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Recent data from the Charities Commission demonstrates the huge contribution being made by volunteers across New Zealand says Gillian Peacock, Chairperson of Volunteering NZ.
The data, which comes from returns to the Commission by registered charities and released in April, shows there were about 440,000 volunteers working unpaid in the 17868 charities represented in the report.
“Taking into account these are just part of the 97000 not-for-profit organisations Statistics NZ has indentified, it confirms other research that at least one third of New Zealanders 10 and over are volunteers,” said Gillian Peacock.
She said that the contribution that these volunteers are making is more important than ever and needed to be fully acknowledged during Volunteer Awareness Week 20 - 26 June.
“Over the last 18 months we have all been affected by the global recession; although money is tight, we still see much giving in the form of volunteering,” Gillian Peacock said.
“In hard times communities pull together. I think it also reflects a shift in values, or perhaps a return to our old values. Volunteering benefits communities, organisations and individuals.”
Volunteers come from all backgrounds, ages and ethnicities and there has been a significant increase in younger people volunteering.
There are also highly skilled, educated people who, unable to find suitable work, are giving their time to support a charity.
Jacqui Fill from the Cancer Society has noticed this change in the type of people volunteering. “We have had a lot more young people and also baby boomers retiring early in their fifties who now have time to give”, she said.
Wellington City Citizen’s Advice Bureau has also seen an increase in the number of young people volunteering which has been encouraged by Victoria University’s Victoria Plus award given to students who volunteer for good causes.
Although they are not paid, it is essential to treat volunteers as well as paid staff, said Gillian Peacock, who is a HR professional currently contracted to develop volunteer strategies for New Zealand Red Cross. “With increasing numbers of New Zealanders volunteering comes a need to provide satisfying and meaningful volunteering opportunities and experiences,” she said.
Many organisations with volunteer programmes are working on improving their capability in this area and Volunteering NZ is leading a movement to recognise and provide a career path for those who manage volunteers.
“Without effective volunteer managers we would not be able to attract and retain the volunteers who make such a huge difference through their contribution to our communities”, Gillian Peacock said.
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