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Volunteer expert challenges Manawatu


By Judith Lacy - Tribune (27 September 2009)

Cheryll Martin has been harnessing people resources for 14 years. 

The general manager of Volunteering Auckland was in Palmerston North on Wednesday to encourage setting up a Manawatu volunteer centre. 

She says the recession has made charities focus on bringing dollars through the door, but they would never get enough cash to run all their services.

But she says, there would always be volunteers. ‘‘But where’s the status within your organisation – with the money or with the people?’’

Ms Martin says volunteering was ‘‘going through the roof’’’ and with it the need to train and support non-profit organisations’ volunteer co-ordinators.

During July 2008 to June 2009, Volunteering Auckland saw a 120 per cent increase in volunteers compared to the year before. Referrals in the first two months of this financial year were double the same period last year.

‘‘Are you prepared for the numbers?’’ Ms Martin challenged. ‘‘Are you prepared for the types of people coming forward today to volunteer?’’

She says volunteering has changed drastically during the past 10 to 15 years with more employers allowing staff to do charity tasks during work hours, and more students needing to do volunteering as part of their course requirements.

The stereotypical volunteer is an older white woman, but many volunteers were in their 20s or migrants. Organisations needed to be more flexible, moving away from the mindset a volunteer would be available one afternoon a week for the next 20 years.

The skill level of volunteers is also on the rise, Ms Martin says. A person with a double degree is not going to be happy sitting in a back room stuffing envelopes. ‘‘People can’t give the money they used to, but they can give the time,’’ Ms Martin says.

Promoting volunteering and the right environment for it are key parts of Volunteering Auckland’s role, she says.

A third of its money comes from Government, a third from philanthropic trusts and the rest from running training courses and fundraising.