The New Zealand Non-profit Sector in Comparative Perspective

The New Zealand Non-profit Sector in Comparative P...
01 Jan 2008

Aotearoa New Zealand has a strong non-profit sector, with rich historical traditions, and it is evolving and growing in importance in Aotearoa New Zealand society. At least three major social forces have shaped the non-profit sector in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand.

The first of these is the indigenous Māori population, which developed its own forms of social organisation based on whānau (family), hapū (sub-tribe) and iwi (tribe). Māori kin-based associational forms have remained significant, and they inform contemporary service, governance and membership organisations.

The second force is the legal, political and social inheritances that followed from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the British Crown and Māori in 1840, and the subsequent settlement of the country by Europeans of predominantly Anglo-Celtic descent. The British influence gave birth to today’s institutional forms familiar to Western audiences, among them charitable societies, clubs, lodges, temperance societies, and craft unions.

The third force is the welfare state, which was embedded in the 1938 Social Security Act and further elaborated in subsequent decades. The development of the welfare state fostered a close collaboration between key non-profit organisations and government and led to an infusion of public resources that has substantially strengthened the sector while requiring increasing accountability from it.

As a result of these influences, Aotearoa New Zealand has a robust non-profit sector that, in addition to providing human services, is broadly engaged in what have been referred to as the expressive activities of culture, recreation, civic activism and advocacy activities. This pronounced expressive dimension makes the Aotearoa New Zealand non-profit sector unique among English-speaking countries. These findings emerge from a research project carried out by a team of Aotearoa New Zealand researchers working in co-operation with the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project and Statistics New Zealand.

The work has been co-ordinated by the Ministry of Social Development in partnership with the Committee for the Study of the New Zealand Non-profit Sector. This research project sought to measure Aotearoa New Zealand non-profit sector organisations quantitatively, following the methodological guidelines spelled out in the United Nations Handbook on Non-profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts, to compare these findings to those from other countries surveyed by the Johns Hopkins University study, and to put this set of institutions into historical and political context. The result is the first comprehensive empirical overview of the non-profit sector in Aotearoa New Zealand that systematically compares Aotearoa New Zealand to other countries.

This report provides a brief summary of the results of this work. The discussion falls into five chapters beyond this Introduction. Chapter 2 provides detail on the project’s objectives, the approach to gathering and analysing data and the way in which non-profit organisations have been defined for the purposes of this project. Chapter 3 summarises the major empirical findings about the scope and scale of Aotearoa New Zealand non-profit organisations and compares these findings to those on the 40 other countries on which comparable data are now available. Chapter 4 briefly examines the key historical factors that shaped the development of non-profit organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand. Chapter 5 discusses the key issues confronting the sector in the contemporary period, particularly in terms of the impact of government policy. Finally, Chapter 6 draws some conclusions from the findings presented here and outlines their implications for public policy, non-profit organisations, and research.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018