New Zealand is a nation of volunteers, with an estimated 1.2 million people volunteering 157 million hours annually.
The most common age group volunteering is 30-39, then 40-49; and women are more likely to volunteer than men, Statistics NZ reports. Volunteering culture and recreation are the most popular sectors, followed by religion and social services, says Volunteering New Zealand CEO Scott Miller.
“People volunteer for various reasons, but for perhaps three general reasons: social, value and employability reasons,” Scott says. “At the end of the day, we are adamant that there is a place for everyone to volunteer. Volunteer centres are excellent places to meet and discuss personal interests or aspirations for volunteering.”
Scott says studies regularly find that volunteers “on average, are happier, more socially connected, active and have lower blood pressure”. “One American study pointed to a marked reduction in mortality in older volunteers compared to non-volunteers,” he says.
Volunteering is important to building stronger and resilient communities; and it was beneficial for employers to build volunteer programs with their staff, the CEO says.
“Think about the Canterbury earthquakes, volunteering was taking place spontaneously in neighbourhoods and through organisations like the Red Cross much quicker and with greater effect than government-led responses.
“Volunteering means people get to know each other, and develop greater connections, which are the roots of strong communities.”