Questions & Answers
Who can volunteer?
Anyone. Whilst having skills or experience is useful, the important point is to have interest and enthusiasm for becoming involved in your community. Just match your skill, capabilities and available time to an organisation. Volunteer centres can help in this.
Can I choose what I want to do?
This depends on the organisation. You can talk to their staff about volunteer roles and what you might be able to contribute before you commit yourself.
Will I need to go for an interview?
Most organisations will want to meet a volunteer before asking them to start work but this will usually be for an informal chat rather than a formal interview. Some might ask for references from you but this will be explained before you start. If you are volunteering as part of a group, it is more likely that the organisation will arrange matters with a group leader only.
What will I gain from being a volunteer?
Firstly, a sense of achievement, seeing something happen in the community because of you. There are hundreds of organisations across the community that depend on volunteers to make their activity possible. Secondly, it is an agreeable way to meet people and make new friends. Thirdly, you can use the skills you already possess or learn new ones. For people who have been unemployed or those who have already retired, volunteering gives an opportunity to keep active and to do something practical and useful.
Who will I be working with?
You might be working alongside the employees of the organisation or with other volunteers. In either case you should be supported by more experienced colleagues, who can give you training or help as necessary.
How much time is required?
This will vary with the role you take on but it could be as little as one hour per week.
Is there an age limit?
Usually not. Most organisations welcome young volunteers and many of them have good arrangements for accepting young people whether individuals or in groups. There may be some limits on what tasks young people can do and they will be supervised by adults. A few volunteer posts, such as driving or using machinery, will only be open to adults.
Upper age limit? Certainly not – the oldest volunteer we know in our area is 91 and she has no plans to retire!
Do I have to make a long-term commitment?
No. Whilst some volunteers stay with an organisation for many years, it is always recognised that your interests might change and you might want to move on from an organisation. Similarly, if your home or work circumstances change, you might have to stop volunteering. Organisations will welcome your contribution even if it is only for a short time.
What about short-term volunteering?
Yes, very easy. Many organisations arrange projects and volunteer days to complete certain tasks. You can join these without committing to long-term volunteering. Also, there are many functions, festivals, shows and events in the community that need volunteers for just a few days or weeks.
For volunteers of any age there might be working holidays during which you can volunteer to give your time and expertise.
Will volunteering help me get a job?
Not directly. Volunteering means giving your time free for the good of the community. However, many companies recognise the value of work experience and skills gained in a volunteer role and you should mention such activity on your C.V. when applying for jobs. In some areas of work, a record of volunteering is often a very useful step towards paid employment. Conservation work, arts and entertainment, and outdoor pursuits are good examples.
Will I be paid expenses for my volunteering?
If you are giving your time and expertise free you should not have to make a financial commitment. Organisations are encouraged to cover their volunteers’ out of pocket expenses such as travel. The organisation should also provide tools, protective clothing and the like if needed.
I don’t want an active task. Can I still help?
Definitely. For every active volunteer task there is a backroom role in planning, organising and administering the organisation’s activities. Most groups need trustees and committee members. There are many volunteer tasks you can carry out from home.
Will volunteering affect my benefits?
Not in the UK. The government recognises the value of volunteering both for the community and for the person volunteering. If you are on benefit you can continue to volunteer so long as you are available to attend an interview for employment should one come up. A Job Centre can advise you if you are in any doubt.
Do I need to have police or criminal records checks?
If volunteers are going to work with children or vulnerable adults in the UK the organisation might ask you to complete a Criminal Records Bureau application. The information you give will be treated as confidential. Even if you have a criminal record it might not necessarily prevent you being a volunteer. Volunteering is about including not excluding people.
Many volunteering positions do not need a CRB check.
If a CRB check is needed you will not have to pay for it if you are a volunteer