How To Keep Your Club Running As Volunteer Rates Drop


If you’re feeling like it’s getting harder to find people to volunteer to help out around your club, it’s not just you. The number of Australians volunteering at clubs and organisations has dropped notably over the past several years, and there’s little evidence that this trend will change in the near future. 

With this in mind, I decided to crunch some numbers and study some trends in how Australians volunteer and how this is changing over time.

How To Keep Your Club Running As Volunteer Rates Drop


After crunching all those numbers and reading all those reports, I've got a bunch of insights and recommendations on how to ensure the longevity of your club, even with changes to the volunteering landscape.

Fewer People Volunteering To Help Clubs Out

The number of people volunteering to help with clubs and associations is falling. It has been falling for a few years now. Volunteering WA reports that the number of volunteers has declined by 22% over the past six years. This tallies with data coming in from all around Australia, too. The NSW Centre For Volunteering reports that 600,000 fewer people in NSW volunteered in 2023 compared to 2020. That is a reduction of 12% in three years, making WA's 22% reduction in six years figure seem pretty accurate for the rest of the country, too. 

I have compared The NSW Centre For Volunteering's reports on volunteering for 2020 and 2023 and noticed significant differences in the data over the past three years. I chose to use NSW data as they have published some excellent statistics over multiple years. Plus, I could not find similar consistent reporting from other Australian states. However, after comparing the NSW statistics to those at the national level and those available from other states, it is evident that the NSW data is representative of the trends occurring throughout Australia.

Basically, the following table uses NSW data. Still, the trends shown in it are happening in your state, so don't just ignore it because it's NSW data. 


NSW data for volunteering


As you can see from the above table, over the last few years, fewer people have been volunteering, the people who are volunteering are volunteering fewer hours, and the number of people who are planning to volunteer more in the future is getting fewer, too. Despite this, the amount of value volunteers are producing is increasing. In fact, in 2020, every $1 invested in volunteers produced $3.30 in return. By 2023, this had grown to $5.50 per $1 invested. 

So, to recap, in the last three years, 600,000 fewer people have volunteered, and 893 million fewer hours are being volunteered in NSW alone. According to Australian Census data, the most common reason given for why people don’t volunteer is “No time (family/work commitments)”, with 52% of respondents putting that as their reason for not volunteering. 

The Centre For Volunteering also shared the three biggest changes in the volunteering landscape over the past few years. Firstly, there has been a decline in the number of people choosing to volunteer. Secondly, among those who do volunteer, there has been a decrease in the number of hours they contribute. Finally, volunteers need more training to carry out their tasks effectively.

Chnages to volunteering


Long story short, volunteers are incredibly valuable to clubs and associations. They are only getting more valuable as time goes on. Despite this, fewer people are volunteering, and the ones who are have less time to give. So, ensuring that your club is appealing to volunteers and efficient with volunteers' time is critical. 

Before we move on to what demographic of people are volunteering and how to keep volunteers and get the most out of their time, I want to mention one final part of the report. 

The 2020 report from The Centre For Volunteering reported that 69.1% of organisations thought they would have the same if not more volunteers in three years. Since then, 600,000 people have stopped volunteering, so many clubs that thought they would need the same if not more volunteers have had to find out how to survive without them. 

It means that whether it feels like it or not, losing volunteers is likely a problem you will face sooner or later. 

Who Is Actually Volunteering At Clubs

Before we talk about how to keep volunteers at your club and make the best use of their time, let's look at how volunteers are volunteering. The hope is that it's easier to attract new volunteers if you know who you're targeting. 

According to the 2021 census, the largest age group of volunteers is between 40 and 54. The second largest group was 70 and over. You can see a graph from the Australian Bureau of Statistics below outlining this age breakdown. 


Volunteering At Clubs


Smarter, more anthropological minds than mine could probably have a field day examining why higher percentages of the 40 - 54 and 70-plus age groups volunteer than the 55-69 age group. Unfortunately, the ABS didn't provide any insights into this interesting trend, and it doesn't really matter. 

What matters is that many people between 40 and 54 are volunteering. This is probably because, depending on when they had kids, they have either just become empty nesters or their kids are old enough not to need the constant supervision they need when they are really young, and their brains haven't quite formed yet. 

