The $46.5 billion-dollar key held by older Australian volunteers

Australia faces potential economic disaster should older Australians stop volunteering.

The $46.5 billion-dollar key held by older Australian volunteers

If older Australians were to cease donating their time for volunteering it would leave the Government with a $46 billion hole to fill.

The Modern Australian Communities report – the ninth instalment of The Australian Seniors Series – reveals that 53 per cent of Australians aged over 50 are involved in organised volunteering within the community.

This equates to 2.2 million seniors donating their time each week, at an average of around 411.9 hours a year which, at minimum wage, would add up to $46.5 billion in unpaid work.

Should the rate of volunteering decline, which more than two thirds of those surveyed are concerned will happen, the economy would surely take a massive hit.

“Aussie seniors are already seeing a downward trend in volunteering, which is likely to continue over the next decade as the current generation of over-50s starts to wind back their volunteering commitments,” said Australian Seniors Insurance Agency spokesperson Simon Hovell.

“The research shows that the majority of Australian seniors agree their generation tends to volunteer less in their local community than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. In addition, nearly a third of seniors say they’re less likely to volunteer in ten years’ time due to their health, mobility or availability of time.”

Many older Australians face time and health concerns, and believe that the lack of government support for volunteers has a part to play in the decline in volunteers.

However, 29.1 per cent cite out-of-pocket expenses as their number one barrier preventing or dissuading them from volunteering. Only 16.2 per cent are reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses, with 83.8 per cent left out of pocket.

Three in five think the government should help minimise bureaucracy around volunteering and provide more financial support for local community organisations.

Around half of those surveyed think the Government could improve infrastructure to facilitate volunteering work, create websites to help match people up to volunteering opportunities, and to promote the benefits of participating in volunteering.

“While there are a number of contributing issues that seniors feel are making volunteering increasingly difficult to get involved in, a key factor causing many seniors to worry about the future of volunteering is the simultaneous rise of political correctness and decline in community-mindedness. The majority of seniors (70.3 per cent) agree that political correctness is making it harder to volunteer, and around the same number (73.7 per cent) believe the death of traditional community-mindedness is prevalent in our current society,” said Mr Hovell.

Volunteering also has positive benefits aside from economic concerns, and this is also reflected in the survey results, with most respondents believing it helps to keep the mind healthy, improve self-esteem and promote self worth. Around nine in 10 say it reduces loneliness and improves their mental health.

Read the report at www.seniors.com.au

Do you volunteer your time and money? Could the Government do more to support volunteers?

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    COMMENTS

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    6th Mar 2018
    10:55am
    Bravo to volunteers! Without them, the future would be dystopian. The government would not help were they not there.
    jackie
    6th Mar 2018
    12:39pm
    I have volunteered while I worked. There are many Australians that do voluntary work not just our retirees and many are young too. It's a pity that our pollies can't have the same spirit as all volunteers. The country would be in a better state.
    KSS
    6th Mar 2018
    1:05pm
    Mr Abbott volunteers and has done so for decades with both surf lifesaving and the Rural Fire Service! Not to mention the Pollie Pedal each year raising funds for various charities - Soldier On this year.

