Report shines a light on volunteering in the Sunshine State

Posted on 07 May 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia


The number of people volunteering in Queensland fell 10% in 2022–2023, according to a new report.

The study commissioned by Volunteering Queensland also revealed that out-of-pocket costs to volunteers tripled over the same period.

In a positive sign for the future, however, 30 per cent of Queenslanders said they wanted to volunteer their time more often, according to the State of Volunteering in Queensland 2024 Report.

The study came as Volunteering Australia announced it had established a Coalition of Support comprising organisations dedicated to helping implement the 10-year National Strategy for Volunteering.

Organisations who have signed up to the coalition include The Smith Family, Food Bank, the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), Philanthropy Australia, the Community Council for Australia and Our Community.

The announcement of the Coalition and the release of the Queensland report came ahead of the start of National Volunteer Week on May 20.

The authors of the Queensland report said the study had three key objectives:

  1. to quantify the economic and social value of volunteering in the state
  2. to provide insights into the characteristics and challenges of volunteers, volunteer managers and organisations that utilise volunteers
  3. to advance evidence-based data to help inform effective stakeholder decision making in relation to volunteering.

The report found that if Queenslanders who wanted to volunteer were better supported, an extra $10 billion in benefits would be generated for the state over the next three years.

Other key findings included:

  • an estimated 64% of Queenslanders (2.3 million people) volunteered in 2022–23
  • the economic value of volunteering in Queensland was estimated at more than $117 billion in the 2022–23 financial year
  • the average cost for a person to volunteer tripled from $4.76 per hour in 2020 to $15.57 per hour in 2022-23
  • every $1 invested in volunteering produced an economic return of $4.70.
Qld volunteering graphic
“Ultimately, the cost-benefit analysis reveals that the external benefits of volunteering far outweigh the social costs, making the activity economically efficient."

Volunteering Queensland said the report was anchored by a robust cost-benefit analysis that quantified the economic and social value that volunteering delivers to the state.

“The principal finding reveals that the benefits of volunteering significantly outweigh the costs, resulting in a substantial return that enriches the whole community.”

The report identified several key barriers to volunteering including restrictions on people’s time and the rising cost of living.

Almost a quarter (23%) of those surveyed who did not volunteer said they had never been asked or were unsure how to volunteer.

On a positive note, the average amount of money that volunteers were reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses increased from 11.4% in 2020 to 21% in 2022–23.

“This is a significant and important increase as the cost of volunteering was cited as a major barrier for Queenslanders wanting to volunteer,” the report said.

The decline in volunteer numbers and volunteer hours in Queensland was found to be consistent with patterns in the rest of Australia.

However, the report found Queenslanders’ contribution was still significant, with the state’s residents contributing more than 719,000,000 hours of their own time, volunteering an average five hours a week during the survey period.

The report pointed out that while volunteering is not done for financial gain, the economic value of volunteering in Queensland was estimated to be more than $117 billion in 2022–23.

This included the $31.3 billion it would cost to replace volunteers with paid labour.

The top three barriers to volunteering more included no time (41.8%), cost (14.5%) and health reasons (13.1%).

More than half (56.6%) of people discovered volunteer roles through word of mouth, over a third found them on social media (37.9%) and almost a quarter (24%) used internet searches.

The report explored the views of volunteer managers as well as volunteers themselves.

Managers identified the decrease in volunteer hours, undertrained volunteers and fewer people wanting to volunteer as their top three challenges.

More than 38.4% of managers said they believed burnout was one of the key barriers to volunteering.

The release of the report was accompanied by a detailed advocacy plan outlining initiatives designed to strengthen and grow volunteering in Queensland.

Key elements include:

  • increasing inclusion, diversity and access

• providing pathways to increase inclusion, diversity and accessibility of volunteering experiences and programs

• addressing cost barriers to volunteering

  • engaging the next generation of volunteers

• engaging more young people in volunteering

• ensuring there is alignment in volunteering opportunities and the way young people are wanting to volunteer

  • enabling a positive volunteer experience

• supporting volunteer managers to optimise volunteer recruitment and retention

• enhancing training and knowledge sharing opportunities around the state.

Qld volunteering report infographic

The report concluded that the scale and impact of volunteering in Queensland had been historically undervalued and under-recognised.

“An annual return of 470% on every $1 invested would set off a financial frenzy if it were tied to a commercial investment.”

The report also noted that while almost two-thirds of Queenslanders volunteer in some form – a figure significantly higher than official government estimates – there is room for further growth.

“From an economic standpoint, this report challenges the traditional view that the value of volunteering is merely the minimum-wage replacement cost of its labour. Rather, volunteering has a much broader economic impact, affecting almost every activity in the State.

“Ultimately, the cost-benefit analysis reveals that the external benefits of volunteering far outweigh the social costs, making the activity economically efficient. Moreover, it indicates that increased investment in volunteering could produce exponential returns.”

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