Volunteering Statistics

New Zealand volunteering data:

We have collated key volunteering data resources and highlighted some of the key insights drawn from this data. We have also captured key volunteering measures tracked by the public sector.

New Zealand volunteering data insights

Using information from Statistics New Zealand’s latest quarterly Labour Market Statistics, the following highlights can be drawn from the statistical tables:
    • Approximately 21.5% of New Zealanders undertake volunteer work
    • The value of formal volunteering is estimated at $4 billion per annum.
    • New Zealanders contribute a total of around 159 million hours of formal volunteer labour each year
    • 11.8% of people undertake informal volunteering work, contributing a total of 7.8 million hours of volunteer labour per year to these figures. 
    • Rates of volunteering for those who are employed are higher than those who are unemployed or not in the labour market. The exception is those over 65 years old, where the rate of volunteering for those not in the labour market is higher than those who are employed. This is because the proportion of over 65 who are not in the labour market may be higher than those who are employed. 
    • People from European and Māori ethnic groups are the two ethnic groups most likely to volunteer, while MELAA (Middle Eastern, Latin American and African) and Asian are the least likely by volunteer percentage rate. This shows the ongoing challenge of making the volunteering landscape more inclusive to widen the types of people who engage in volunteer work.
    • Those in professional occupations are more likely to volunteer than those in non-professional occupations: 23% of professionals and managers, versus 16% of labourers and machinery operators.


The 2021 General Social Survey captures some vital data around informal volunteering, defined as volunteering done outside formal organisations. It highlights:
    • When the measure of volunteering is expanded to include formal and informal volunteering, and long term and short-term volunteering, rates of participation are significantly higher. Of those aged 15 years of age or older, 50.7% have performed formal and/or informal volunteer work in the last month.
    • Of those who have volunteered, 30.2% volunteered through an organisation and 36% volunteered directly (i.e. undertook informal volunteering).
    • A higher proportion of women volunteered than men, with 53.7 percent of women volunteering over the previous four weeks, compared with 47.5 percent of men.
    • Those who volunteered for an organisation contributed an average of 15.9 hours over a four-week period, an increase of 2.4 hours from 2016 (the most recent previous collection of this data).
    • People who volunteered rated life as more worthwhile on average (8.1/10) than those who did not volunteer (7.9/10).
    • Among those who volunteered, environmental volunteerism grew in popularity. The proportion of those who volunteered increased from 6.9 percent in 2016 to 11.1 percent in 2021.
Data from the latest Statistics New Zealand Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account report provides the following snapshot of the organisations/institutions involved in the community and voluntary sector: 
  • There are currently 115,770 registered non-profit institutions (what VNZ often calls volunteer-involving organisations/VIOs or voluntary/community organisations) in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
  • The largest cluster of community organisations belong to the ‘Culture, Sport, and Recreation’ category, which includes organisations as diverse as volunteer school sports coaches, to regional tramping clubs, to Māori waiata groups. Organisations belonging to the Culture, Sport, and Recreation category account for 44.8% of all community organisations. 
  • The second largest category is the Housing, Health and Social Services category, together comprising 22.4% of all community organisations. 
  • Organisations focussed on law, politics, and advocacy (including professional unions) comprise 6.5% of all community organisations. 
  • Grant-Makers, Fundraising, and Voluntary Promotion organisations, which includes charitable funders and sector leaders such as VNZ, make up 1.4% of all community organisations. 
  • Community organisations focussed on international issues make up the smallest category, comprising just 0.8% of all community organisations.  
  • The number of people who volunteered at a community organisation in 2018 was 1,008,000 (a figure which VNZ has previously used together with other data to arrive at our 21.5% estimate of New Zealanders who participate in ‘formal volunteering’). There is a worrying decrease from the previous report, however, with 2013’s figures indicating 1,229,054 volunteers.  
  • The overwhelming majority of community organisations (89.2%) do not have any paid employees (i.e. they are staffed only by volunteers). Of those organisations that have paid staff, 7.3% have fewer than 5 employees (measured in total headcount, not FTE). Only 3.5% of community organisations have more than 5 employees
  • Community organisations most likely to have paid staff are those working in the Health and Social Services category, with 21.4% of the workforce (on average) being paid staff; and the Education and Research category, where 18% of the workforce are paid staff. 
  • Community organisations reported a total income of $18.11 billion in 2018, which is an increase from previous. 
  • The majority of community organisations’ income (66%) come from the sale of goods or services, while a significant portion (29%) comes from grants and donations. 
  • The largest category of community organisations (Culture, Sport and Recreation) received the majority of their income (63.7%) from the sale of goods and services, followed by 33.1% of income received from donations and grants (including from members, grant-makers, and the Government) which contributed a total of over $1 billion in 2018. The amount received from Government may be an underestimate, however, as Statistics New Zealand does not list grants received from government contracts (for example, organisations contracted by the Government to provide a particular sporting service to a region would not have their income included in the list).