    He is one Pollie doing his volunteering bit!
    Alky
    6th Mar 2018
    5:38pm
    Hey KSS, yep I agree Abbott does do the voluntary work, however, a cynical person might think it's to keep himself in the public eye to garner more votes. Good thing I'm not cynical. It's also a shame that he charges the taxpayers to attend his voluntary work.... something that most people can't. There was some furore a couple of years ago where he claimed travel and accomodation to attend the Pollie Pedal
    KSS
    7th Mar 2018
    8:36am
    Mr Abbott has never sought out publicity for his volunteering. He has been involved since well before becoming a politician and continues to volunteer to this day. And I am pretty sure all the knockers out there would not be so abusive towards him if were the firey to turn up to save their house or the lifesaver who rescued their child. As for the claim about Pollie Pedal, he was there in dual capacities and claimed legitimate costs allowable under one of the two hats i.e. his political role, not the rider role.
    jackie
    7th Mar 2018
    11:38am
    KSS....Thank you for sharing
    jamesthepiper
    6th Mar 2018
    11:15am
    I volunteer at a number of places and I'm currently doing some work on a farm in South Western Queensland, between Quilpie and Windorah. I reckon volunteering is great, but if you also want to get something back, look into a NSW government initiative (yes, a government one!) called Time Banking https://timebanking.com.au/ . This allows you to build up your volunteering hours and then get something back. In the old days it was called a barter system, but nowadays the government have decided to call it time banking. It can work well if you have a local coordinator who is on the ball.
    Sundays
    6th Mar 2018
    11:36am
    I believe in volunteering and giving back. However, many older people cannot find work, and if over 60 they can volunteer 15 hours a week to receive Newstart without looking for work. Where I live, in Regional Qld there is not much work. I've noticed that some organisations now do not treat their volunteers with the same respect they used to. I used to do a lot of volunteerins, but have stopped because of this reason. Organisations know its easy to get new volunteers, and their expectations are sometimes unrealistic. eg friend was told to buy a Tshirt with the organisation's logo at her own cost.
    jackie
    6th Mar 2018
    12:44pm
    Sundays...I am sad to hear about your experience. Many Australians on NewStart Allowance are being exploited by non for profit organisations and our governing bodies because they don't know how to deal with the lack of real jobs. If companies were desperate for workers they would not be so selective about taking on new workers.
    Ted Wards
    6th Mar 2018
    1:45pm
    Actually Sundays as a volunteer coordinator with over 30 years experience I can assure you it is not easy to attract, recruit, train and maintain volunteers. There is an ever increasing demand in a pool that is slowly reducing. The cost of having volunteers to an organisation is also ever increasing with different insurances we are required to have. Instead of of criticising organisations who are trying to do a to with a little you might like to stop and think about the overheads associated with having volunteers. I also am a volunteer and work full time so I understand both sides.

    And Jackie I can tell you no decent not for profit would ever exploit volunteers, they are more precious than staff. Staff can easily be replaced but volunteers not so. Instead of generalising you might like to sit down and review just how much not for profit organisation contribute to the community and society in general. If you think about all the groups we support across the nation and on how little money we do it on, I think you might like to change that opinion. Older volunteers are much sort after and treated with a lot of respect. With the ageing population and the requirement to work longer, there are going to be even less volunteers available to support the community.
    Sundays
    6th Mar 2018
    8:55pm
    Sorry Ted, but I am criticising organisations I have had direct contact with who do not value volunteers and have the same expectations as they do paid employees. Your Not for Profit May be different, but don’t get me started on the lurks and perks. Company cars, less strict rules around salary sacrificing, and entertainment allowances for spurious reasons for employees to make up for the Lower wages. Really! Not to mention the tax concessions. I know, I used to do bookkeeping and.... that’s a position that should be paid.
    jackie
    7th Mar 2018
    11:50am
    Ted Wards...I am not generalising...All Non for profit CEO's have high salaries and perks. The paid staff have good work conditions and stay as long as they choose. Non for profits have all sorts of tax breaks, funding from Government various government bodies, philanthropists, the general public and free workers. The Salvos are a great example, they have their own private jet own much business real estate and the homeless pay for their lodgings to them. It's a lucrative business and that's why non for profits are mushrooming.
    maxchugg
    11th Mar 2018
    4:08pm
    Sundays, I have had similar experience. I worked extremely hard as a volunteer and worked efficiently and effectively, but was rewarded by being treated like dirt.

