You might be looking to meet new people, to socialise or to get to know the local community. Or you might want to give something back: to make a difference to the lives of others, to help the environment or feel part of a team. Some people even use volunteering as a route to employment, to gain new skills or try something new. You might have professional skills you want to use to benefit others, or you might want to volunteer in order to gain confidence. Whatever the reason, the wide variety of volunteering opportunities means there is bound to be something to suit you and your lifestyle.
What kinds of people volunteer?
There is no volunteering “type”! Volunteers are as diverse and varied as the whole community. Young people, retired people, students, professionals, disabled people, those who are unemployed, people wanting work experience, people who are already in full or part time employment, those with skills to offer…the list is endless – people just like yourself! Volunteers can be any gender, class, or ethnic origin. There is a voluntary role for everyone. Click here to have a look at the profiles of some volunteers.
Am I too young or too old?
There are no formal age restrictions around volunteering. However, most voluntary organisations require you to be over 18 (and some even older). If you are under 18 though we still might be able to help, so get in touch. There is no upper age limit unless the voluntary role involves a specific task (such as driving or operating certain machinery) that has a restriction.
Will volunteering lead to paid employment?
Not directly. Volunteering is primarily an end to itself. Indirectly, however, volunteering can provide training, experience and references that could lead to paid employment.
How much time will I have to give?
It is entirely up to you to decide how much time you want to devote to volunteering. The average volunteer does around 2 hours per week. Most volunteers start with a couple of hours and may increase this if they wish. In some cases organisations may have a minimum expectation. In all cases your time commitment will be discussed in advance and you are always free to vary your hours accordingly. (There are even some opportunities that you can do from home.)
Will my benefits be affected?
You must contact Jobcentre Plus if you want to do any volunteering. They will ask you to fill in a simple form telling them about the volunteering you want to do. The basic rules are that if you get Jobseeker’s Allowance, you will still need to be looking for paid work. You must be free to go to an interview if the Job Centre give you 48 hours’ notice. You must be able to start work within one week . It’s OK to be paid your expenses but you must tell the Job Centre what you get, so make sure you can get hold of your receipts.
For more information ask the Job Centre for the leaflet “Volunteering while getting benefits”. You can also find this leaflet on the Department of Work and Pensions website.
Will my travelling expenses be paid?
We believe that everybody should be able to volunteer and that volunteers should not be left out of pocket whilst giving their time for free. Most organisations will reimburse any travel expenses. If the organisation you’re thinking of volunteering with doesn’t, it may be worth asking them why. It may be that they don’t have the resources to be able to reimburse you.
What should I expect as a volunteer?
For most part-time on-going volunteer roles within an organisation, you should expect an induction, where you are told about the organisation and its policies. This would generally cover health and safety, what to do if you have a problem and an introduction to other staff and volunteers. You should be told who your supervisor or leader is and how to contact them. It’s important that you have a named person who you can go to with any problems or queries. You should receive ongoing support and supervision, to make sure you are happy in the role and know where to go if any problems should arise. If you are volunteering for just a few hours to help at an event or something similar, you should still expect to be informed about the task, its purpose, health and safety and leadership/ supervision.
You should expect to be treated equally, regardless of your gender, race, age, faith/religion, disability or sexual orientation. Organisations involving volunteers should have an Equal Opportunities Policy and be willing to accommodate volunteers from all walks of life.
Do I need skills or experience?
No. Enthusiasm and availability are far more important. Some voluntary roles may be more specialised than others, however, but we’re confident that we can find the right role for you.
Will I receive training?
Yes, the vast majority of volunteering opportunities will include induction and training. Some organisations can offer more formal training that is accredited. You won’t be thrown in the deep end! The exact nature of the training you receive will depend on the role, but you will probably need at least basic training for the tasks that you will be doing.
Do I need references or police checks?
Yes. The vast majority of voluntary organisations will wish to take up references. Police checks are also required for any volunteering role that involves working with children or vulnerable adults. However, if you have a criminal record the police check does not mean that you’ll be automatically rejected. The check is designed to reveal only certain categories of offenders.
What do I do next?
Contact us for further information. We can give you all the details you need to pursue any interest you have and to give you the advice you need.