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The State of Volunteering in New Zealand in 2015/16

Scott Millar Aug 2015_croppedScott Miller, Chief Executive
Volunteering New Zealand

Is volunteering the sign of a healthy non-profit sector? Of course, it is certainly not the solution for a failing non-profit! So when a recent international report ranked New Zealand fourth with 45% of people volunteering, it is plausible to think that volunteering and the wider sector in New Zealand is in good health.

Yet, to make sense of such (international) findings, Volunteering New Zealand recently undertook its inaugural State of the New Zealand Volunteering Sector survey*.  We received responses from 1,500 registered charities prepared to support our understanding of the current and future state of volunteering in NZ.

 

Present state

Our overall findings suggest that volunteering in New Zealand is middling, with an average rating of 6.1 (out of 10). Is this the sign of a healthy non-profit sector? Interestingly, this is marginally better (6.0 out of 10) than public trust and confidence in NZ charities (a topic for another blog).

From our research we can ascertain that recruiting volunteers remains challenging (55% said they had experienced challenges in the last 12 months), but that organisations are having less difficulty retaining volunteers (65% said they were not experiencing such challenges). While available time to volunteer is always going to be an issue for the recruitment and retention of volunteers in modern society, those organisations that engage volunteers to achieve organisational purposes (81% of organisations surveyed) yield much better outcomes than those that utilise volunteers for cost saving purposes (31% of organisations surveyed).

 

Future state

Yet, what of the crystal-ball of the health of volunteering in the future? In our study, we found that remuneration (reimbursements and/or monetary incentives) and technology are arguably strategic considerations yet to be fully realised by most volunteer-involving organisations.

Only 26% of organisations surveyed remunerate and reward volunteering. As a recent report by the International Federation of Red Cross noted, “remuneration shapes who is able to volunteer, intersecting with existing inequalities and potentially excluding the poor and the less socially and geographically mobile”. While many definitions of volunteering (including VNZ’s) exclude the expectation of material reward, this is a topic we believe worthy of more consideration in the near future.

Another notable finding from our survey is the relatively low self-assessment of organisations embracing technology (5.0 out of 10). Smaller organisations (with <20 volunteers) in particular are potentially foregoing the various benefits of efficiency and effectiveness technology can enable for the organisation and their volunteers, particularly in the fields volunteer recruitment and retention.

Thus, while it seems New Zealand is internationally competitive as a country of volunteers, there are certain areas of volunteering that we believe can still be enhanced to ensure our international leadership in this space is unparalleled.

*The State of Volunteering Report cited in this blog will be available on the Volunteering New Zealand website from the end of February 2016.

Volunteering New Zealand is an association of volunteer centres, national and other organisations committed to an environment which supports, promotes, values and encourages effective volunteering.

 

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices

ComVoices  actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.

 

Click here for more information:   http://comvoices.org.nz/