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Becoming a volunteer

Becoming a volunteer can be personally rewarding and help you to 'give something back' to your community. Volunteers can choose from thousands of different opportunities; from helping out at your local city farm to becoming a seminar leader at a business education charity.

What you can gain from volunteering

As a volunteer you will be giving your time to help charities and community groups improve lives, but volunteering can provide you with many benefits including:

  • the chance to have fun doing something you've never tried before
  • increased confidence
  • a sense of satisfaction and achievement
  • the opportunity to make new friends and contacts with diverse backgrounds and experiences
  • increased job and career prospects and new skills - over 70 per cent of employers would hire a candidate with volunteering experience over someone who has never volunteered

Ways to volunteer

There are many ways to volunteer depending on how much time you can spare. Full-time, part-time, evening and night volunteering are offered by various organisations.

Examples of just some of the ways you can volunteer are:

  • caring for animals and wildlife
  • setting up a volunteer scheme at your workplace
  • spending time mentoring and befriending a young person or refugee
  • working outdoors to improve the environment
  • working on local community projects
  • becoming a school or college governor

Age limits

You are never too old or young to volunteer and your age may in fact make you more suitable for some kinds of volunteering. However, some organisations may not take on volunteers under 16 as they can’t insure them. To find out more about volunteering for young people, follow the link below.

If you are older, Community Service Volunteers runs the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme for people aged over fifty. To find out more, follow the link below.

Volunteering while on benefits

The benefits regulations are clear that you can volunteer and it will not affect your benefit payments, as long as you meet the conditions of your particular benefit. However you should let your benefits office know if you start volunteering. For more information and contact information, read 'Volunteering while on benefits'.

How to find volunteering opportunities

First of all, decide how much time you have to give and in what area you would like to volunteer your skill. Some charities are flexible about when you work for them, while others will want you to commit to a regular day.

The next step is to find an organisation and volunteering opportunity that suits you. There are many ways to do this; to find out more read the article ‘Finding a volunteering opportunity’ from the link below.

Before you start

Once you have found an organisation it is useful to go and meet them for an informal chat and find out more about what you would like to do. This is a chance for you to ask questions about the volunteer opportunity, see the place you would be working and meet some of the people you might be working with.

Some of the points you might want to ask about are:

  • what the position involves
  • whether you will receive any expenses to help pay for your travel and food costs
  • what training is offered to help you do the job
  • if there are any qualifications you can gain while volunteering
  • whether you will have a supervisor or mentor you can talk if you have questions or concerns

Employment rights

As a volunteer it is important to know what your rights are, for example in terms of health and safety.

To find out more about what your rights are while volunteering, read ‘Your employment rights as a volunteer’ available from the link below.

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Additional links

Muck In4Life

From clearing ponds to planting trees - find conservation volunteering projects for all the family

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