In New Zealand, the social contribution of volunteers exceeds 270 million hours per year. Volunteer participation is a vital component of emergency services activities, particularly in rural settings. Fire and Emergency New Zealand is the primary rural emergency response agency with a network encompassing almost 3500 volunteers. This ‘formal’ volunteer capacity aids the wellbeing of communities, particularly in response to wildfire, but also other hazards. Formal organisation of volunteers is supplemented by informal volunteering, especially during response and recovery phases and is increasingly encouraged in readiness and reduction activities. Informal volunteering, evident in the ‘spontaneous’ mobilisation of resources during disasters, can evolve into more formal structures. Governments and volunteer organisations are being urged to plan for ‘spontaneous’ and ‘digital’ volunteers as part of their emergency preparedness to include volunteers in ways where formal and informal volunteering can work together. This paper considers the practical aspects of integrating informal and formal volunteers to identify lessons for inclusion. The paper examines how informal volunteer activities could contribute more to rural community resilience before, during and after emergency events.