    I have heard that since my awful experience the organization concerned has finally discovered that one salaried person was getting rid of the volunteers faster than they could be found, has terminated the services of that person and volunteers are now treated as well as salaried staff.
    Lorrainehk
    6th Mar 2018
    11:45am
    Why does the government have to be responsible for everything!! We, the tax payer have to pay for government resources. There are many organisations that are already matching volunteers with positions. For those who cannot find something to volunteer to do, or are unable to use Google, go to the local library for assistance.
    I volunteer, as it gets me out of bed mixing with others. It also enables me to use the skills that I have gained throughout my working life.
    Troubadour
    6th Mar 2018
    11:51am
    Have been volunteering for many years in many ways, love it - keeps one's faculties alert, gives encouragement to other, and lifts your own spirits.
    Volunteer in both doing things and making things for sale to help the organisations funds. Like many however have had to cut back a little due to watching ones own health and not being able to afford as much as we could before - not travelling as far afield as we used to. Still when it gets into your blood it is hard to give it up.
    Lookfar
    6th Mar 2018
    3:20pm
    Agree with you Troubador, I have been an active member of some organisation or another all my working life, and before, I find it gives a balance, - so much for me, so much for the community, some of the organisations I have been part of or even the head of have achieved much more for the world than the paid jobs I have had, and been more fullfilling, - currently am a member of the local Lions, a very supportive organisation for it's members, and as part of our market committee, I have introduced a Fresh and Local Accreditation to encourage local growers rather than others who buy woollies seconds or import coolroom vegies from interstate, then sell them under the false pretence assumed at markets, - has worked well, very satisfying to see the local growers providing more and more and the con artists reducing or disappearing. Lions are one of many community organisations, but are particularly suited for running local markets as the work is shared, the activity itself is vibrant and full of people, and the background organisation knows what it is doing so is very supportive and relaxed.
    karuahjack
    6th Mar 2018
    11:57am
    What would happen if older Aussies stopped volunteering?
    This is not the correct question.
    It should be
    What will happen when older Aussies stopped volunteering?
    jackie
    6th Mar 2018
    12:52pm
    karauahjack....The answer is nothing...Many non for profit organisations as well as private companies exploit young people for free work experience. I remember when I was young there was plenty of work for low paid young people. Young people have to acquire a large education debt then work for nothing to gain experience before they go out to find work that will pay them. Our government benefits from this.
    ex PS
    7th Mar 2018
    9:15am
    I think unemployment figures would probably improve.
    Grazza
    6th Mar 2018
    12:03pm
    What really upsets me is that volunteer hours can't be used to pass the work test!
    Gammer
    6th Mar 2018
    12:07pm
    Yes, I volunteer at an aged care facility helping with the social activities organised for them by the paid staff. There are a few people a little younger than me resident there but mostly they are a little older however we are pretty much on the same ‘wave length’ and they all love it when I take my dog with me to visit, too. It definitely benefits me too as it gives me purpose and company. I have volunteered in a variety of ways throughout my life, I might add!
    ceejay
    6th Mar 2018
    12:19pm
    I've recently resigned from the local club of an international service organisation because of lack of energy, motivation and funds. The local club consists of two people over 80, two people over 70, two people over 60 and two others in their mid-50s...one less now. They cannot attract new members and when a special event is on, no community members support them despite wide media coverage. I always seemed to have my hand in my pocket - high membership and conference fees, costs of meals for breakfast and dinner meetings, buying raffle tickets, and meeting 'fun' fines to raise money for international aid projects, plus travelling to/from fundraising and catering events, and donating copious amounts of time, telephone and internet. The list goes on. How can I continue with this organisation when I am on a disability pension due to a chronic health condition?
    Ted Wards
    6th Mar 2018
    1:54pm
    This highlights one of the major issues for volunteering. The out of pocket expenses are just too much for many people now on limited incomes. Unfortunately many centres are going to be de-funded from 1 July 2020 if the government gets it way. Many services have already started to disappear.

    For those of you who are looking for volunteering opportunities to meet Centrelink requirements look up the new free computing program 'Be Connected". It replaced the Broadband for Seniors program. The focus is changing to group training so many centres may be looking for new tutors. If you even have a basic idea of computing, you can be a tutor. Here is the link for more informaiton https://beconnected.esafety.gov.au/

    If your around the Woolloongabba area we are looking for one or two on Thursday mornings at 10 am.
    jackie
    7th Mar 2018
    11:54am
    In the past it used to be the financially well off that volunteered. Now they are too busy making more money and leave the poor to do it.
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    3:42pm
    Yes. Greed and selfishness has infected our society to the extent that it is destroying it. Give it time! When ''trickle down'' results in the less well off withdrawing their voluntary labour, it will all collapse - if it doesn't before then. But the greedy well off don't care. They will still have their hoards of gold.
    dweezy2176
    6th Mar 2018
    12:40pm
    I used to do a lot of volunteering until I ended up on the dole & was pushed into "work for the dole" .. absolute waste of time, nothing more than slave labour to save paid employees doing anything! So, promised myself when I retired (2013) NEVER AGAIN & I've stuck to that .. fit as a fiddle at 70 but the only volunteering I do anymore is grandkids minding ....!

