Volunteering is in the news. The NSW Flood Inquiry (Aug 2022) just recommended: 

“the State Emergency Management Committee (SEMC) commission a review of volunteerism in NSW… to respond to declining formal volunteerism…”  (Recommendation #6)

And, as if in reply, Volunteering Australia just launched its National Strategy for Volunteering, which concluded:

We need to re-focus on the volunteer experience: Volunteers are increasingly valuing choice and flexibility. They want to engage with opportunities that meet their needs and provide a sense of agency.” (p32)

So, how to reinvent the volunteer experience for an era when everyone has endless options for their precious free time, including watching Netflix and just sleeping?

The answer is to let them focus more on satisfying human needs, like

Recognition. “Wow. Every week they make a special activity for me. They listen to me and have time for me.”

Pleasure. “Every week there’s something enjoyable to look forward to: coffee, cake, nice lunch, games.”

Connection. “I’m always buddied up. I never feel neglected.”

Variety. “Please, not the same thing again.”

And also: Low anxiety. “I never feel overwhelmed. I know what to do and how to do it.”

Being part of something wonderful. “I know the long term vision and my role in achieving it.”

But, HOW to actually DO reinvention?

Luckily we already know how to reinvent experiences:

Give the members permission to imagine their own innovations, of course (in a workshop). And then expect them to adventurously prototype their most promising ideas.

Look at these examples from Landcare: Adventurous Landcare groups have chosen memorable names, like Willow Warriors or Mudcrabs. They’ve added pleasurable activities like Yam Daisy Harvest, Bunny Boiler Challenge, or Big Brew and Bake Off. Some have pivoted their purpose, for example changing to a Bee Care Group. Others have organised buzzworthy new initiatives like Landcare for Singles, BushCare for Kids, or Citizen Science surveys.

The best of them have active social calendars. “Our group’s secret is a history of great social secretaries. Food is the key thing…and we have historic farm walks, sheering shed musicals, beach walks and BBQs.”  – Three Creeks Landcare Group, Victoria

So, decision-makers, don’t scratch your heads, don’t commission more reports: just give your volunteer groups the permission and space to re-imagine themselves to become the kind of group they’d never want to miss a meeting of. You’ll be surprised at what they create!

Image: Courtesy Project Platypus  https://www.platypus.org.au