Welcome to the section of the site that will help equip you with the right information and routes to volunteering opportunities most suited to you, so you can make the most of your skills and talents in a volunteering role. After all there is much to gain from volunteering, such as:
Boosting your career by:
- Acquiring new skills, knowledge and experience
- Developing existing skills and knowledge
- Enhancing a CV
- Improving employment prospects
- Gaining an accreditation
- Using one's professional skills and knowledge to benefit others (usually described as pro bono)
Giving your social life a fillip by:
- Meeting new people
- Making new friends
- Getting to know the local community
- Feeling part of a team
- Feeling valued
- Having quality time away from work or a busy lifestyle
- Gaining confidence and self-esteem
Some first thoughts…
A first piece of advice if you are new to volunteering is try to make sure, as far as you can, that your volunteering experience is not a disappointment; evidence shows if you are disappointed by it, you are unlikely to volunteer again. The ‘whitewash’ experience that sees professional people don overalls to paint walls is often a time-wasting exercise for both volunteer and charity. There is a growing realisation that ‘volunteering in a suit’, in other words using your professional skills to support charities pro bono, is a much better approach all round. Charities are often very short of this kind of professional and executive help, and professionals like yourself would rather employ their strongest skills than pick up a paintbrush and paint a wall badly (apologies to the master decorators among you).
As a result a number of match-making agencies exist that will help you put your ‘day-time’ skills to use in the charitable sector (see Finding an opportunity further down the page).
Preparing to volunteer…
Your first step towards a fulfilling volunteering experience is to ask yourself some important questions about the time and skills you wish to donate. So consider:
Do I want
- …an ongoing, regularly scheduled assignment, a short-term assignment or a one-off assignment?
- …to make it better around where I live?
- …to meet people who are different from me?
- …to try something new?
- …to see a different way of life and new places?
- …to have a go at the type of work I might want to do as a full-time job?
- …to do more with my interests and hobbies?
- …to do more with my professional skills and expertise?
- …to do something I’m good at?
Think carefully about what motivates you, but also think about:
- how much time you have available
- which areas or locations you would like to work in
- which size organisation you would prefer to work for
- what your areas of interest are
Once you have answered these questions you will have a clearer idea of the area you wish to engage with and how you wish to help. The next step is to find an opportunity.
You might want to check to see if your employer runs a volunteers scheme as part of their CSR activity. Many do and if you want to see some great examples of City corporate community engagement programmes check out the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards that celebrate the best each year. Your employer may give you time off during your working week to volunteer for the schemes they support.
If your interests lie outside the corporate opportunities, you can contact the following organisations for help in finding the right opportunity.
- City Action is a free volunteering brokerage service linking City-based businesses with community organisations and social enterprises in the City and neighbouring boroughs. As skills-sharing experts they work closely with members to facilitate high impact, mutually beneficial volunteering opportunities and partnerships. City Action is part of the Corporate Responsibility team at the City of London Corporation.
- Volo is an online platform that brings individuals, companies and charities together to create social change.
- Do It in a national database of volunteering opportunities for people of all ages – can provide details of opportunities in your area.
- GoProBono is a 'super hub' for professional skills-based volunteering. If you are looking to donate your time and skills pro bono or want to engage someone pro bono, then GoProBono is for you. It allows you to connect with the many skilled volunteering brokers now in operation.This tool is simple to use and free to all.
- Reach is the leading charity specialising exclusively in recruiting skilled volunteers for all charities in the UK. Based in central London, it is particularly strong in the Capital. Reach's services are free to all volunteers. Reach also recruits trustees free of charge to charities with a turnover of under £1million.
Benefacto is most easily described as lastminute.com for booking employee volunteering opportunities. The cornerstone of Benefacto’s offering is that they work with small charities to identify where they really need extra hands and then offer the opportunities through a simple to use employee volunteering portal.
- Time Bank can provide details of local organisations matching your volunteering interests.
- Worldwide Volunteering is an online database enabling volunteers to match their particular requirements. Will carry out searches for those without internet access. Tel: 01935 825588.
