5 Key Insights from the Volunteer Management Activity Project Showcase


This month, Volunteering WA held an event to showcase the outcomes of eight projects that aimed to increase diversity of volunteers within their programs. There were many learnings from the fascinating insights that these organisations uncovered during the implementation of activities that engaged priority groups including: people with disabilities, First Nations people, vulnerable women, newly arrived migrants, unemployed and young people (under 18).

Here are five key learnings from the Volunteer Management Activity Project Showcase:

1. Taking the time to invest in volunteers from diverse backgrounds will help build a database of volunteers

- Jo O'Dea, Bunbury Fringe | hello@bunburyfringe.com

Engaging volunteers from diverse backgrounds will provide your team with broader perspectives, voices and experiences. To achieve this, volunteer managers need to put in the work to ensure volunteers are properly supported.

Jo O’Dea emphasises the importance of investing in volunteers from priority groups. Seeking out new team members from priority areas, making sure you have volunteer coordinators who are able to work with people from diverse backgrounds, and reworking application forms to be more accessible are all actions that volunteer managers can take to be more welcoming and in turn, build their database.

“What we’re finding is that once you’ve got good stories and people that really love the experience, then that’s actually what helps to build those databases of volunteers,” said Jo.

2. The concept of volunteering is complex for First Nations people

- Janine Dureau, Kimberly Aboriginal Women's Council | info@kawc.org.au

For First Nations people, the concept of volunteering is complex. “There are so many different ways of being and knowing as Indigenous people, that we have to consider when we are developing the [Rise and Shine, volunteer] program. We don’t look at ourselves as volunteers, it’s just something that we do within our families and our kinship system. Now that we are wanting to develop outside of that, it’s actually the thing of saying ‘Okay, yes we are volunteers’, but what does this look like to ensure that our voluntary role is a part of our culture and responsibilities,” said Janine.

3. A safe and supportive environment is crucial

- Susanne Becker-Hamersley, Volunteer South West | programs@volunteersouthwest.org.au


It can daunting for people from diverse backgrounds to go somewhere they’ve never been before and sign up for a program. A safe and supportive environment is crucial for these volunteers so that they feel comfortable, welcomed and excited to volunteer.

The South West Volunteer Resource Centre ran a project called Connect, which provided intensive support for volunteer involving organisations and helped them make volunteers feel more welcome. One case that stood out to project coordinator Susanne was a Ukrainian couple who were using Google Translate because their English was very poor. “They’d just arrived in the country but because of the skills they had, we could connect them to this organisation, and the volunteer manager was very welcoming… they go there every day now because they enjoy it… also the aspect of giving back to the community was a major thing for them.” said Susanne.

4. Consider how volunteering can honour the unique contributions of people from diverse backgrounds

- Nick Maisey, Befriend | nick@befriend.org.au

To Nick, inclusion is about individuals self-determining how they contribute to the community. This might be virtual or in-person, short-term or long-term. Volunteers from diverse backgrounds offer unique perspectives and experiences and it’s worth asking whether the roles you’re offering really allow those perspectives to shine through.

“People are very focused on strengths and skills,” said Nick, “and they tend to think about what they’re good at and what other people have told them that they’re good at… If somebody’s doing what they love then they’re going to be a lot more motivated and it’s going to be sustainable long term.”

To see volunteers from diverse backgrounds really thrive, make sure you’re supporting them to contribute with their unique gifts.

5. Engage people with lived experience as mentors

- Suzi Byrne, Riding for the Disabled, Carine | volunteer@rdacarine.org.au

Are you asking yourself what the best way is to support volunteers from diverse backgrounds? One way is to engage people with lived experience as mentors to others coming up through the programs on how to be more inclusive and accepting and just knowing that they are a person before their disability. Support coming from someone with a similar experience will not only provide helpful advice to your volunteers, but also demonstrate your organisation’s commitment to inclusion and volunteering.


This project was supported through Volunteering WA's Volunteer Management Activity, funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services.