Research shows that for those of working age, volunteering is a good way to increase self-confidence and develop new skills. This then leads to improved chances of securing employment, since individuals are more assured and are motivated to contact potential employers.
Volunteering is also useful for those who want to get a feel of a structured work-like environment before starting paid work. For those who have had a break in employment, for skilled migrants in the UK and for graduates, volunteering provides an opportunity to update a curriculum vitae and creates a current reference which makes any job application stronger.
Volunteering is open to all ages. For people who are retired from paid work, volunteering offers structure, a challenge and also social contact which is lost at retirement in many cases. If travel is involved, the organisation is usually able to help with travel expenses so that no-one is out-of-pocket or dissuaded from volunteering due to costs.
Volunteers are essential for most locally run organisations in the community. Whether you want to work with individuals with particular special needs, help out in a community café, DJ on hospital radio, support medical research, do gardening or decorating for those unable to do this themselves the list is virtually endless. And then there are also unique one-off special projects. Not all volunteer work has to involve directly helping people. Volunteering as IT support or as administrative support in the office is also much appreciated.
Community organisations who use volunteers will all have a structure for recruitment and retention of volunteers. All organisations value the volunteers that are interested in supporting their work, and support volunteers in developing new skills and being part of a dedicated and enthusiastic team. This can lead to volunteers receiving accreditation from some of the training courses they complete as part of their role.
Volunteering can be flexible for those who cannot commit to weekly hours. Volunteers can help out on an ad-hoc basis for special events, whether that’s marshalling at a local half-marathon or managing a raffle at a Christmas Fair.
Community and Voluntary groups recognise that supporting local people to volunteer or undertake placements benefits the organisation, the community, and the volunteers themselves. This is why all volunteers receive training and supervision. Volunteering opportunities are also tailored to be meaningful to the volunteers as well as helping to improve services. This builds goodwill towards the organisation.
Each area will have a place where you can look at the available job opportunities. This may be an office or it could be online. If you need further assistance, it is possible to be matched to a particular role by someone with knowledge of the opportunities available.
For most volunteering roles you don’t have to have any previous experience to apply. However, organisations limit the number of volunteers placed at any one time to make sure volunteers receive the support, supervision, and training they need once they start. Due to the time and training that is invested by the organisation in a volunteer, most are asked to commit to volunteering for a minimum of 6 months.
Most organisations ask potential volunteers to fill in a simple application form. This can lead to an informal interview if they think you have the skills and interests that are helpful to them. You will be asked for a personal or professional reference to confirm your good character.
When volunteering the rewards are incredible. Supporting someone to access public transport may not require much energy from a volunteer, but the look of sheer excitement on the client’s face when the task is achieved, creates a sense of pride in the volunteer, as they’ve been able to help someone gain more confidence and access services that was not possible before. Here are two volunteer success stories:
Jess started volunteering for an online crisis chat network, and received accredited training for crisis line work. A year later she became a volunteer at a larger crisis line organisation where her skills translated across. Within months a paid position became available and Jess was encouraged to apply as her qualities, work ethic and knowledge had been recognised. Jess is now working part-time and has started studying part-time to become a social worker in Haringey.
Tom was already a charity trustee by the time he retired and decided to give more time to volunteering. As a multinational manager, Tom wanted to use his skills more effectively, which led him to the post of Chair at a regional Diabetes branch that needed hands-on leadership and organisation. Tom says that skilled volunteering has helped him apply many of his skills, has been a challenge at times, but the fact the he is doing this as a volunteer feels really good to him.