The changing landscape of volunteering

how to keep up!
Written by
Published on
December 5, 2022

Volunteering is an essential part of our social fabric. And yet, too often the valuable data surrounding this vital community element is left under utilised. Without data experts on your side, it can all seem a bit of a mindboggle. But having worked extensively with campaigners and not-for-profits, we here at SwiftFox know first hand the imperativeness of understanding the changing landscape of volunteerism. After all, who among us would want to live in a world without charities, campaigns or the CWA Christmas raffle?

At SwiftFox we store all Census data right here on our platform using a state of the art interactive mapping tool. This includes all the most up-to-date electoral boundaries, so you can trust that our valuable volunteer data is both current and reliable. Basically, when it comes to making heads or tails of volunteering data – we’re your guys!

It may come as no surprise that volunteering numbers are down, as the world becomes increasingly corporate and digitalised. In fact, according to data derived from the most recent Census, the total number of volunteers in Australia has reduced by 19% since 2016. This is a significant drop, caused by a multitude of factors such as demands on the workforce, pandemic and community disengagement.

And while this surface level overview is encouraging for campaigners and not-for-profits, we here at SwiftFox know that the data goes much deeper. There is so much more to be learned from volunteering data to help campaigners and not-for-profits plan for the future.

Here’s just some of the nuanced data that we’ve derived from the most recent 2021 Census:

Older people are volunteering more than younger people.

The perception that volunteering is a young person’s game seems is no longer true. As educational and workforce demands place more and more pressure on young people to keep up – often working longer hours for less pay –  time and energy available for volunteering is depleted. In fact, according to the Census data from 2021, volunteers between the ages 40-79 volunteered more than any other.It makes sense that those in more stable career positions, or even retirement age, are volunteering at a higher rate than their younger peers. This is a vital element for campaigners and not-for-profits to factor in when looking towards their outreach.

A significant proportion of both the farming and education sector volunteer.

We know at SwiftFox how integral it is for not-for-profits and campaigns to ensure they are accurately prioritizing the major sectors most likely to volunteer. Indeed, we found that in 2021, as in 2016, the most significant portion of volunteers came from the educational sector, as well as farming. This is especially pronounced given the rate of volunteering for educational professionals has decreased overall by 10% since 2016. This significant statistic shows that despite a general downward trend in volunteering numbers across the workforce, these two sectors are recurringly the most likely to volunteer. This is pivotal data for campaigns and not-for-profits looking to more effectively reach and grow their numbers of volunteers.

Those living in regional areas volunteer more than those from metropolitan areas.

Location and demographic play a big part in volunteerism, and understanding these factors is integral for campaigners and NFPs. Interestingly, according to the 2021 Census, Australia-wide regional populations volunteered at a rate of 13%, compared to metro populations at 11%. This trend was also noticeable in 2016, where 17% of the regional population were volunteers, and only 14% of metropolitan. This regional boost seems to correlate with the workforce statistics of farmers and farm managers being one of the highest proportional volunteering sector. It makes sense that regional areas, which tend to have more community engagement compared to metro areas, would have a higher percentage of volunteers. This distinction is one of many that NFPs and campaigners can use to better equip and cater their campaigns to the population.

On a state level, the below map indicates the volunteering rate for both regional and non-metro, and although at first glance you may think metro holds a higher volunteering rate around Australia, South Australia tips the scales in favour of regional-based volunteers by accounting for 18.3% of the state.


Volunteering and philanthropy are too important to our community to not take seriously. Finding and extrapolating the right data is a pivotal element for any not-for-profit or campaigner looking to attain (and retain) essential volunteers. There’s so much useful information to be derived, and with SwiftFox at your side it’s a breeze. With our host of campaigning tools and data insights, we take great pride in helping our campaigners and Not-For-Profit clients delve into and build upon the most up-to-date Census data available. The world of volunteering might be moving fast, but SwiftFox will keep you in the loop so you can run more efficient, targeted campaigns.

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