SOVR Launch Resources
How should I use this report?
You can use this report for many purposes.
We consider this report the key benchmark for volunteering in Victoria. We recommend you reference this report in the first instance when communicating generally about the context of volunteering in Victoria.
These findings can be used when completing grant proposals or developing new services (for example to understand and demonstrate the costs involved in supporting a volunteer workforce).
The findings of this report do not cover every aspect of volunteering. You will likely need to supplement this information with other sources. Note that different sources will give you different rates of volunteering.
You can use this report to reflect on your practices as a leader of volunteers. You can see how the way you lead volunteers compares to other volunteer-involving organisations. The barriers and motivations of volunteers are outlined in this report. You may wish to survey your volunteers to find out more.
I have seen different figures on volunteering rates. Which ones do I trust?
The data collection method used in this report is preferred by the volunteering states and territories peak bodies because it uses the definition of volunteering: “time willingly given for the common good and without financial gain”.
This is an inclusive definition of volunteering which explains why the estimates of volunteering rates are higher in this research than in other sources, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In 2019, we found that 42.1% of Victorians aged 15 and over volunteered either formally or informally in their community. At an average of 18.7 hours per month, these 2.3 million Victorians donated at least 507.7 million hours.
This does not mean that other research sources are “wrong”. Just be aware that you will get different answers if you ask slightly different questions (another way of saying we use different methodologies). For example, fewer people will consider their volunteering to be volunteering if you call it “unpaid work”.
If you use our research and another source, make a note to the reader that you are using different sources with different rates.
I have heard that Duncan Ironmongers work is well regarded. How is this different?
Yes indeed, Ironmonger’s work is well regarded in the volunteering sector. The methodology in this report takes the methods used in that research and builds on it. Extending Duncan Ironmonger’s work on replacement cost (2012), this research looks at both the costs and impacts of volunteering in the State, including a range of previously unpriced metrics.
I live in a regional or rural area and want to know more about volunteering there.
As we collected our data, we ensured that there was a good spread of geographical representation. The methodology of this report aggregates volunteering across Victoria. Meaning the report covers Metropolitan Melbourne, rural and regional Victoria. We collect a large enough data sample so that we can be confident about the findings we make. Due to the size of our data source, we cannot make research findings about smaller populations within the sample and be confident that they are statistically significant. Therefore, we do not publish findings in further detail to maintain the integrity of our findings.
I want to know more about gender, age, income or other attributes.
As we collected our data, we ensured that there was a good mix of these factors included in our sample. Due to the sample size, we do not make inferences about these groups, attributes and factors. We agree that more research should be undertaken to understand volunteering and these kinds of factors. We have included some suggestions in our further research section. We encourage academics, organisations, governments and others to undertake research to contribute more to our understanding.
I want to know specifically about volunteering in conservation, health, arts – my specific sector.
As we collected our data we ensured that there was a good representation of these kinds of sectors. Again, due to the sample size, we do not give findings about particular volunteering sectors. It is worth searching for volunteering research relating to specifically to your sector as there might be research out there.
I am researching the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As stated in the report, we were able to collect information about the early impact of the COVID-19. Appendix D shows a timeline of data collection and the main events taking place at the time.
Other sources of information that may help you include:
“Has limited or no access to technology been identified as a reason for people not volunteering?” (attendee question from report launch).
We listed a number of barriers to volunteering for respondents to select from (26 in total) and we allowed for free text responses. We did not include the barrier of technology on our list and it did not feature in the free text comments. However, this is an important barrier to better understand and will be considered for inclusion in future State of Volunteering Reports (across Australia).
“Thinking of future research, might there be value in working with local government sector to set up mechanisms to gather data at a municipal level?” (attendee question from report launch).
This is an excellent suggestion. There are many sources of information on volunteering, but the big challenge is to obtain information that is consistent and comparable. To produce high quality data, such as via this suggestion, it requires commitment, collaboration and further investments in research. Volunteering Victoria will continue to seek and promote opportunities among organisations, academics and research institutes for further research to support the volunteering sector.
“As a community group we find a considerable disincentive is the amount of red tape and restrictions we have to deal with. Does the report comment on this?” (attendee question from report launch).
The report does cover this kind of barrier but we do not go into further analysis of how it affects individual organisations. It is important to remember, this research collects and reports on the findings for the volunteering sector as a whole. This means you can compare your organisation’s issues with other organisations in the sector. For example, this might not be as great an issue for larger organisations with more staff and resources. Regardless of the overall State of Volunteering, this may still be your greatest issue for you as an organisation.
“When discussing the barriers to volunteering, did the survey include information/responses regarding how barriers were overcome? Were any strategies identified there?” (attendee question from report launch).
This is an excellent question. We asked Victorian resident volunteers and non-volunteers about their barriers and motivations for volunteering, however did not follow up with how they could be overcome. When designing survey research we have to be selective about which questions we ask and not to include too many questions.
We did ask volunteer-involving organisations about the strategies they employ to support their volunteer workforces, see the second section in the report.
However, given that the context of volunteering is so varied and there are many factors at play, we suggest attending training sessions offered by Volunteering Victoria to explore best practice strategies further. Our trainers will assist you and often other attendees in our courses and people in our networks will have solutions to the problems you are facing too.
“Does the report address the issue of professionalisation of the volunteering sector? Such as the need to shift from volunteer to part time paid work? Or certification requirements, as this level of expertise is coming increasingly needed with complex regulations. Another example is the shift to professionalisation in child care, aged care, sport coaches, etc.” (attendee question from report launch).
This is an interesting question to explore further. We do not specifically look into this question but there are many elements of this report that relate to the issue and many of the findings reflect the trend you have identified.
For example, our survey of volunteer-involving organisations asked leaders of volunteers to identify the main issues facing their organisations. The third most common response was: “resources to implement best practice (extra people, more funds, management willingness).”
“Why is the % of informal volunteers so much lower than that reported by ABS?” (attendee question from report launch).
We use different methodology to understand informal volunteering than the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Through the General Social Survey questionnaire, the ABS defines informal volunteering as unpaid help given outside your household. As such, respondents will inevitably include acts of service given to non-cohabiting family, such as parents, adult children, nieces, nephews etc. The May 2017 supplement to VA definition of volunteering (and our instrument) excludes family. This may explain the relative under-reporting of informal volunteering in the SOVR.
It should also be noted that 50.5% of ABS respondents reported “providing any emotional support” as a form of informal volunteering, something not contemplated by our previous survey instruments.
In general, it is helpful to think about the ‘data landscape’ and the variety of data sources on volunteering that are available. The methodology used in the GSS, Census and our State of Volunteering are very different in purpose and method, but all are useful for understanding volunteering.
Our report suggests there is a need for further research to better understand informal volunteering. Given the challenges for volunteerism through the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for volunteering through organisations, the need to understand informal volunteering in our communities has become even more prominent.