The decline in Australia’s volunteer rates has Churches and NFPs searching for
It’s a sad irony that volunteer rates have dropped drastically in the last two years. During a time when Australians depend on the support of their church and charity organisations more than ever, these vital community services are struggling to find the people power they need to operate.
Research commissioned by Volunteering Australia from the Australian National University estimated two-thirds of volunteers (65.9%) stopped volunteering between February and April 2020. While 80% of organisations had stood down volunteers because of COVID-19 restrictions1. While some of the decline in volunteer rates in Australia can be attributed to COVID-19, that’s not entirely to blame.
Over the past decade, the rate of volunteering has been on the decline. Volunteers contributed 596.2 million hours to the community in 2019. That sounds impressive until you learn that it’s a 20% decrease in the total number of volunteering hours from 2014 (743.3 million hours). Volunteering among people aged 18 years and over has declined from 36.2% in 2010 to 28.8% in 2019. Being overworked or rushed for time is cited as the main reason for the decline1.
This has left a lot of church groups and not-for-profits (NFPs) no option but to find innovative ways to make up for the shortfall. Some are using technology to automate systems and others allow some volunteers to work remotely in their free time. Mike Doyle who worked within a large ministry found another clever
“Our church finances were a mess,” he confesses, “No one could understand the reports.” This was causing Mike and his volunteers a lot of stress and taking up way too much of their valuable time. “It was taking 20 staff days a month just to record our transactions,” Mike says. Adding more pressure to the issue, Mike reveals, “The staff were not being paid properly. Liabilities weren’t being recorded properly. We didn’t know if we were insolvent or not. The only real indicator of how we were going was looking at the bank account – and it wasn’t looking good.”
That’s when Mike decided to outsource the financial management to a team of experts. Not only could they complete the financial tasks for the church faster, but with more accuracy than the volunteers who didn’t have experience in bookkeeping and accounting. When choosing a financial service, Mike went with a team that specialises in working with NFPs and churches.
“Benkorp had worked with not-for-profit organisations for decades and have much experience with our particular peculiarities,” he says, “They spent time with us understanding our particular issues and procedures and working with us to create a solution.”
As far as Mike and his team of volunteers is concerned, the changes have literally answered their prayers.
“Now our staff are paid. We know what our liabilities are. The reports reflect the financial reality. We can understand our accounts and know exactly what is happening.”
The transition from doing it themselves and engaging Benkorp was easier than expected too. That’s because Benkorp focuses on setting up Xero and training volunteer and church groups in how to use the software. They also provide bookkeeping and accounting, assurance, and support services specifically for churches and charities.
“Benkorp set up the new system, helped us set up new financial procedures and then trained our staff. It couldn’t be simpler. Managing our finances used to take 20 days a month; now it takes four. Stress across the organisation dropped considerably and the church office (has) almost become a place people would want to work!”
Mike is thrilled with the results, which have allowed he and his volunteers to focus on what they do best, serving the Lord. “If you haven’t gotten Benkorp to set you up, you’re not only wasting time and money but stopping people from doing ministry,” he says, “Let the experts work out the money stuff. Let the church serve.”
Source 1: Volunteering Australia Key Volunteering Statistics January 2021.
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