Monday, 16 September 2013

Acts of Leadership: Volunteering

How do we get more people to volunteer for our community organisations?

In New Zealand, we have a population of 4 million, and we have half a million (500,000) volunteers. In Australia, a culture which you would think to be not that dissimilar to New Zealand, there is a population of 20 million and 200,000 volunteers.

How is it that a few thousand miles of ocean could make the difference between a 13% volunteer-base and a 1% base?

Unfortunately, here in New Zealand it appears that volunteer numbers are falling, and it feels like in fairly short order we could be moving more towards the Australian model.

It is certainly getting more and more difficult to get people to put their hands up to help out. One organisation which has been quite robust for a number of years is starting to look shaky, and I don't know quite why or where things have changed.

I feel like I have taken my eye off the ball for a bit too long, and now I have glanced back, the ball has not just left the court, the whole field of play has changed.

I certainly hear a lot of things: there are so many organisations who need volunteers, so everyone is spread too thin; people really are feeling time poor and have enough on their plate without adding something else; volunteer organisations operate at such a manual level potential volunteers are turned off by the pure volume of work it would take to get the organisation up to speed; people change jobs so often that they are always learning new roles, so don't have the spare resource to tackle a volunteer role as well; the requirements of the Incorporated Societies Act mean that the risks outweigh the benefits; volunteer orgs have too much infighting and too little common culture for any change that a single volunteer brings to stick. And there's more where that came from. But to me, it all adds up to excuses.

I am wondering why so many people are making excuses. What has changed in our society for us to do this? I would be very interested to hear what you think.


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