VolunTalk

Volunteers at the New Zealand Blood Service

At the New Zealand Blood Service, we collect, process and test blood donations, and make sure that blood products and other related services are ready and available when needed by New Zealanders.

There are 6 main collection sites. These comprise of Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Donation Centres are also maintained in Tauranga and two smaller sites in Auckland. Mobile blood drive teams are operated out of the 6 main sites and travel within urban and rural areas.

Our volunteers play a large role in supporting NZBS. They assist in the recruitment of donors, they help with nominated administration tasks, meet and greet donors when they attend a session and serve refreshments to blood donors. Their contribution has been and continues to be invaluable. The large network of volunteers registered with us number over 700 nationally and whilst many can only help out on an annual or quarterly basis, there are the regulars that come into a blood centre once to four times a week to serve refreshments to our donors, chat to them and make them feel appreciated for having donated blood to save lives.

Many of our volunteers are donors who can no longer donate, but still want to be able to contribute so throw their names in to help, some have had friends or relatives who have received blood so want to give something back, and for many others, it’s just about being part of a service that support the community. A large portion of our volunteers also come from service groups such as Lions, Rotary, Red Cross, St Johns, Women’s Institute of Church groups, just to mention a few, and these services play a vital part in providing assistance, especially for our mobile collection drives.

Coordination of our volunteers is overseen by a designated person at each of our centres, though Clinical Nurse Leaders at collection sessions provide leadership and guidance. NZBS have a process for registering, recruiting and training volunteers and a database that records details regarding volunteer numbers, hours, roles they fulfil and site specific information. In the last 12 months volunteers contributed over 11,000 hours toward supporting our donors. We aim to have volunteers at each of our collection and mobile drives and for much of the time we are able to achieve this. However this can sometimes be a challenge, especially in our larger city Auckland, and we are always looking for people keen to help us. Our collection days do not normally include weekends and our hours include a range that extends as early as 7 am and as late as 8 pm. We are always keen to hear from people who have a genuine interest in helping and caring for others, who have very good people skills, physically fit, like working as part of a team and want to be a volunteer at the New Zealand Blood Service.

Our donors help saves lives, our service enables us to do this and our volunteers support us in achieving this.

Olive Utiera is the National Manager, Donor Services

Volunteer is not a reflection of quality

A few years ago a colleague returned from a conference with this take-home message “Volunteer is an adjective not a noun”.  This message really resonated with me and I have quoted it frequently since that time.  For the thousands of individuals who volunteer for Arthritis New Zealand in any year, the adjective volunteer sits in front of a noun, like appeal collector.  

One such noun is board member.  The Governing Body of Arthritis New Zealand, like the boards of many in our sector, is made up entirely of volunteer members.  Our organisation is the size of a pretty typical small business in New Zealand.  These volunteer board members are required to demonstrate the same risk management, strategic planning, and people skills as paid directors of other businesses.  

These volunteer leaders are the kaitiake of the organisation’s kaupapa.  They are the ones who hold the past and the future in their hands.  Over the past year, as our Governing Body has worked to review the mission and direction for the organisation, the importance of the director role was particularly evident, as was the skill set of our volunteer Governing Body members.  

Volunteer Board Member comes with a job description and skill set that stretches many people.  I remember the Right Hon Jenny Shipley when she became Prime Minister saying she started her leadership journey on the local Kindergarten committee.  Are other future Prime Ministers sitting around a Board table in our sector?

Having worked with both paid and volunteer Board members over my lifetime, I know that the adjective volunteer is not a reflection on quality or skill.  We have some incredibly skilled people who volunteer their time and talents to lead community organisations.  Hooray for adjectives I say.

Sandra Kirby, CEO, Arthritis New Zealand

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