In Aotearoa, one of our outstanding traits is that we’re amongst the most generous in the world when it comes to volunteering. It’s thanks to you, our team and community volunteers, that our Wharariki Ecosanctuary vision has become a reality and inspired a much wider Onetahua Restoration Project with significant government funding.
Did you know that more than one in five of us regularly donate our time and skills to help our communities in almost every type of activity? From sports and recreation; arts, culture and heritage; emergency and social services; to health, education and conservation and the environment - volunteers are at the heart of every sector.
Statistics NZ estimates that Kiwi volunteers donate a staggering 159 million hours of ‘formal’ volunteering every year, contributing $4 billion annually to our GDP.
Sadly, though, our community organisations are struggling to recruit volunteers. In recent years, volunteerism has been declining here in New Zealand and around the world for many reasons, and the tumult of the pandemic hasn’t helped.
It’s hard to imagine a world without volunteers
As the largest employer in the small seaside town of Collingwood, Golden Bay, we touch almost every corner of our local community and environment. From our workplace to our local clubs and services, schools and local businesses, farms, and recreation.
Volunteers play a critical role here, as they do in all communities, and we can’t imagine a world without them. Many are also informal volunteers - the unsung heroes, like the businesses who give their staff the flexibility to drop everything at a moment’s notice to respond to an emergency services callout. Or a neighbour who mows her elderly neighbour’s lawn and gets groceries for them.
Of course, statistics can’t account for every moment of kindness or generous dollar. But, from the fundraising pastry you last ate, to the donation to restoring nature made possible when you last purchased your wellness product from HealthPost, you can be certain that every little act of generosity helps.
There are some promising developments though. Corporate volunteerism is on the rise, and collaboration within and between community organisations, government, funders, and extended networks are helping to reverse the trend and respond to local need.
HealthPost Nature Trust is a good example of collaborative effort. For a few years now, we’ve been working closely with partners and community volunteers to enhance conservation efforts in our local environment. And, as a member of the Sustainable Business Network, we continue to learn what more we can do, and are inspired connecting with others also making real tangible differences through their sustainability initiatives.
What is corporate volunteerism, and how beneficial is it?
Corporate volunteerism is about businesses stepping up and making positive change in their communities through partnering, providing pro bono skills, and supporting staff to volunteer their time.
Studies in NZ and elsewhere, like the US, show that while volunteerism overall has been trending down in recent years, paid time off for volunteering is one of the few employee benefits that is on the rise.
Currently, around 23% of NZ companies (47% of US companies) are providing employee time for volunteer community programs. The larger the businesses are the more volunteering support they provide.
Though only 17% of Kiwi businesses measure the value they get from working with charities, they report bottom line benefits of corporate volunteerism, and say they do it because “it’s the right thing to do” (Colmar Brunton’s Better Futures Report 2021).
Creating a culture of volunteerism in an organisation has definite benefits: it increases morale, improves the workplace atmosphere, and people see the brand a lot more positively.
People also prefer brands that provide ethical and sustainable options. Two thirds of us choose to buy from and work with a company that supports a worthy or charitable cause and is environmentally and socially responsible (Colmar Brunton). And over half of us of are more active and engaged in sustainability compared to other countries.
This figure is even higher in the US where 89% of workers believe that companies who sponsor volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment than those who don’t (Deloitte).
What motivates us to volunteer?
People volunteer their time and skills for a range of reasons. For some it will be to develop additional skills, while others like socialising with people in their community and meeting new friends. But the biggest reason most volunteer is to give back to the community - particularly when they recognise they have the time and the ability to contribute their skills and knowledge in a meaningful way.
Corporate volunteerism works well when employees feel that their purpose is aligned with the organisation’s purpose. And the benefits expand beyond increased productivity.
- stronger employee engagement
- heightened loyalty, and
- a greater willingness to recommend the company to others
Employees are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay at the company (McKinsey).
By encouraging volunteerism, businesses can bring a sense of purpose for employees and help them better understand the impact they’re making, and how their efforts are benefiting their community.
We know this from experience. At HealthPost, our support for ecological restoration extends beyond financial contributions. We provide in-kind support for the restoration work undertaken by our HealthPost Nature Trust in all kinds of ways, from managing accounts and logistics to team-wide revegetation efforts. Our whole team has an opportunity to contribute to this project in work time, and they know that giving-back is a genuine priority.
We’ve partnered with Project Jonah to have a number of our team trained as Marine Medics to help when whales get stranded on Farewell Spit. And, whether or not they’re trained, our team are supported and encouraged to help with rescue efforts during paid work time.
For over a decade we’ve been collaborating with local community and conservation groups and coordinating projects with our team and community volunteers. We have annual tree planting days where our team can volunteer to enjoy a day out helping to restore biodiversity in our local environment. The socialising and enjoyment we all feel when helping to restore our native environment while connecting with others is pretty special.
