A shift to volunteering in the NFP sector

Friday, August 18, 2017

Australia is a nation of volunteers. According to the latest Census results, almost one in five (19%) Australians volunteer through an organisation or group, which equates to 3.6 million Australians and is an increase of 2% since the 2011 Census. Our Australian Community Trends Report showed that this increases to 1 in 3 (34%) among Australians who give financially to charitable organisations.

There is an increasing desire of Australians to be involved in charitable organisations in an experiential way. This is particularly true among young people, who desire to go on a journey, have a tangible experience and develop a partnership, not just a transactional relationship of donating money and the charity does the work. The ability of an organisation to engage a donor on multiple levels and take them on a journey can increase loyalty and generosity towards the organisation. When Australians give of their time not just their money, there is an increasing sense of partnership and advocacy with the organisation they are engaging with.

Key motivators for volunteering

When it comes to volunteering, responsibility and satisfaction are the key motivators for volunteers with more than half (51%) indicating that they do so because of the feeling they get when they volunteer, or because they feel it is their responsibility to give back to the community (51%). Almost half (49%) are also motivated by their desire to make the world a better place.

Regular Vs. one-off

Australian charitable givers are volunteering more regularely than just a one-off. 61% of respondents indicated that they regularly give of their time, helping out once a month (24%) or at least a few times a year (37%). Two in five (39%) volunteer on a more sporadic basis with one-off activities such as Clean up Australia Day.

Time-poor students and young workers are more commonly participating in once-off activities while the older generations in retirement are more likely to volunteer very regularly for one or more charities. 35% of the Baby Boomers and 40% of Australians from the Builder generation who are charitable givers volunteer regularly for one or more charities. This compares to just 13% of Gen Y and 21% of Gen X. These young generations are more likely to participate in on-off activities instead of regularly volunteering (47% Gen Y and 41% Gen X).

How charities can engage consistent volunteers

The below mind-map shows some of the key strategies not-for-profits can use to engage consistent volunteers.


The challenge recognised by charitable organisations is the time and administration costs incurred with the management of volunteers. Some charities find it challenging to accommodate volunteers within their operations while others rely heavily on volunteers for the execution of their services or programs. Overall, the sector recognises that if it can navigate the challenges, there the countless opportunities for everyday Australians to both give back and have their own lives enriched through voluntary engagement with the not-for-profit sector.


Results are from a nationally representative survey of 1,510 Australians who give financially to charitable organisations at least once per year (80% of the total Australian population), as well as six focus groups and 14 expert interviews. Research conducted in September 2016.

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