Understanding volunteers!

One way to swell our volunteer ranks might be to better understand what people love - and hate - about volunteering.

If you can better understand what volunteers love - and hate - about volunteering, you'll know what to foster and what to avoid!Top Reasons ACT Volunteers 1

The best thing...

Over the years Council have surveyed hundreds of parents across the ACT who volunteer on P&Cs. They tell us the best thing about being involved on the P&C is:

  • the relationships they formed with other parents
  • being informed about what happens at school
  • a sense of pride at what they had accomplished
  • satisfaction of helping their child’s school.

In your communications with parents, make sure you focus on these aspects. Try telling volunteer stories which highlight real people at your school enjoying these benefits.

CarnWoodDunlopVolunteers PC2018Also make sure that you keep these positives alive in your P&C by:

  • making sure there are chances to chat and introducing people well
  • including a principal's report at your meetings so people stay informed about what is happening at the school
  • boasting about what the P&C has achieved and sharing your accompishments with the school community.

Reasons for leaving

Likewise, it might be worth looking at research on why volunteers leave. Susan Ellis, an international consultant specialising in volunteering lists the top ten reasons as follows.

Reason #10 – The reality of their experience is not what they expected when they signed on.

Reason #9 – They don’t like the work they are being asked to do nor how it is being done.

Reason #8 – Veteran or leadership volunteers won’t let them into the “insider” group.

Reason #7 – They spend more time meeting than doing.

Reason #6 – No one listens to their suggestions.

Reason #5 – They feel unrecognized, and see that thanks are unfairly given to everyone, no matter who did the most work or none at all.

Reason #4 – They are no longer asked to participate.

Reason #3 – They do not actually understand how to get more involved.

Reason #2 – They can no longer see how their involvement makes a difference.

And the #1 Reason volunteers leave is...   it stopped being fun.

It’s well worth stopping and thinking about how your P&C is ticking the right boxes, and not setting off the signals to leave. 


You can find out more about what makes P&C and Council volunteers tick in our "Why I volunteer" series of stories.

See also Council resources for growing your P&C; and for thanking your volunteers

This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 2, 2019. Updated May 2023.