With this year's National Volunteer Week just around the corner, community groups and Volunteering Australia are putting the call out for more helping hands. Statistics show that the highest volunteering rates are in the 40 to 50-year-old and 70 to 80-year-old age ranges. These are groups that tend to coincide with people having more spare time, whether it is children growing up and leaving home or retiring from work.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID pandemic, many volunteer forces have suffered significant losses due to health concerns, lack of availability and other influencing factors, which is why Volunteering Australia has launched its online Volunteering Resource Hub. The Hub is available to help anyone who helps manage, lead or co-ordinate volunteer groups and brings together useful, evidence-based and current best practice resources to support effective volunteer management across Australia.
'Re-engaging Volunteers and COVID-19' research undertaken by Volunteering Australia shows 72 per cent of volunteer programs are not fully operational, with 56 per cent of organisations requiring more volunteers and almost 50 per cent struggling to re-engage volunteers or recruit fresh faces.
Volunteering Australia CEO Mark Pearce said it was evident the volunteering sector required extra support if it was to be reinvigorated in the wake of COVID-19. "Volunteers are needed more than ever to ensure economic recovery and social stability," he said.
"Although volunteering is time freely given, enabling volunteering is not free. Volunteers need managers to induct, train, lead, guide, recognise and support them to continue their invaluable contribution to Australian communities, and this Resource Hub will help volunteer leaders carry out this vital work."
The Hub includes over 350 relevant, valuable and accessible resources covering topics such as volunteer support, development, and recognition. Resources on issues pertinent to the current volunteering environment are also included, such as re-engaging volunteers during COVID-19, managing the mental health and wellbeing of volunteers, and recruiting younger volunteers.
Mr Pearce said that the 'Re-engaging Volunteers and COVID-19' research showed some of the barriers that volunteer-involving organisations faced in trying to reinvigorate the sector.
"It is vital for all of us to work together, share our collective knowledge and reimagine how we can better support Australia's diverse, dedicated and invaluable volunteers," he said. "This Resource Hub will be one step towards helping achieve that."
However, for volunteers and volunteer groups, it is not all doom and gloom. Australia's largest annual celebration of volunteers, National Volunteer Week, will run from Monday, May 17 to Sunday, May 23 and celebrate the enormous contribution that almost six million Australian volunteers make each year. The theme for National Volunteer Week in 2021 is "Recognise. Reconnect. Reimagine.", which acknowledges that it is time to:
- RECOGNISE, celebrate and thank volunteers for the vital role they play in our lives. Never has this been more evident than after a year where Australia has dealt with drought, devastating bushfires, floods, and a global pandemic.
- RECONNECT to what is important by giving our time to help others and ourselves.
- REIMAGINE how we better support volunteers and the communities they help.