The University of Western Australia is teaming with the Scouts Association to work out how to attract good quality volunteers and also how to keep them.
They plan to research whether pressed-for-time Australians are becoming less altruistic as their lives become busier and their spare time more precious.
It comes at a time UWA is planning a major thank you event for around 650 of its own army of volunteers, the first event of its kind in the University’s history.
Associate Professor Marylene Gagne from UWA’s School of Psychology says her new four-year project could ultimately help government organisations and the not-for-profit (NFP) sector across Australia which rely heavily on a voluntary workforce.
“We’ll examine the effects of human resources practices and theories of motivation and retention and use the resulting data to work out ‘what makes volunteers tick’,” Associate Professor Gagne said.
“Volunteers provide essential health and educational services however NFP’s struggle not only to sign them up but then also to get them to stay – we want to work out why.”
Australian Bureau of Statistic (ABS) figures show volunteering is on the decline. In 2014, 31% of the population volunteered compared to 36% four years ago. The data shows Aussies are increasingly time poor with 45% of woman and 36% of men ‘always rushed’ or ‘often pressed for time’.
Despite the drop in overall numbers, Australians continue to want to support their communities; 5.8 million over the age of 15 years spent 743 million hours last year volunteering across a diverse range of activities.
Executive Manager of Scouts WA Sherry Donaldson says volunteers at scouts are usually parents or grandparents wanting to get involved because their children or grandchildren are enrolled. They receive 12 months training and stay an average of only two years.
“We need to work better at creating an environment that will help us retain volunteers,” she said. “We’ve learnt they don’t want to be involved in ‘the business’ of running scouts, they don’t want to be micro-managed and are frustrated by the amount of compliance required.
“We obviously need to change our recruitment strategies and find out what motivates volunteers and what will entice them to stay and that’s where this study will help.”
The research is funded by the 2015 ARC Linkage Grants Scheme to the tune of $589,847 and as well as WA, will also include Scouts branches in Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.