As part of Volunteering Victoria’s sector advocacy role, we recently surveyed members on their engagement with government and their capacity to do so effectively. The Government of Victoria is aware of and expressly recognises the value and importance of volunteers, as demonstrated by the “Priorities for Strengthening volunteering in Victoria” initiative which is underway. However many volunteer organisations are unable to effectively or adequately engage with or advocate for funding for their organisation’s volunteer involvement.
In summary, many survey respondents receive some form of government, and particularly state government, funding. It is noteworthy, however, that in more than half the cases, this funding was not for volunteer-involving programs. Most engagement by Volunteering Victoria member organisations with state government is in response to grant funding applications.
State government departments determine their priorities and needs and request applications that fit these needs and requirements. Volunteer-involving organisations (VIOs) generally do not have any input into (or influence on) these priorities – although such input would benefit Government, VIOs and the community. Rather, engagement is responsive on the part of VIOs and ad hoc on the part of Government determined in most cases without regard to the volunteering sector and the value and benefit of such involvement by departments and ministers.
In many cases VIOs are unaware of the funding opportunities and often lack resources to apply and engage effectively. The lack of resources of VIOs to take advantage of the opportunities that do arise is a concern. VIOs require the capacity and resources to seek out such opportunities – if this was an easier, more accessible process more VIOs would be able to apply and access such opportunities.
There remains a strong case to be made for a whole-of government volunteering policy or specific portfolio to ensure effective involvement of volunteering involving programs. The Government’s volunteer strategy to support and enhance volunteerism in Victoria is an important opportunity to make this point.
As a result of the survey Volunteering Victoria will continue to promote the following:
- Volunteer-involving programs should be an integral part of each government department’s budgets and policy;
- VIOs require the tools and capacity to interact with government effectively, to identify the relevant department(s), formulate a strategy for approaching and engaging with them and have the knowledge of what the priorities are and how VIOs could add to such programs; and that
- VIOs need to be well versed in ensuring that government understands the benefits (and value) of embedding volunteering in their priorities, programs and budgets.
Further updates on this initiative will be provided.