Image courtesy of Epilepsy Society

Q: What do volunteers do?

A: How big is your imagination?!  There are so many different opportunities on offer, it’s up to you to decide whether you prefer doing something you’re already familiar with, or take the plunge and try something new.

Most organisations will value your time and energy above anything else, and will probably offer training to help you in your new role.

Sometimes organisations do require specific skills, but if you’re not sure get in touch with them for more information.

Here’s some examples of recent local volunteering opportunities:

  • Office admin
  • Working in a charity shop
  • Develop a marketing or business plan
  • Become a Trustee – get involved in the running of a charity
  • Help plan and organise fundraising events
  • IT – show other volunteers and staff how to use computers
  • Manage woodland and outdoor spaces
  • Sports coaching
  • Visit an older person
  • Drive someone to a hospital appointment

Q: How much time is involved?

A: The great thing about volunteering is that it’s so varied and flexible you can usually find something to fit in with your lifestyle. It needn’t be the same day or time every week, it could be for a one-off event, a short project or a regular activity. Or you may have some spare moments when you could help from home.

Before you start volunteering have a think about when, how often and how long you want to volunteer for. Then search for opportunities which match up to what you want to do.

Q: Will I get paid?

A: A volunteer is defined as ‘someone who willingly gives their time to a good cause’. You will not get paid for your time but usually you will be reimbursed certain expenses from the organisation you volunteer with, so that volunteering does not leave you out of pocket.

Q: What does an organisation need from me before I start?

A: It varies depending on the role.  In some cases, a simple chat is sufficient but some organisations may ask you for:

  • application form
  • references
  • interview
  • criminal record checks – now called DBS checks (especially if volunteers are working with vulnerable people)

Q: Can I leave if the role isn’t for me?

A: Yes, of course. Volunteering should be fun! There’s no obligation to stay in a role that’s making you unhappy. The best advice is to speak with your supervisor and let them know how you feel.

Q: Can I volunteer if I have a disability?

A: Yes, many organisations can provide a variety of access and support needs. You can discuss any support needs you have with the organisation you are interested in volunteering with.

Q: Can I volunteer if I have a criminal conviction?

A: Many people with a criminal conviction do volunteer, however, it may limit the roles you can do depending on the nature of the conviction.

Q: Do I need a DBS check?

A: Whether you need a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check or not will depend on the volunteer role you will be undertaking; usually this will be when you are volunteering for an opportunity that requires working with vulnerable people such as children, the elderly, or people with mental health difficulties. This is a government run service that checks whether you have a Criminal Record or are on the DBS Barred List. The DBS check is free for volunteers that need it. Further information can be found on the Disclosure & Barring website.

Q: I work for a small company – can employees volunteer as a small group?

A: Absolutely! Volunteering is a great team-building activity and one of the best ways to re-ignite some energy into your workplace.

Some of the benefits:

  • Increased profitability
  • Loyal and healthy staff
  • Become an employer of choice: millennials say volunteer policies affect their decision to accept a job
  • More customers: 88% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that engages in activities to improve society

Read about our Team Volunteering Service.

Q: Are there any age restrictions to volunteering?

A: There is no legal age limit, although organisations involving volunteers sometimes have a minimum and maximum age limit, as their insurance policies may not cover certain age groups (such as under 16s and over 80s). Volunteering, however, should be based on the ability of a person to do the role, not their age.

Q: Can I volunteer if I am from overseas?

A: Generally, there should be no problem with an organisation accepting someone from outside the UK as a volunteer, but the individual must ensure that immigration rules allow them to do so. Volunteer Centre Camden have some useful further information for European citizens, refugees and asylum seekers and citizens of other countries.

Q: Can I volunteer if my faith means I need to pray during my volunteering?

A: Yes you can. When you talk to an organisation about a potential volunteering role you can ask them what arrangements they are able to make to give you time and a space for worship.

Q: Will volunteering affect my benefits?

A: Volunteering should not affect any state benefits you receive, provided that the only money you get from volunteering is to cover expenses, like travel costs, and that you continue to meet the conditions of the benefit you get.

It is important that you tell your Job Centre Plus adviser before you start volunteering. Further information from NCVO on Volunteering and State Benefits.