By Zuleyka Zevallos, PhD
Australia’s in the midst of the festive season, the spirit of which is about giving and positive change ahead of a new year. So what does our not-for-profit sector look like? The latest available information by the Australian Census is from 2010. This shows that 38% of adult women aged 18 to 64 years volunteered, which is 4% higher than the rates for men. Volunteering is higher amongst full-time employees than for unemployed people who reported less than half the rate of unpaid community work (24% of unemployed women and 15% men). Unemployed individuals face several social disadvantages that prevent them from volunteering. This includes drawing on volunteer organisations that provide much-needed social services. People in paid employment who volunteer have opportunities to become involved in social causes through their ties to the education system and local community groups.
Half of Australians who volunteer tend to do fundraising sales, but there are some gender differences. Women are more likely to report preparing food, and more men do gardening as well as coaching or judging activities.
Volunteering is a great way for individuals to improve their communities but there are additional benefits, such as increasing networking opportunities. These social ties are incredibly beneficial for paid work. Volunteers feel great about their social contribution. They learn new skills and enhance their communication with broader members of the public. The Australian Bureau of Statistics writes:
Volunteers make a valuable contribution to society in both economic and social terms. Volunteers provide services which would otherwise have to be paid for or left undone, allowing organisations to allocate their often limited finances elsewhere…. Willingly giving time to do work for an organisation or community group on an unpaid basis can be rewarding for individuals, and it can extend and enhance their social networks. For example, volunteering may be the basis of relationships between community members who do not normally associate with one another.
The not-for-profit sector represents $14.6 billion of work to the Australian economy. Workplaces can further grow this social good by contributing a portion of their employees’ work time towards community projects. Incorporating volunteering into paid work programs is a valuable way of ensuring your workplace fulfils its corporate responsibility to society, rather than simply focusing on profits.
Does your workplace have a volunteering program in place? How has this helped your organisation?