Volunteering in New Zealand
Volunteering is part of New Zealand’s culture. It is seen as a positive way to contribute to society by giving time and skills to help other people.
Volunteering is work people do in their own time for free. People in New Zealand volunteer to help non-profit community groups provide much needed services.
Most volunteers in New Zealand say it is very rewarding and a great way to learn new skills, make friends and get work experience.
For newcomers, volunteering also provides opportunities to learn about New Zealand culture and practise speaking English.
Why choose to volunteer?
People volunteer for all sorts of reasons – they may be out of work, retired, or just have skills and some spare time they want to use to help others. By becoming a volunteer, you not only help other people, you can also help yourself.
Many migrants choose to volunteer as a way to get local work experiences that will help them get jobs more easily. Having volunteering listed on your CV shows employers you are willing to get involved in the community. Employers like to see this and it may help you get a job, even if the volunteer work is not related to the job you want. Some volunteer organisations will also give you a reference to help you secure paid work.
Research done in the United States has shown that volunteers in general – not just migrants – have a 27 per cent higher chance of ending up in paid employment.
Who can volunteer?
If you hold a student, visitor or work visa, you may be able to volunteer your time and skills to help provide important services to the public. You must not receive any payment or reward that can be valued in terms of money, like accommodation or food, for the work you do as volunteer.
If your work visa specifies an employer, occupation or region, any volunteer work must be in addition to the paid work you undertake.
What types of activities can volunteers do?
There are all sorts of activities you can get involved in. Some roles may need specialist skills and an ongoing, regular time commitment, but many do not.
The types of activities you could do range from administration, accounting and research to gardening, retail, teaching and sport.
When thinking about volunteering it is important to consider what sort of person you are and what sort of experience you want. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I prefer working by myself or with others?
- Do I want the chance to practise my English?
- Do I want to use the skills I already have or to learn new ones?
- What do I really enjoy doing and how can I best contribute?
- Do I prefer to work with certain types of people, eg other migrants, children, elderly, or with certain types of animals, eg cats, dogs or birds?
- Do I prefer practical work, like making things or gardening, or thinking work, like writing or accounting?
- How much time can I spare?
Finding volunteer opportunities
Regional volunteer centres
Your local volunteer centre can help you find volunteering opportunities. They will help you find a suitable organisation and match you with a role. Check your local volunteer center on the Volunteering New Zealand website.
HOT TIP: If possible, before you start looking for a role visit your local volunteer centre for a face-to-face talk. This is a great way to make sure that you end up with the volunteering experience that is right for you.
You can also contact organisations directly to ask about volunteering opportunities, look on community noticeboards like those at your local community centre, library or supermarket, or search online sites like SEEK.
There are hundreds of groups around the country that rely on volunteers and provide volunteering opportunities. Here are just a few examples:
- Animal welfare charities, eg SPCA, HUHA
- Counselling and support services, eg OUTLineNZ, Women’s refuge
- Public safety services, eg Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Community Safety Patrols
- Health organisations, eg Cancer society
- Religious organisations, eg Salvation Army
- Youth organisations, eg GirlGuiding New Zealand, Scouts
- Conservation organisations, eg Nature Space, Department of Conservation (DOC)
- Sports and music clubs
Seek Volunteer lets you search and apply for volunteering opportunities based on your interests and skills and matches people with opportunities posted by organisations needing help.
Do goOd jobs connects people with volunteer roles that aim to create social and environmental change.
Securing a suitable role
It can take time to secure some volunteer roles. You may need to fill out an application form and/or provide some personal information. The organisation may want to interview you to find out what skills you have and what you want from the volunteering experience.
You may be asked to supply the names of people who know you well and can vouch for your good character, reliability and trustworthiness – this is called a reference check. A police or security check may also be needed, especially if you are going to be working with young children or vulnerable people.
It is a good idea for you to find out as much as you can about the role and organisation you are interested in. When you contact them or go for an interview, ask questions to help you decide if the role and organisation is right for you. For example:
- Is there a job description?
- Is there a volunteer agreement?
- How does the organisation manage holidays?
- Do they provide job references?
- What exactly does the role involve / what would you be doing?
- When does the work start and end?
- Will you have a supervisor / who would you report to?
- Will you be working with other people?
- Do they provide training or other support?
- Do they expect you to cover any expenses?
Think about practical matters too, like how much time you can spare, how you would get to and from work, what it would cost and how long it would take.
Most importantly, find out what the organisation expects from you and tell them what you expect from them. Both you and the organisation need to be comfortable with the arrangement. A clear understanding from day one makes the volunteering experience better for everyone.
"I found it so helpful to have somewhere to go, something to do where you could contribute, people you could look forward to seeing."
Your rights as a volunteer
If you are successful in getting a volunteer role, remember that you are giving your time, energy and skills to an organisation for free. So, the organisation should treat you well in return. As a volunteer in New Zealand, you have certain rights:
- You should not be used to fill a position that previously belonged to a paid worker
- You must be reimbursed (paid back) for any out-of-pocket expenses you have incurred on behalf of the organisation you are working for
- You must be given enough training to do your job
- Your work environment must be healthy and safe
- You must not be subjected to unlawful discrimination or sexual and racial harassment.
You can find out more about your rights as a volunteer on the Volunteering New Zealand and Employment New Zealand websites, including information on what to do if you think that your rights are not being met.