Volunteering for a good cause is something many Kiwis love to do – but finding the right organisation to help in the right way, isn’t always straight-forward.
A new project called Volunteer Taupo is being developed in the central North Island to link local organisations with willing helpers. It’s an issue that people are increasingly asking the Taupo Council of Social Services (TCOSS) for assistance to address.
“Since COVID-19 we’ve realised there is a gap that needs to be filled,” explains TCOSS co-ordinator Andrew Lilburn. “A lot of agencies are struggling for volunteers and lots of people want to volunteer their time. But what they want to do is not necessarily what organisations need.
“It’s harder to find someone who’s prepared to commit to one day every week than someone who just wants to turn up on an occasional weekend to plant trees for example. Different people have different abilities to contribute, and organisations have different needs so Volunteer Taupo will help match them together. This process is crucial for a successful relationship.”
Andrew says volunteers are a hugely significant part of Taupo’s community and need to be treated well, looked after, and acknowledged for the great mahi they are doing.
“There are lots of activities in this town that wouldn’t be happening without volunteers. Their contribution is significant. Nationwide, it’s believed volunteers contribute around $4 billion to New Zealand’s economy.”
TCOSS is now partnering with Volunteer Waikato and will use their experience and resources to develop a local Taupo version of their service.
“Volunteer Waikato has a website where organisations can list their requirements and potential volunteers can see what is available. We want to further promote this and will piggyback off their website because it’s very effective.”
Andrew points out that not all positions are onsite or face-to-face. “There are many examples of positions in admin, fundraising or social media platforms that can be done remotely and there are actually examples of people volunteering in Taupo when they live in another part of the Waikato.”
Volunteer Taupo will also likely employ someone locally to run workshops and training sessions for organisations who want to improve the way they advertise for, and look after, their volunteers.
The new project will be possible thanks, in part, to funding from BayTrust who have approved a $30,000 annual grant for the next three years (total $90,000) to help the council continue to connect and support Taupo’s social services.
TCOSS represents over 80 different organisations in Taupo who help people with different aspects of their lives – everything from budgeting services to health support groups, youth workers, drug and alcohol counsellors, age concern and so on. The council is the ‘glue’ that connects these different groups together and TCOSS hosts monthly networking meetings so people can collaborate within their own areas of interest.
“We’re extremely happy to have received this money from BayTrust. It makes a significant difference for us and for the impact we can then have in the community. The beauty of the multi-year funding is it gives us certainty to embark on a project like Volunteer Taupo. If we were unsure of our funding we wouldn’t want to be starting something like that if we didn’t think we could keep it going.”
The other big focus for TCOSS this year is to help get community housing better established in Taupo.
“It’s been an uphill battle really,” Andrew acknowledges. “Housing is an issue across the country and Taupo is no different. We’ve got heaps of people staying in motels and they can’t transition into other accommodation because it just isn’t there. It’s not a funding issue, it’s a building supply issue.”
TCOSS is working with Taupo District Council, central government and local community groups to formally establish a Community Housing Trust in Taupo in the very near future.
“The council has just agreed in their Long Term Plan to really get in behind us now. TCOSS and our housing steering group have done work on the structures and models of operating… we just needed to get a bit more coordination and support from the district council and we’ve now got that so that’s really exciting.”