Value in Volunteering

Volunteering is a great thing to do for your community. Many organisations that do great things for society are built on volunteers. These organisation cover all sorts of sectors: from aged care and disabilities, education, sport and recreation to the environment. All these organisations and their volunteers are valuable.

Australians are generous with their time and support. On average, we volunteer 86.5 hours a year and there are 5.8 million of us who volunteer (Volunteering Australia, 2017). That works out as 501 million hours/year, at a value of $290 billion (Volunteering Australia, 2017)!

Many people find volunteer opportunities through organisations with 29% of Australians doing so (“General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2019”, 2020). More use informal volunteering with 33% (“General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2019”, 2020) and even more 52%, provide unpaid work and support (“General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2019”, 2020).

Figure 1 shows the difference between the rates of volunteering through an organisation and those providing unpaid work. Unpaid work is support or help given to members of the community that is not done through an organisation, club or association (“General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia methodology, 2019,” 2020).  A key part of unpaid work is that it is not done for the worker’s household, but it can be for family members outside the worker’s household. Volunteering is unpaid help given to the community beyond the person’s family and household (“General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia methodology, 2019”, 2020). In 2019, the difference between these rates is larger than previous years and is set to continue to grow with the rates of volunteering through organisations reducing and unpaid work increasing.

 There are many potential reasons why Australians are volunteering less. One is the advent of low wages growth and at least the perception of lower job security (Huntley, 2020) putting a strain on our bank accounts and leading some of us to also have second jobs. The rate of unpaid work is higher (Figure 1) with some Australians caring for family members like grand kids and older relatives (Huntley, 2020). These factors constrain our wealth and time, two major factors that control our ability to volunteer.

Volunteering provides many benefits for the community and for the individual, particularly when done through an organisation. Organisations can provide scale, so your volunteering helps more people. They provide flexibility allowing you to change roles or have time off. For many roles, organisations provide training and help that will benefit you through increased skills. Although unpaid work can provide unique experiences, volunteering organisations provide important support for their volunteers and people who need assistance alike.

If you would like to discover more about the benefits of volunteering, or to start your volunteer journey, check out to find out more.


General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2019. (2020). Retrieved 27 October 2020, from

General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia methodology, 2019. (2020). Retrieved 30 October 2020, from

Huntley, R. (2020). What will happen to Australia if we’re all too busy to volunteer – ABC Life. Retrieved 10 November 2020, from

Volunteering Australia. (2017). The Value of Volunteering Support Services. Canberra.

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