International Volunteer Day – 5 December
Knowing how much volunteers do for communities, it’s no wonder the United Nations created the International Volunteer Day on the 5th of December to celebrate volunteer generosity.
But this day signifies so much more than a token of appreciation for all volunteers. It’s recognition that volunteerism is critical to achieving the United Nation’s seventeen sustainability development goals to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change.
Volunteerism plays an important role in helping to raise awareness and inspiring others to build their resilience and gain a sense of responsibility for their own community. It is one of the most vital delivery mechanisms for social, environmental and economic transformation, ensuring a lasting impact with its ability to change people’s mindsets, attitudes and behaviours (United Nations).
Clearly the volunteering sector needs our help. So, what can we do to help?
Creating a sense of purpose and meaningful impact
For us, volunteering through conservation in our local area is where we’re the most naturally connected, and has the greatest impact with many benefits.
In 2017, we established the HealthPost Nature Trust to realise a vision to create an ecosanctuary where biodiversity can be restored and flourish. The initiative has since grown to become a significant driving force for restoration efforts that enhance biodiversity in the Farewell Spit, Wharariki, and surrounding areas. As a result, we were awarded the Judges’ Commendation for the ‘Restoring Nature’ Award in the 2021 Sustainable Business Awards.
Not only do we all get a sense of satisfaction when we revisit the areas we’ve planted and see the positive impacts we’re making, but we’re also benefitting our local community.
"We’re planning to translocate shearwater fledglings to the sanctuary this summer. And there's a whole group of us in Golden Bay that are really keen to feed them and look after them, which is fantastic,” said Peter Butler, HealthPost Nature Trust Chair.
“Apart from the finer points of conservation, you also have to learn the finer points of fundraising as well. Having said that, when you get the level of community support, you realise there's people in the background who’ve been very generous.”
To keep the motivation strong, HealthPost Nature Trust Volunteer Coordinator, Marian Milne, helps to recruit and coordinate staff and local community volunteers. Her passion for the area, native plants and wildlife is infectious and she’s a well-respected member of the community having volunteered in numerous community activities for several years.
Photo credit: Bradley Shields
Like others who are involved with the Trust - including our local iwi group Manawhenua ki Mohua, Department of Conversation, our Trust patrons, and community supporters - Marian is very excited about the Trust’s ambitious project to reintroduce fluttering shearwater to the mainland. There’s evidence there were many thousands of petrels, shearwater and other native seabirds nesting here before the land was cleared for farming, and before predators were introduced.
“This summer, when we translocate 50 fluttering shearwater chicks to our Wharariki Ecosanctuary, we’ll need a dedicated team of volunteers to help feed the chicks sardines every day for two weeks. The logistics are quite involved, as there’s a tight nesting timeframe to work around. It has to be done before the chicks emerge from the burrows and see the night sky which they will later identify as home when they are old enough to return to nest,” says Marian.
Lucy Butler, Executive Director and Sustainability Lead says, “Wharariki and Onetahua Farewell Spit are iconic areas that we’re so lucky to have nearby. Of course, people can choose whether they want to take part, but many of us are naturally drawn to helping restore the conservation values of this incredible part of the world.
“On our annual staff tree planting days, for instance, there are always a lot of laughs. It’s amazing how much we get done. It’s so nice working alongside people from other areas of the business - there’s a very real feeling of team building that arises naturally from being out there in the fresh air, enjoying some kai together afterwards, and feeling like we’re doing a good thing.”
Thank you for making our mahi possible
It’s been immensely rewarding knowing how far we’ve come and the many positive differences you’ve helped us to make over the years for our people and our planet.
Thanks to loyal customer support and the generosity of our team and local community, we’ve donated over $1.355m to social and environmental causes, planted over 13,000 native plants since 2010, and built a predator-proof fence around our 3Ha Wharariki Ecosanctuary at Cape Farewell. And, of course, many are keen to help with the reintroduction of fluttering shearwater to the ecosanctuary this summer.
“There are so many people who make our mahi possible! We are so grateful for the support we’ve received within our community: from local schools, community groups, other Mohua businesses, and a strong network of dedicated volunteers here on the ground, getting their hands dirty! We’ve also benefited from the generous input and knowledge sharing from conservation and sustainability experts around Aotearoa.
“Our dedicated HealthPost team, and of course our mindful customers – among the growing number of Kiwis who choose to shop by their values – are the people who make it possible for us to deliver on our mission to have a lasting, positive impact on the wellbeing of people and the planet,” said Lucy.
Start volunteering today
If you’re an employer and keen to try a volunteering day, have a chat with your local conservation and community groups. They will help point you in the right direction to create a fun and rewarding volunteer program that works for you.
If you’d like to try your hand at volunteering, think about what you’d like to do and where you can help. Then contact your local community groups or visit Volunteering New Zealand. They’ll be so glad you called.
If you’re in Golden Bay and would like to volunteer your time to the HealthPost Nature Trust, please get in touch with our friendly team.