I’m thinking of volunteering. Where’s a good place to start?
You might want to think about what types of activities you enjoy, what skills and experience you have to offer, what causes are important to you and how much time you would be willing to commit – this will help you to narrow down your options.
If there is a particular organisation you’d like to volunteer with, don’t be afraid to contact the organisation and ask if they have any volunteer positions available that you could apply for. If they do have positions available they will need to know what skills you can offer and how much time you can give. They may require additional information from you as well – depending on the nature of the volunteer work you are asking about.
Some voluntary roles do not require any training and operate within a learn-as-you-go environment, while other roles do require the volunteers to go through training. Volunteer training can be a great opportunity for personal learning and development. You may want to find out what, if any, training you will be offered by the organisation you wish to volunteer for.
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Where do I find out about community organisations near me?
Here’s a list of types of organisations you could approach:
- your local education provider – they may need help with fundraising, governance, maintenance and upkeep of grounds or property, information technology support
- other youth organisations – they may be looking for mentors, activities organisers, drivers
- animal welfare groups – they may want people to do hands-on care of animals or advocating for animal rights
- environmental and conservation groups – some are nationwide or global, others have a more local focus.
- professional interest, cultural or creative groups – they may need volunteers for marketing and publicity, organising events, governance and management, professional advice, technology support
Volunteering New Zealand (VNZ) is an association of regional volunteer centres and national organisations with a commitment to volunteering. Your regional volunteer centre will help you to find organisations in your local area which are looking for volunteers. You can also search on the Volunteer Now website to find volunteer positions available in your area.
The CAB service is delivered by volunteers, so contact the CAB to find out about volunteering opportunities with us, as well as about other opportunities in your community.
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If I volunteer with an organisation, what are my rights and obligations towards that organisation?
As a volunteer, your rights and obligations are covered by the Human Rights Act 1993, the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004 and the Privacy Act 1993.
For example, you have the right to:
- be treated fairly and not be discriminated against because of your age, gender, sexual orientation, beliefs, marital or family status, disability, employment status or race (more about this on the Volunteering NZ website)
- a healthy and safe work environment
- be confident that personal information about you is not collected, used, disclosed or stored inappropriately
- not mention convictions on your application provided you meet certain criteria (more about this is on the Community Law website).
Your obligations include:
- treating the people you work with in a non-discriminatory way
- following the organisation’s policies and procedures
If you signed a volunteer agreement with the organisation then any rights and obligations in that agreement will also apply.
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What process should our organisation follow to remove an unsuitable volunteer?
Unlike an employment situation, there isn’t a specific process you have to follow if you want a volunteer to leave.
If a volunteer is not working out, it is better to talk to them about this sooner rather than later. You might be able to solve the problem by offering extra training or a switch to a different role.
Volunteering Waikato has a range of information to help volunteer organisations recruit and manage volunteers. It may be helpful to refer to their factsheet specifically on dealing with performance issues.
Having recruitment processes in place can help you minimise the risk of taking on unsuitable volunteers and then having to deal with asking them to leave when it doesn’t work out.
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What organisations can I volunteer with to provide free Christmas meals to people in need?
This will depend on the region you are in. Churches or your local Salvation Army often provide a free Christmas dinner. Local community clubs, like the Lions, may also offer a free Christmas dinner.
Some organisations have schemes to provide food parcels or children's toys to people who are experiencing financial hardship - this is another option you could consider.
Contact your local city council or CAB for more information about who will be running Christmas schemes for people in need in your region this year.
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If an organisation says they are not-for-profit, what does this mean?
A not-for-profit organisation is any society, association or organisation that does not function for the profit or gain of any of its members, and does not allow money, property or any other benefits to be distributed to any of its members.
This does not mean that the organisation cannot make a profit, only that the profit must be used for the purposes the organisation was set up for, not the benefit of its members.