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Wednesday, April 10, 2024

What’s happening to our volunteers?

How many hours a week reckon our district volunteers clock up altogether? Bloody hell, I couldn’t even begin to tally it, mate. You’ve got hundreds of folks chipping in hundreds of hours, all so the rest of us can kick back and enjoy our sports, hobbies, and events. None of ’em get a cent for it, and many of ’em give up their family time for the sake of the community.

I might stir the pot a bit here, but as someone who’s been volunteering in this neck of the woods for 30 years and hasn’t taken a backseat in anything my kids or I have been involved in, I’ve seen the decline of the good old volunteer. The workload’s still there, but the number of people putting in the hard yards has dwindled. That means fewer folks are carrying the load, leading to burnout and resentment, and some clubs, groups, and events are running like a busted wheel.

I’ve got serious worries about the future of our groups and the wellbeing of our volunteers as the demands keep piling up and fewer hands are going up to help out.

Earlier this month, The Bridge hosted a little powwow with reps from local community groups and events. I wasn’t sure what kind of response I’d get, but turns out, everyone’s singing from the same songbook, and this gathering could’ve easily been a full-blown shindig.

Here’s the lowdown on what the crew had to say. While these quotes are from a handful of the local legends, they pretty much sum up what’s happening across the board.

Age Range and Volunteer Issues:

Most of the volunteers are 40 or older, with some groups only having senior citizens onboard. The older crew struggle with the physical grind.

Getting helpers on the day of an event ain’t too tough, but finding volunteers to help with the organizing? Bloody impossible.

No new blood’s stepping up.

The same old faces are doing all the heavy lifting.

Young people are flat out with other stuff.

The workload’s scaring people off.

We’ve tried dropping some tasks, but there’s no one to pick ’em up.

Rostered volunteers are no-shows.

Why We Love Volunteering and Keep Coming Back for More:

People saying they had a ripper time at an event and giving us a pat on the back.

Chewing the fat with mates.

Giving back to the community.

Getting a kick out of working with kids.

Seeing everything come together on event day and hearing folks say they had a cracker of a day.

Being part of a long line of family tradition.

Making mates and getting to know new faces.

Keeping busy with something worthwhile.

Learning new skills, like being the secretary or treasurer.

Seeing kids achieve stuff and watching them grow into legends.

Having a chinwag at meetings and bouncing ideas around.

Feeling like you’ve got a purpose, especially if you’re new in town.

Feedback from New Volunteers and Why They Might Not Stick Around:

Joining fees are a bit steep.

Their interests have changed, and they’re onto something else.

Youngsters are flat out with other stuff, so they can’t commit.

Folks these days like to wait and see what happens before they jump in.

Kids bugger off to uni or work elsewhere, leaving us in the lurch.

What We’re Doing to Get More Members Onboard:

Threatened to pull the pin on a century-old event and held a couple of community chinwags. Managed to rope in some fresh faces, but they were mainly folks from other committees.

Looking after any newbies who come along.

Putting up snaps on Facebook to show off what we’re up to.

Throwing a shout for the volunteers at the end of the year.

Having a monthly feed for committee members to get ’em mingling.

Getting newbies to shadow the old hands (but still no luck getting ’em to stick around).

Slashing the joining fee for newbies under the umbrella organization.

Making personal asks.

Threatened to scrap a sport if no one lent a hand. Managed to snag two helpers, so the game’s still on.

Tips for Luring in More Members:

Make sure it’s something people actually give a damn about – can’t expect someone who’s never bowled a ball to sit on the bowls committee.

How do we deal with the times changing? Back in the day, kids played footy in winter and tennis in summer. Now, there’s a gazillion activities all year round, and everyone’s too flat out.

Don’t forget to thank your volunteers.

Give ’em some training and ask what they need.

Make sure newbies don’t get swamped with a mountain of work.

Make sure there’s always a helping hand from other members.

Get newbies involved, especially if they’re new to town.

Offer ’em a mentor.

Just ask ’em straight up.

Getting the Young ‘Uns Involved:

If their folks are volunteering, chances are the kids will chip in too.

Explain they’re picking up some handy life skills (like counting cash and spreadsheet wizardry) that’ll look tops on their resume.

Encourage ’em to get their hands dirty.

Getting More Youngsters on Board:

Keep it relatable to ’em.

Hit up social media platforms they actually use (not just Facebook).

Tell ’em it’ll get ’em out of the house and give ’em something to do besides staring at their screens.

Stay relevant and be ready to switch things up if needed.

Show ’em they’re valued.

Don’t shoot down their ideas – let ’em run with ’em.

How the Lack of Volunteers Hit Us:

We ended up doing way more than we bargained for.

Plenty of folks showed up on the day of the event, but getting ’em to lend a hand throughout the year? That’s where the real help was needed.

Volunteers copped burnout, had a gutful, and ended up resenting the event they used to love.

Some events got the chop.

Felt like we’d let down the community by not being able to keep a beloved event running and raising funds for the hospital.

What Happens if We Don’t Get More Volunteers:

The older mob can’t keep up with the physical grind.

Might have to merge, but that means losing our identity and connection to the local community.

Could fold up shop in a few years.

Won’t be able to offer as many opportunities to the community.

Can’t even rustle up enough folks for a committee meeting (and that’s against the rules).

Burnout, plain and simple.

While we might not have cracked the code to solving the volunteer shortage, we all agreed that we’re in this together. Folks left the forum with some handy tips for snagging new members, and one group even set up an Instagram account to reach out to the young’uns. Big cheers to everyone who took part, and to those who couldn’t make it, we’re always keen to hear your ideas.

From the outside, folks reckon we’ve got a top-notch community – and they’re right. But behind the scenes, some groups and events are doing it tough. They need your help.

If any of this rings a bell with you or you’ve got some ripper ideas for helping our community groups run smoother than a greased pig, give The Bridge a hoy.

Without you, there’s no us. Volunteers are bloody legends.

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