Why is Council developing a Volunteer Engagement Strategy?

    Although people have always volunteered, the way in which they have done so is influenced by the current and emerging social and economic fabric of society. A key trend is the transition away from traditional volunteer programs to a focus on the benefit of volunteers in assisting an organisation to achieve its goals and targets. 

    There has been considerable research on the benefits of volunteering for volunteers, including new research on the mental health benefits for individuals of giving their time freely. Additional benefits for volunteers include:

    • enhancing social connection
    • boosting physical health and mental wellbeing
    • assisting with achieving career goals
    • learning new skills
    • updating existing skills
    • improving self-esteem
    • the opportunity for people to do what they love doing

    The benefits for organisations include access to the skills, experience, wisdom and capabilities of volunteers, tapping into diversity, helping promote the organisation’s activities, and accessing new ideas and different mindsets.

    Local communities benefit from volunteering through the enhancement of community connections and the resulting increase in community resilience and social capital. Spontaneous volunteering is also on the rise, as more and more community members choose to assist their communities during one-off emergency events. The experience of COVID-19 has also hastened the use of technology for volunteering.

    Council is fortunate to have a large and dedicated group of volunteers already engaged in volunteering, and recent years have highlighted the critical role volunteers play in our communities. Whether it’s through spontaneous volunteering in response to disasters, stewardship of the local environment or looking after community facilities, volunteers are the backbone of our community. It has become apparent that Council and the community would benefit from a strategy providing a framework to help attract new volunteers and enhance the experience for all volunteers into the future.

    What consultation has been undertaken

    An initial consultation and scoping for the Strategy was undertaken with the Connected Communities Portfolio in February 2020. Following this initial scoping, developing the strategy involved determining who our current volunteers are and what they’ve already told Council. This was done by analysing previous volunteer surveys and identifying common themes, as well as researching best practice for volunteering, including New Zealand’s Student Volunteer Army (SVA).

    A focus group forum was held with some of our current volunteers to understand perceptions on Council’s level of service, seek feedback on the draft goals, and provide information and insights to support Council planning.

    Managers of every Council department were surveyed and participated in a workshop to explore the insights and develop actions. The draft strategy was presented to the Connected Communities Portfolio in May 2021 for feedback and to close the loop from the February 2020 presentation.

    How can I provide feedback on the draft Strategy?

    You can provide feedback on the draft Strategy by completing the online submission form, emailing [email protected](External link) or by sending a submission to Box 1906, Hunter Region Mail Centre, NSW 2310  with the title 'Feedback on draft Lake Activation Strategy'