What is volunteering?
Volunteering involves spending time, unpaid, doing something that is of benefit to others or the environment.
Whatever your age, interests or background, whether you can commit regularly or occasionally, there is likely to be something suitable for you. There are opportunities to volunteer in a wide variety of settings for example out-of-doors, in community centres or care homes, offices or your own home and you can take part in many different activities such as fundraising, sports, befriending, administrative work, or practical help and support to children, young or older people.
What you do as a volunteer depends on what you want to achieve. Everyone has a personal reason for volunteering and you should choose something that will help you fulfil your personal goal.
Benefits of volunteering
People volunteer for different reasons:
- you might want to give something back to your local community or a group which helped you or your family
- you might want to meet new friends
- you may be unemployed/looking for a new career direction/have been made redundant so want to learn new skills and keep yourself active
- you could have experiences and skills you’d like to pass on to others.
It’s flexible - you decide how much you want to do and when. Although you won’t be paid, there are other rewards for volunteering:
- building up confidence and self-esteem
- meeting people in similar circumstances
- learning transferable skills
- trying out new experiences
- helping others as well as yourself
- and very often, having a lot of fun!
There are many training opportunities you can access as a volunteer, it shouldn’t affect your benefits and many volunteer organisations offer out-of-pocket expenses. And it looks good on your CV - many employers look very favourably on volunteering experience.
What can I expect?
- To be treated fairly and made welcome
- To have a clear understanding of what you are being asked to do
- You should have a named contact for help and support
- You should receive training where necessary to keep you and others safe
- You should be able to ask for out of pocket expenses
- You should be insured where applicable
- You may need to go through safeguarding checks (DBS) depending on the role
- You can stop volunteering when you want to
- You should not be asked to do or support any illegal activity
- You should be thanked for your help.
What age do I have to be to volunteer?
There are no age restrictions for volunteering although for some roles you would need to be at least 18 years of age. If you are a young person take a look at our information on Volunteering for under 18’s.
Who can volunteer?
There are lots of opportunities for a range of ages and abilities. Some volunteer opportunities require certain skills or qualifications but the role description should make this clear.
I have difficulty accessing mainstream services because I have some additional needs. Can you help me find a volunteering role?
How much of my time will it take up?
This is entirely up to you, volunteering can take anything from an hour a month to a few days a week or be a one-time commitment. When deciding how often you would like to volunteer, think about how much time you could realistically commit.
Will it cost me anything?
Volunteering should not cost you anything, most organisations will pay ‘out of pocket’ expenses including reasonable travel costs - you can check this before applying.
Can I just try volunteering for a short time?
I’m interested in volunteering, what next?
If you know where you would like to volunteer you can approach the organisation directly, this is particularly appropriate for hospitals or charity shops.
I work full time but want to volunteer, how do I get involved?
There are plenty of volunteering opportunities that don't require a full-time or regular commitment but it is important to assess how much time you can reasonably give so that organisations can rely on you. Maybe you'd like to join a management committee to boost your leadership skills? How about mentoring a young person in employability skills? There are also opportunities to help at local events or to be a speaker for a charity.
You can search for volunteer vacancies online at www.do-it.org.uk
If you are particularly looking for skilled volunteer opportunities take a look at the Reach website
I’m interested but don’t know what type of volunteering to do?
Take a look at the national volunteer database www.do-it.org You can select your location, and try out different types of activity and areas of interest to see what interests you. You can also type your location and the word ‘volunteer’ in any search engine and see what comes up.