This data highlights just how vital volunteers are to the non-profit sector.
If small organisations rely more heavily on unpaid workers and they make up the majority of the sector, then without them there would be a gaping hole in our country’s delivery of social services.
AASB 1058 allows a not for profit entity to value the contribution of volunteers in the accounts – none of AFG’s clients have taken up this option but we are aware that some organisations have done so.
Volunteers also have a significant influence on your organisation’s culture. Your culture is essentially a combination of the shared values, beliefs and behaviours of the core members of the organisation, and it evolves as more people become involved in decision making and problem solving activities.
If your volunteers love what they do and feel fulfilled by their actions, then it will have a positive impact on the overall sentiment within your NFP. However, the reverse is also true. If your volunteers feel as though they are not valued or if they don’t enjoy their tasks then you could be at risk of losing them and potentially damaging your brand and reputation.
Make sure you take the time to plan and supervise the work performed by your volunteers so they can add best value with their time, and of course don’t forget to acknowledge the importance of your volunteers and thank them for their commitment.
Read more Not For Profit Sector articles.