How To Keep Your Club Running As Volunteer Rates Drop


The point is that the demographic you're likely targeting when trying to get more volunteers to your club will be people 40 and over, who presumably are looking to enjoy their newfound freedom a bit and are happy to help out if they can. They are likely still working full or part-time, and as older Millennials and younger Gen X are quite tech-savvy. They are unlikely to have the time or inclination to spend hours doing things with tedious and outdated systems. 

There's no denying that you likely will still have plenty of 70-plus volunteers because they are retired, their grandkids are grown, and they have more time on their hands. 

It's also worth noting that plenty of young volunteers are still out there, and you certainly shouldn't turn your nose up at their help. According to The Centre For Volunteering, 39.9% of NSW clubs have volunteers younger than 25. 

How To Improve Volunteer Retention At Your Club

So volunteers are crucial to your club's success, add a huge amount of value and are only adding more as time goes on. Despite that, fewer people are volunteering fewer hours. So, recruiting volunteers, retaining the ones you have and using their limited time as efficiently as possible should be your number one priority. 

Having looked through all the reports and census data on the state of volunteering, there are some straightforward recommendations that we need to start with. The keys to keeping your club's volunteers include: 

  • Build personal relationships with your volunteers
  • Automate as many of your club's processes as possible 
  • Ensure your volunteers are properly trained
  • More flexible volunteering 
  • Recruit younger volunteers
  • Make your club's system more efficient
  • Have awards and recognition to celebrate your volunteers


Keep your club volunters


Making The Most Out Of Volunteers' Time To Help Increase Volunteer Retention 

If you have fewer volunteers or they are only available for a limited number of hours, it is essential to use their time as effectively as possible. One solution to this problem is to use a digital system that streamlines a lot of the processes involved in running your club. If the processes involved in running your club are quicker and easier, the tasks of your volunteers will be less demanding and will require less time to complete. 

This means your volunteers will be much less overworked, will be able to get more done with their time, and will be less likely to stop volunteering. 

The main type of digital system that can help you achieve this is a membership management system. Membership management software is designed to help clubs, associations and volunteer-run organisations by streamlining operations and reducing the workload of volunteers and admins alike. 

Membership management software is able to save your club time and money, streamline operations, and offer more flexibility. While I won't go deep into the specifics of membership management systems, I can describe briefly how they can help with the above issues.

If you have fewer volunteers, a membership management system can reduce the amount of work needed, making it manageable even with a reduced workforce.

If your volunteers can only work for a few hours per week, using software like this can speed up operations, allowing your volunteers to complete their tasks in a shorter amount of time.

A membership management system allows volunteers to perform tasks such as membership renewals, event planning, and more from their phones or laptops while sitting comfortably at home. As people become increasingly busy, allowing them to volunteer remotely can have a big impact. 

If you want to know more about how membership management software can help, look at What Is Membership Management Software For Nonprofits? - All Your Questions Answered.

Invest In Training For Your Volunteers 

One of the big findings from all of the reports on the state of volunteering is that volunteers need more training. They need more training on what they need to do and how to use the systems and technology in use at your organisation. No one likes to be thrown in the deep end, especially not when they are only volunteering to help. 

So, ensure all of your volunteers have enough training and feel comfortable in their ability to do what you are asking of them. If you do choose to use membership management software with your organisation, the vast majority of them will provide you with free or paid training to help ensure everyone knows everything they need to know.  

Whether you use the most state-of-the-art digital system or the classic pen and paper, ensuring your volunteers are properly trained and comfortable with the job at hand is crucial to keeping them around long term. 

Show Your Volunteers How Much They Mean To You

Membership management software is great for fixing some of the issues with declining volunteer numbers, but don't forget the heart of any club is the connections, friendships and shared passions. Your volunteers aren't just your employees; they're friends who generously give their time. 

You should show them how much you appreciate them. Nominate them for awards from organisations like the Centre for Volunteering, celebrate them within the club, and give them a shout-out during National Volunteers Week (20-26 May 2024). Make sure to go above and beyond to show some love to the people who go out of their way for your club.

What are your next steps to ensure your club survives despite dropping volunteer rates?

I hope this has proved helpful to you and that you now know a lot more about the changing volunteer landscape and what you can do to ensure it doesn't hurt your club. 

If you are looking for more information on what membership management systems are and if they are right for your club, why not read What is Membership Management Software? 

If you want to look at even more ways to prepare your club for this ever-changing world, look at How To Future Proof Your Club.

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