    6th Mar 2018
    12:40pm
    $46 billion? Gee, retirees are such a burden on society!

    Maybe if the government started to treat retirees with more respect, there would be less risk of losing this valuable asset.
    Anonymous
    6th Mar 2018
    7:03pm
    It's a bullshit number

    And even if its correct - that means there's $100 billion of economic activity that could have been generated by private enterprise engaging in these services
    Anonymous
    7th Mar 2018
    10:52am
    Oh, so you admit your claim that it's a ''bullshit number'' is totally unvalidated and potentially utter nonsense, but then you go on to make a similarly invalid claim that $100 billion of economic activity could have been generated by private enterprise engaging in those services. And who do you think would PAY private enterprise when not only do volunteers NOT receive pay, but most have to meet private costs to pursue their volunteering activities. We don't have enough private enterprise engaging in delivering needed services now, due to lack of funds. Who the hell is going to find $100 billion to pay businesses to replace volunteers.

    Your right wing bias has muddled your thinking, Raphael!
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    1:49pm
    Those who use the services would pay and it would be much re cost effective than what it currently cost these volunteer organizations to operate
    I didn’t say it would cost $100b
    I said it would generate that level of economic activity - twice the assumed cost of volunteer work
    You don’t read very well do you OnlyGrumpyRainey
    Anonymous
    8th Mar 2018
    3:40pm
    What an absurd claim, Raphael. The majority who use volunteer services do so because they have no hope of affording to pay. That's why these volunteer organizations exist and seek charity donations and volunteer labour to enable them to deliver what private enterprise cannot - and would not want to - deliver. Because it's simply not economical to service non-payers.

    We have seen the results of privatization, and they are appalling. Aged care costs is a classic example. Costs have spiralled out of control and overall standards are unacceptable. We are seeing reports that people who pay thousands per month are being allowed $6 a day for food.

    If people stopped volunteering and private enterprise took over all the roles volunteers fill, we'd either have to find $46.5 billion more in government funding, or sit back and watch services disappear, with resulting increases in deaths, illness, devastating accidents, abuse, lack of care, etc. etc. etc. ad nausea. Only cruel egotistical narcissists would want to see these outcomes.
    Chris B T
    6th Mar 2018
    12:41pm
    Mybe there are less "volunteering" as this now covers Newstart, Community Orders from Courts etc as well as volunteering becuase that is what someone will do freely.
    Thrown under one word "volunteering" does not have the same meaning as in the past. Time and effort given freely not to be satifying to receive a benefit or court order.
    The other one would be that their time is taken up by looking after granchildren or parents.
    The later would have to exceed $46.5 billion.
    The time given Freely Is Not Recognised Enough.
    Ted Wards
    6th Mar 2018
    1:59pm
    Newstart and Community Orders are not generally taken on in a lot of centres because of the resources and legal/insurance issues. They are not included in volunteering stats. Community orders have to have certain supervisory conditions and a certain amount of work involved.

    In the late 1970 early 1980s volunteering was impacted on by things like clubs and the porkies, now its our precious grandparents minding their grandchildren which is a wonderful thing I think. Its kinda like other cultures now with the inter-generational minding occurring.