- ThirdSectorVolunteering aims to help professionals from all sectors contribute to charitable causes through the skills they have developed in their working lives. It contains hundreds of live volunteering opportunities posted free-of-charge and searchable by skillset and cause area.
- Impetus – The Private Equity Foundation is committed to transforming the lives of 11-24 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds by ensuring they get the support they need to succeed in education, find and keep jobs, and achieve their potential. Impetus-PEF finds the most promising charities and social enterprises that work with these children and young people. It helps them become highly effective organisations that transform lives; then helps them expand significantly so as to dramatically increase the number of young people they serve.
- Goodwill Exchange is a pro bono skills bank that aims to help donors give their professional skills more smartly to smaller charities now “on the ropes” because of the funding crisis. It is a not-for-profit forum where professionals, such as accountants, lawyers, marketing specialists, business leaders and other skilled professionals can register in their area of expertise to provide small charities support on a project basis.
- Pilotlight is a charity that manages teams of senior business people to coach charities through the process of building measurably more sustainable and efficient organisations. They call this process 'pilotlighting'.
- Volunteering England is an independent charity and membership organisation, committed to supporting, enabling and celebrating volunteering in all its diversity. It offers practical ways to help you volunteer, including links to local volunteer centres that can support you; ivo, the social network connecting people and organisations that want to make their world a better place; and Go ON Give an Hour, where you can give just an hour of your time to show someone how to use the Internet
- Employer Supported Volunteering Resource Hub (ESV) provides employees with the opportunity to volunteer with support from their employer. This may be in the form of time off for individual volunteering, or in a programme developed by the employer, such as a team challenge event or ongoing arrangement with a community partner.
- Slivers-of-Time is a social business which has developed a web based platform that makes it really easy for people to volunteer their spare time to employers, voluntary organisations or their local community. The platform is similar in principle to self-managed online shopping, banking and social websites. The difference is the time-banking system behind it. It enables, and encourages people to provide services to each other, for example, spending a couple of spare hours volunteering at the local library.
Choosing the right opportunity…
Once you have got a shortlist of organisations, call to ask for more information or if you prefer, write them a letter asking them to tell you more about the opportunities available. You may be asked to go in for an interview, informal chat or visit, depending on the organization, but use this as an opportunity to find out more about the projects and what you will be doing.
Whether it is your time or expertise, it is important to decide what it is that you can offer. For most voluntary jobs you don’t need any formal qualifications. If the job requires a specific skill then the organisation will make sure you have training and supervision. Even if you think you don’t have any specific skill to offer, remember that many volunteering jobs involve just being there to talk to someone or an extra pair of hands. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you commit to an organization.
A common misconception about volunteering is that you will be tied down to a long-term obligation. This is not true. Recruiters are well aware of volunteers’ responsibilities outside their organisation and realise you might not have much time to spare. This is why many organizations offer very flexible working periods and you don’t need to give up a great deal of time, so choose one that suits you. You could get involved in a one-off fundraising event which only takes place once a year. Or if you decide to make a regular commitment, it might be for an hour a month or several hours a week – the choice is yours.
When you apply to work as a volunteer remember you also have the right to ask questions. For example:
- What will be expected of me?
- How much will I be supported by other staff?
- Will I get paid for travel and other expenses?
- Am I insured if there is an accident?
- What kind of equal opportunities statement and practice does the organisation have?
- Is there someone who can support me if I find the work difficult or emotionally draining?
- Are there opportunities to receive accreditation or recognition for my achievements?
Don't be afraid to ask these things. It is important you spend a bit of time checking out the organisation to make sure you are happy with what you are being asked to do.
It's official: volunteering is good for you: Read the University of Lampeter's report to find out more on why donaiting your time and expertise is good for your health.
Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR): A new evidence bank for volunteering research has been launched by the Institute for Volunteering Research (IVR), the research arm of Volunteering England. This free searchable database brings together all of the publicly-available research generated by IVR since 1997.