The 2018 Census recently asked us all to consider our time spent on unpaid work such as housework, unpaid care and voluntary work. Volunteering is defined by Volunteering New Zealand as “work done of one’s own free will, unpaid for the common good.” Around 1.2 million Kiwis volunteer for at least one charity or not-for-profit organisation which adds up to over 157 million hours donated to our communities each year.
Because of this strong involvement, volunteer labour contributes $3.5billion to NZ GDP. Former Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew says:
“New Zealanders volunteer their time and skills for a multitude of reasons. For some it will be to develop additional skills, for others, the social contact with other people in their community. For many who volunteer, they recognise that they have the time and the ability to contribute their skills and knowledge in a meaningful way in the volunteer sector. Lending a helping hand and being prepared to contribute to your community is part of what it means to be a Kiwi. We should celebrate all those who give their time and effort to help others, and consider pitching in ourselves.”
Our efforts place us in the top five countries internationally for donating our time according to the CAF World Giving Index. However, this index shows a global downward trend in giving behaviours. In New Zealand, the total number of volunteers increased by 21% between 2004 and 2013, but the total number of hours volunteered fell by 42% (from 270 million to 157 million).
That’s a lot of people contributing a lot to the economy, without being compensated monetarily in return. So, why volunteer? Put simply, there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from making a difference to people in your local community. Volunteering offers many other rewards too. You can learn new skills and gain valuable experience in a wide range of areas that may or may not be related to your paid work. It's also a great way to meet new people who share your interests.
My own personal experience of volunteering includes being a recipient of other people’s time, generosity and organisation skills as a Rotary Exchange Student, it literally was a life changing opportunity. Fast forward a few years and I now live in a small, tight-knit community with some amazing community initiatives that volunteers can take the credit for. From a Community Fridge to Boomerang Bags, and events such as beach clean-up and sports days – not to forget parents on committees at school, and teams of volunteers running a swim club or Toy Library. One of these clubs recently honoured a member for making an outstanding contribution to the community. His reason for volunteering was simply put “you get so much more out of volunteering than you put in.”
The value of getting involved can go further than the feel-good factor. Volunteering is an opportunity to develop or learn new skills, follow your passion, gain knowledge and experience, or a reference for a future employer. Working in recruitment, I conducted an informal poll asking whether volunteering was viewed as a valuable addition to your CV – 95% said YES!
My recruitment colleagues have seen volunteering as a valuable addition in a CV with graduates or parents returning to the workforce. Volunteering can keep your skills current or increase your confidence after a break in employment. With students for example, we have seen them practise and showcase their skills by demonstrating digital marketing ability by looking after a charity’s website and social media.
Then there is the other big perk of volunteering, outside of just keeping your skills sharp and scoring you points in my book: it also presents serious networking opportunities. When you’re volunteering, you’ll inevitably meet other people who are volunteering alongside their ‘dayjob’. The contacts that you build up can be massively valuable long term, and may well lead to a paid role in the future.
Volunteering is valuable. It contributes to New Zealand’s economy, environment, and it makes a difference to New Zealander’s. Not only the people who benefit from the services – it benefits those who participate.
Go on, volunteer, add value.