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Who does the unpaid work?

Who does the unpaid work?

New research provides a profile of a group of largely unsung heroes – volunteers.

What motivates New Zealanders to volunteer and how to recruit and retain them was the basis of research by Jan Charbonneau and Mike Brennan from Massey University and Andrew Hercus from the Christchurch College of Education.

According to Volunteering New Zealand, more than a million New Zealanders actively volunteer in the 60,000-plus organisations that make up the community and voluntary sector.

The research included a confidential mail survey that attracted responses from more than 1700 volunteers in four charities and six sporting organisations from Wellington and Christchurch. The overall response rate was 56 per cent.

Two very different profiles emerged when the data was analysed. “The typical charity volunteer was female, aged 56 plus, retired, earning $20,000 per year, with no children at home,” says Jan Charbonneau. “The typical sporting volunteer was male, aged 36 to 55, employed full time and earning over $50,000 per year, with an average of three children at home.”

Although the profiles were different, their volunteering histories, what motivates them to volunteer and satisfaction with current volunteering were quite similar. “Overall, the average length of service was 8.5 years with more than 80 per cent volunteering on a regular basis. Almost 70 per cent volunteered for other organisations, be they other charities or sporting organisations or schools, clubs and special interest groups. “

Both charity and sport volunteers expressed similar reasons for doing volunteer work: Values and Understanding. Values refer to showing concern for others and causes important to individuals personally. Understanding refers to the desire for self-development and new learning experiences.

Jan Charbonneau says this is an interesting result: “The Values category focuses on doing something for other people, while Understanding focuses on doing something for themselves.”

The study looked at whether increased training, responsibility and out of pocket costs, as well as the risk of liability, would stop volunteers from taking on certain roles or result in their reducing their volunteer hours. “Overall, these issues are not likely to deter future volunteering which is a positive result for volunteer organisations.” says Jan Charbonneau.

The study also looked at how satisfied volunteers were with their current organisations. Overall and not unexpectedly, those surveyed expressed satisfaction with their organisations and their experiences as volunteers. “Two areas that would benefit from increased attention by volunteer coordinators are interactions with paid staff and recognition of individual volunteers when they do a good job.”

In terms of recruiting, being invited by someone in the organisation worked well for charities. “Most sporting volunteers were active participants, either themselves or their families,” says Jan Charbonneau. “For recruiting younger volunteers, there were some interesting suggestions, from offering incentives such as reduced playing fees to approaching corporations to allow junior staff time off to volunteer. The most common suggestion was also the simplest: ask them and then make them feel welcome!”


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