Volunteering indicators and measures

There are a number of volunteering indicators and measures being tracked by government.

Living standards framework

Treasury has launched a refreshed Living Standards Framework Dashboard, which now tracks three indicators and measures related to volunteering. You can monitor progress against the Dashboard. Three key indicators related to volunteering measure now tracked as part of framework include:

  • Volunteering: Measured by tracking the percentage of adults who reported having done voluntary work in the previous four weeks (New Zealand General Social Survey – Stats NZ)
  • Involvement in the community by youth: Tracking the proportion of young people who report helping others in the neighbourhood or community (eg, helping out on the marae or at church or belonging to a volunteer organisation). (WhatAboutMe survey).
  • Non-profit operating surplus: Measured by operating surplus for the non-profit sector as a proportion of income (Non-profit institutions satellite account Stats NZ)

Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand
Statistics New Zealand (2020). 

Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand collates wellbeing data for New Zealanders. One of the indicators tracked is Volunteering. This indicator measures the percentage of people aged 15 years and over who reported having done voluntary work for at least one organisation or directly for a person from another household in the previous four weeks. We know that 49.8% of New Zealanders aged 15 years and over reported having done voluntary work in the last four weeks. There is more information available on age, location, disability status, ethnic group and sex, including raw data in spreadsheet form. Volunteering data available here.

Volunteering data resources:

The following resources provide insights about volunteering in New Zealand and a number of other similar jurisdictions.

Non-profit institutions satelitte account 2018
Statistics New Zealand (2020). 

The Non-profit institutions satellite account (NPISA) supplements the existing New Zealand System of National Accounts and analyses the contribution of non-profit institutions to the New Zealand economy. It also includes measures of volunteering and unpaid work. A key finding is that value of formal volunteering is estimated at $4 billion per annum.

Labour Market Quarterly Statistics: June 2019 Quarter
Statistics New Zealand (2018/19)

Labour market statistics provide a picture of the New Zealand labour market, including unemployment and employment rates, demand for labour, and changes in wages and salaries. It includes useful information around volunteering rates, stratified by various categories including age cohort, ethnicity, occupation, and geographical location.

Volunteering and Donations by New Zealanders in 2016
Statistics New Zealand (2016). 

This report from Statistics New Zealand highlights findings about volunteering and donations from the General Social Survey (GSS). It provides useful information for organisations and policymakers on the demographics of the volunteer workforce, plus the number of hours volunteered and for whom. It also explores the types of people who donate and who they donate to.

Other great volunteering data sources

There are a range of other sources of volunteering insights and data. Here are some of them.

JBWere NZ Cause Report 2021

Considered a leading reference resource for Aotearoa New Zealand’s multidimensional charitable and broader for-purpose sector, the report provides an analysis of the environment in which charities and not-for-profit organisations operate, at a macro and detailed level including an in-depth examination of 19 different cause areas. A key finding is that the sector was worth $12.1b to our GDP in 2018.

Time Well Spent: A National Survey on the Volunteering Experience
National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), UK (2019)

This report summarises the key findings from the report Time Well Spent: A national survey on the volunteer experience, undertaken by the United Kingdom’s National Council for Voluntary Organisations. It provides a valuable perspective on effective research engaging with volunteers. 

Blog Post: Who are Australia’s volunteers? The 2019 update
Glenn – “Census Expert” (ID The Population Experts, Australia)

This is a blog post summarising the make-up of Australia’s volunteering workforce. The rates of volunteering are similar to New Zealand’s, and some of the challenges around inclusion and diversity are also highlighted. 

We anticipate keeping this page regularly updated as new resources and datasets become available. Upcoming reports will include the 2020 State of Volunteering Report and an analysis of the latest volunteering data from the New Zealand 2018 Census when it becomes available.