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Petrol prices make volunteering too expensive in Australia: National survey
05 December 2005

Canberra, Australia: Coinciding with International Volunteer Day, Volunteering Australia, the national peak body for volunteering, has found that a staggering 52 per cent of surveyed organizations say their volunteers plan to stop or reduce their participation, including 11 per cent who have already stopped or changed volunteering, because of increased petrol costs.

The survey, completed in November and representing the experiences of nearly 400,000 volunteers, found that although 84 per cent of respondents felt rising fuel prices will make it harder to volunteer – 49 per cent of volunteers said they will not change their commitment regardless of the costs.

“This survey shows the incredible dedication that Australia’s 6.2 million volunteers have to their communities; and as a nation, it’s important to not only recognise their achievements today, on International Volunteer Day, but 365 days a year,” began Sha Cordingley, CEO Volunteering Australia.

“True volunteer recognition must also provide the tangible support that volunteers need in order to continue their commitment, and this research shows that their needs will change in line with changes in our society,” she continued.

Ms Cordingley said, “Volunteers give 836 million hours of their time each year; and their involvement is the reason our country continues to be a great place to live – their work is irreplaceable”.

However, while 84 per cent of organizations said that volunteers had to use their cars some of the time - only half had a reimbursement policy, and only 1 in 5 volunteers believed their organizations would pay some or all of their out-of-pocket travel expenses.

“We must recognize that while volunteers are very much committed to their work, increasing economic and social pressures, like travel expenses, may cause a decline in volunteering and hurt non-profit organizations and communities in the longer term,” Ms Cordingley said.

Kylee Bates, Deputy CEO of Volunteering Australia added, “Volunteers take part in activities as diverse as fire-fighting and fundraising to the Commonwealth Games, and are essential to maintaining our society both from a social and economic standpoint”.

“While many volunteers and organizations are feeling the pinch of fuel costs already; local meals-on-wheels and transport programmes are starting to really struggle as the costs of providing their service increases,” she said.

Covering the costs of volunteering lies squarely with all levels of government, according to 63 per cent of respondents; while 31 per cent believed it should be the volunteer-involving organization’s responsibility to pay out-of-pocket costs.

Less than 1 in 5 surveyed felt that the costs of volunteering should be borne by the volunteer, while 10 per cent felt the community should pay, and only 6 per cent thought the cost should fall to the private sector.

 “Recent studies have shown that volunteering is on the rise, our research found that the increasing costs associated with volunteering are causing a significant minority of volunteers to rethink their commitment,” Sha Cordingley said.

“The Federal Government has recognized the value of volunteering by contributing millions towards equipment grants, training and preparing our 15,000 Commonwealth Games volunteers; recognising the value of volunteers both socially and economically is part of what International Volunteer Day is all about,” she concluded.

The survey, distributed via email and hard copy, collected over 1,500 responses from individual volunteers, not-for-profit volunteer managers and corporate or employee volunteering managers, representing thousands of volunteers and community programmes.