Sunday, August 21, 2011
Australian Census: A question on volunteering
There has been much discussion online regarding the recent Australian Census question on volunteering. Some felt that the question “Did you volunteer in the last 12 months?” did not go deep enough. In isolation this question seems very basic; however when the answer to this question is cross-classified with other information collected in the census, a complete range of demographic information can be gathered. There is a range of census information provided at no charge.
The 2006 Australian Census provided the following information at no charge:
Labor Force Status by Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex for persons Aged 15-54 Years
Labor Force Status by Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex for persons Aged 55 Years and Over
Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex
Voluntary Work for an Organisation or Group by Age by Sex for Indigenous Persons
I would assume that similar information would be available from the 2011 Australian Census.
It is possible to gather more cross-classified information by creating custom built tables through the Census online software “Table Builder”. However there are charges involved to access the data and confidentiality requirements, designed to prevent the identification of individuals, may limit results of an enquiry.
In other discussions online some felt that it was also up to the government to collect information on number of volunteer hours so that, based on this information, more resources could be provided. While I agree that providing more resources for volunteering and I would hope, volunteer management, is a good move, I am not convinced that governments collecting this information is the only or best option.
Rather than rely on information gathered in a census held once every 5 years, would it not be better for us, as volunteer managers, to collect this information ourselves? Volunteers sign in and out each time they volunteer do they not? Surely this information could be tallied to produce say, number of volunteer hours for the month, for the year? This information could also be used to report to management could it not?
Information provided by volunteers at time of application could be gathered to provide data for recruitment. Information may include age group, proximity to the organisation and how they heard about volunteering at the organisation. Would this information not be helpful in best utilizing resources to recruit future volunteers?
In 2006 the Australian Bureau of Statistics produced a Voluntary Work Survey (Catalogue No. 4441.0). This publication is available at no charge and provides 35 tables of cross-classified data collected through sample surveys. Similar surveys and reports were produced in 1995 and 2000.
Perhaps the information that we seek is at our fingertips.
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