“Most community organisations are unconsciously geared toward catering for women volunteers”, says Volunteering Canterbury’s Outreach and Marketing Manager, Glenda Martin, and with that comes the risk of alienating a whole heap of potential volunteers without even knowing it.

“Whatever the reasons for that – and there are various explanations which I hear from time to time”, Martin said, “what is important is to let people know that volunteering, lending a hand, or however we want to phrase it, is something that everyone can do.”  With volunteering becoming increasingly skill-based, it’s more about asking men and women what they want to do as volunteers – what skills do they want to offer back to the community.  Volunteering New Zealand has recently released its Overview Paper on the State of Volunteering in New Zealand (April 2017) and not surprisingly it confirms that a lack of time is generally the most common reason given for not volunteering.  “It’s reasonable to assume, if time is limited, that people want to be very specific about where they gift that time”, Martin says.  Unable or disinterested in committing to long-term volunteering results in a trend towards what is referred to as ‘episodic volunteering’ – short term and perhaps ‘one-off’.  And this trend results in a higher turnover of volunteers and, as a result, often increased recruitment costs for organisations.

Engaging men in volunteering programmes is a subject which often comes up around the table when volunteer co-ordinators get together and it was for that reason that Volunteering Canterbury devoted a recent monthly networking gathering to that subject, ‘Supporting Men as Volunteers’.

Donald Pettit, from the Christchurch Men’s Centre, agreed that language is important.  Volunteering, contributing or making a difference – these are not necessarily terms which resonate with our menfolk.  Start talking about lending a hand, pitching in or helping out, though, and you will get men’s attention.  Dante Fyfe, a mentor with charity, Pillars, said that for him it was important to know what difference he would be making in his volunteer role and having clarity right from the start as to what his time commitment would be.

As part of her role, Martin says she strives to encourage Volunteering Canterbury 270 member organisations to think outside their usual ‘communities’ for volunteers.  “Male volunteers”, she says, “tend to be hugely resourceful and once involved, become very committed to a cause”.  Recruitment aside, to retain those volunteers is about knowing them, knowing what motivates them, and treating them as the treasures they are.

For more information on how you can get involved in the community, or what is happening in the volunteer sector in Canterbury, contact Glenda Martin, Outreach and Marketing Manager, Volunteering Canterbury  ph: 366-2442; outreach@volcan.org.nz