    I will continue to volunteer until I retire which is still another 12 long years away. Once Im retired though its time for me, until I get bored then hopefully it will be back to volunteering.
    Chris B T
    6th Mar 2018
    4:22pm
    The most of community base centers have the 15 hour volunteer (centerlink) as other enteries have stated and They do take community order people as they only have to sign in and out. If they wellingly do any meaningfull is another thing.
    Just read some other comments from actual Volunteers Who don't do it anymore for those reasons, with unreasonable requests.
    Chris B T
    6th Mar 2018
    4:34pm
    PS
    By the way Ted Wards are you paid to do your "Volunteering" or are you doing this Freely without any payment at all.
    As you stated elsewhere your being a Volunteer Co Ordinator for over 30yrs.
    Cleo
    6th Mar 2018
    1:14pm
    Having now reached a stage in life where I would like to do more volunteering, the opportunities are no longer what I expected. It seems that much of what was volunteering has now been overtaken by fundraising businesses, or hijacked by the Centrelink arrangements. Even the local Volunteering Services Australia Centre did not seem to understand that someone would volunteer and not have a Centrelink number - they kept insisting that one was needed to register as a volunteer. Many volunteering opportunities require 15 hours per week on specified days at specified times. That is, they are jobs, or they have been crafted to meet Centrelink rules. Most are unattractive to those like me who would love to lend a hand, who understands the need for some structure around volunteering, but does not expect it to be done in such a dictatorial manner. And I keep hearing stories from other seniors who have given up their volunteering eg in an op shop, as the manager demanded that they do rostering and other normal business activities. The cream on the cake was in relation to volunteering for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. One person I know was successful in obtaining volunteer work that started some weeks out from the Games. Turned out they had a longstanding commitment on one of the days they were rostered on. Having advised some weeks in advance that they would not be available that day, they were told they would 'have to make the hours up.' Needless to say, they lost a volunteer that day. Not to mention the volunteers in their 70s who are being rostered on for 10 hour shifts on numerous consecutive days, at a time when travel to the volunteering post will take 1-2 hours each way due to expected road congestion and lack of parking. They were told to walk the 2 km to public transport at the end of a 10 hour shift at 1AM. Again, they lost another volunteer that day.
    Ted Wards
    6th Mar 2018
    2:03pm
    Hey Cleo if you have a local community centre or neighbourhood centre or senior citzs centre, give them a call and see what opportunities they have. The less you have to do with Centrelink, the more interesting you are to them. If your around Woolloongabba Id be happy to have a chat to you and you don't have to have anything but a willing attitude and a sense of humour. We really do support and respect our volunteers.
    VanessaVQ
    6th Mar 2018
    2:31pm
    Hi everyone, Just letting you know there is a fantastic, widely used national digital platform for recruiting and matching volunteers. You can search for meaningful volunteer roles at: https://govolunteer.com.au/. It includes a facility for volunteers to create their own individual profile too. If you need more help finding a volunteer opportunity you can contact your state peak body for volunteering, visit https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/ and click on your state/territory on the right hand side. Thanks, Vanessa from Volunteering Queensland

    6th Mar 2018
    2:43pm
    We volunteer and we expect nothing in return. We do it because we want to give back to a community that has been good to us over the years. I suppose it's selfish of us because it keeps us busy, gives us exercise as well as a nice feeling deep down where we live. Where we volunteer is always thankful and they tell us but that's a nice bonus, not the driving force.
    Janus
    6th Mar 2018
    3:48pm
    Well, I'll be the odd one out.
    I do some volunteer lecturing at U3A and similar organisations, but I will NOT do voluntary work in any organisation that does work in areas where government should be providing services. I was also a JP, but then the Govt tried to make us all PAY for the privilege of doing this service. Crazy!

    All of you volunteers are really working to entertain or otherwise keep yourselves happy, which is fine and good. BUT remember that we pay taxes for our governments to return to the community services that you are giving for free. If you stopped volunteering in these areas, then our govts would be FORCED to provide them and pay people to do it.

    Until then, Governments will continue to take advantage of you lovely people, and keep some others in the unemployed lists. No wonder they encourage you. They get for free stuff they should pay for.

    List abusive comments below...but then sit back and think about what you have let them do to you.

    Why pay taxes (you all do, everytime you buy something) and then give them free time as well?
    moke
    6th Mar 2018
    4:10pm
    I was a volunteer until health prevented it, but I fail to see why the Government fund so many unemployed idlers many of them could fill some of the required volunteer areas which might give them the incentive to find proper employment. Personally I feel that the money the government give them would cover any volunteering they undertook and should be a necessary requirement. It would cover what is termed work for the DOLE .
    Anonymous
    6th Mar 2018
    7:01pm
    Agree - it also gives these bludgers the skills and the kick up their backside they need to get off the sofa and get a job
    Rosret
    7th Mar 2018
    8:43am
    The same reason why a lot of retirees don't volunteer - those on unemployment benefits are living under the poverty line.
    They need to be job searching. Petrol, having a car, appropriate clothes cost money - lots of it.
    I would love to take people for a walk through some of our poor regions and show the just how tough it is when an excursion for the kids comes in, school shoes cost $100, the electricity is so high it goes off, the food they have to eat is junk ...shall I continue.
    The gap between those who have and those who haven't is huge and growing. Look at the ads on TV - Insurance has gone up 30-50% in the last 5 years. So guess who are going to be the first to be uninsured? - and who will we be volunteering to help - them.
    ex PS
    9th Mar 2018
    8:28am
    And that is something that needs careful consideration, if you make someone work for the dole, are you putting a full time paid worker out of work, and if so, what is the gain?

