Participants from the IAVE World Youth Conference.

Volunteering is evolving

Participants from the IAVE World Youth Conference.

Participants from the IAVE World Youth Conference.

Australia must recognise that the practice of volunteering is evolving. This is among the findings of the 23rd IAVE World Volunteer Conference hosted last week by Volunteering Australia, the National peak body for volunteering. 1,000 delegates from over 40 countries attended the conference.

“Volunteering models here and overseas are shifting,” said CEO of Volunteering Australia, Brett Williamson OAM.

“One lesson to emerge is that not for profits, corporates and governments must adapt if the next generation is to fill the volunteering shoes of their parents and grandparents. The voices of young volunteers must be heard.”

“That means refreshing the image of volunteering, using new media to engage them and creating opportunities that suit their lifestyle.”

Young Surf Life Saving Australia volunteer at work

Young Surf Life Saving Australia volunteer at work

Traditional perception of volunteering as a long term commitment is fast disappearing, giving way to one-off spur of the moment undertaking. Understanding the motivation behind the new age volunteer will be critical to charting the future of volunteering not only in Australia but globally.

Shoe Boxes of Love in Adelaide is an example of this new way of working.  In 2012 the start-up, not for profit used Facebook and other social media platforms to organise up to 25,000 people to send 10,000 comfort boxes to Queenslanders caught in the floods.  Since then people, including families with young children, increasingly search out Shoe Boxes of Love to help when disaster strikes.

Volunteer organisations that have already heeded the call are transforming their operational models so they are more compatible with today’s fast paced lifestyle. They are also mastering online, social media and other tools to reach younger audiences and shrink distance.

Mr Williamson said a national dialogue on the future of volunteering is needed. Volunteering Australia will work with voluntary organisations, academics and government to frame a new National Volunteering Strategy.