    I do believe that people should work for the dole, but they should only work the amount of hours that would be required to earn the amount of dole paid, and they should not be in competition with viable businesses or wage earners. There is no point in putting one willing person out of full time employment in order to furnish three unwilling workers with unproductive (busy work) so that we can say they are working for the dole.

    6th Mar 2018
    6:59pm
    I dont see the point of volunteers.
    They take up opportunities for small business formation and paid employment

    I would only volunteer in retirement if I was paid a stipend and other out of pocket expenses.
    ex PS
    9th Mar 2018
    8:17am
    In certain industries, volunteers are used to replace paid workers in order to maintain profit margins. I have seen paid positions replaced with volunteers after the paid worker was induced to leave.
    This costs us all money as we have to pay benefits to those who are left unemployed.

    I have seen volunteers contribute to those who most need their attention, but like anything else that can be exploited, their have to be some controls, not on the great people who offer their time for free, but on those who exploit these people.

    Businesses like Aged Care should have to maintain a set ratio of trained and paid employees dependent upon how many clients are in the facility.
    MD
    6th Mar 2018
    8:40pm
    For any party to determine a 'value' for volunteers could be deemed demeaning and contrary to the spirit of a strictly voluntary goodwill gesture. Why has a nett worth for everything/everyone become such a necessary qualification. Community mindedness is a matter for the individual and where it may suit some who choose to participate willingly - whatever their motivational reasons - is a matter for them alone. Anybody motivated in an obligatory sense also would have reason(s), just as non participation is equally a personal matter. Comes a time that even the very best of our volunteers will call it a day and failing necessary replacements to fill their shoes then woe betide the lot of us. Bless em all.
    Blossom
    6th Mar 2018
    10:03pm
    I fully iunderstand why they are needed but I am sure more would volunteer if they didn't have to apply for a Police Clearance, sometimes wait weeks to receive it....and have to pay for it. Some organisations also insist on extensive training some of which you don't even use.
    Rosret
    7th Mar 2018
    8:33am
    I think you will find a lot of those potential volunteers are now full time carers for grandchildren.
    There is a huge shift in what is required of the retired people as opposed to the generation before when mother's could stay at home and raise their own children.
    The generation of salaried retirees is coming to an end as well. A lot of retirees are going to be watching the outflow of monies very wistfully.
    jonboy
    8th Mar 2018
    12:34pm
    Volunteers need to be renumerated, especially for thier costs
    Miss Piggy
    11th Mar 2018
    1:17am
    $46.5 billion saving a year I well believe. To put it into perspective:
    I put in four years of voluntary work at the local state school where I was a teacher aide for one year and tutored in reading for the other three. The hours rapidly increased from two hours one day per week to 13.5 hours over a three day period (at the school’s request). The wage for a teacher aide was $23.82 per hour, which made a saving of $321.57 per week to the government, or $12,862.80 in an average 40 week school year. I cannot calculate the amount saved by the government for three years of reading tutoring as a private tutor charges anything up to $100.00 per hour. Extra tutoring would be largely unnecessary were the average child to become a competent reader from normal schooling by paid teachers. [ Having said that though, I am aware that most teachers are under too much pressure to be able to give extra time to struggling students, a situation brought about by a succession of highly inept governments wasting too much money on non-essentials and spending too little on vital necessities.]
    Therefore, a substantial amount of saving for just one volunteer.
    My out-of-pocket costs were for bus fares which amounted to $33.60 over a fortnight pension period. I budgeted for this, and did it willingly because it was immensely satisfying to see the vast difference one-on-one time made in the vital area of reading skills, for many of the children.
    I baulked, though, when I was told I would have to pay $1.00 for a cup of tea at break times! I must confess, however, that I never did put the $1.00 into the tin - tsk tsk.
    Could it be, I wonder, that this sort of gross exploitation of people willing to put in their own time to help out, would be one reason volunteer numbers are falling.