NCVO (The National Council for Voluntary Organisations) – https://www.ncvo.org.uk/
The Institute for Volunteering Research is home to statistics and reports on volunteering and its impact.
The UK Civil Society Almanac provides statistics and information on volunteering.
The government’s Community Life survey tracks trends in volunteering.
National Volunteers Week http://volunteersweek.org/ Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration of the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. It takes place from 1st-7th June every year.
Frequently Asked Questions
People volunteer for many different reasons and at different stages in life:
- If you’re looking to develop your current skills or learn new skills
- If you want to gain experience in a particular industry or job type
- If you’re unemployed and looking for permanent paid work
- If you’re retired and looking to keep busy
- If you’re a part-time worker and want to donate your spare time
- If you have some free time and looking to socialise
- If you want to be involved in your community
The voluntary sector depends on volunteers to enable organisations, groups and charities to deliver services in the community. Without your help many people may miss out on vital services, assistance and support. Together we can make sure this doesn’t happen.
Are there any age limits to volunteering?
There’s no upper age limit on volunteering. However, some organisations’ insurance policies don’t cover you if you’re under 16 or over a certain age (usually 80).
You can’t work for a profit-making organisation if you’re under 14, even if you’re not paid.
Your local councils might have extra rules about the work you can do as a young person. For example, you might not be able to volunteer at a charity shop if the council decides that it’s a profit-making organisation.
How much time do I need to volunteer?
This is really up to you. You can find volunteering opportunities that only take one hour per month to five days a week or more. Some roles are for one-off events, some are short term and others might need a six month commitment.
You can volunteer at any time of the week, day or night. While much volunteering takes place in office hours, you can volunteer at evenings and weekends too, again depending on what you want to do.
Some organisations ask for a particular commitment from their volunteers, while others are able to take a more flexible approach. Certain roles like befriending require building up trust with someone which is why a certain amount of commitment is required. Think carefully about the amount of commitment you are able to give before choosing your role.
Our search facility helps narrow down the opportunities that suit your life.
Can I leave if I don’t like it?
Yes, of course. You are under no real obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation if you don’t like it. However, it is always worth talking to somebody about this first. This could be your volunteer co-ordinator (if there is one), supervisor or someone in the organisation who is responsible for you. You can discuss with them why you feel unhappy and what you feel would improve your time as a volunteer.
It is also something you may want to talk about with other volunteers in the organisation. You could either do this informally, or if your organisation has a regular meeting for volunteers, you could bring up any issues there. If you feel that something is seriously wrong or someone is treating you badly it is also worth checking whether your organisation has a complaints procedure. Some organisations have ‘volunteer agreements’ that explain expectations on both sides.
Do I get my expenses paid?
Yes, you can. It’s a good idea for organisations to cover your expenses that arise from volunteering. That might include:
- Travel to and from your place of volunteering
- Travel during your volunteering
- Meals taken whilst volunteering
- Phone Calls / postage
- Clothing ( i.e. protective / uniforms)
Unfortunately not all organisations do pay expenses. This could be because they don’t have enough funds or they don’t realise that volunteers should be paid expenses. Information given on the website often gives details about expenses but if it’s not there, ask your chosen organisation about this before you start volunteering.
Can I claim benefits while volunteering?
Yes. Claimants of welfare benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance are allowed to volunteer without losing their benefits. However, you must make sure that you are available to meet the conditions of receiving those benefits. We recommend that you tell your volunteer coordinator that you are claiming benefits, especially if there is a chance your situation could change at short notice, for example if you are seeking paid work.
Do I need qualifications?
Usually you don’t. Some volunteering opportunities require certain skills such as counselling which may require qualifications but organisations often provide training. If particular qualifications are needed in order to take up the volunteering role, this information should be available on the website.
Often organisations are looking for personal skills, such as being able to get on with a wide variety of people, being reliable and being enthusiastic about a particular interest or cause.
Will I get training?
This varies quite a bit depending on the organisation you are volunteering for and the type of role you have chosen. Some of this information will be available on the website of the organisation you are volunteering for but you should be able to get full details from the organisation.
Some volunteering roles require no training where as others require quite a bit such as volunteering for the Children’s Panels or Citizens Advice Bureau. Other roles such as conservation volunteering may provide you with training in handling tools and health and safety.
What about online volunteering?
If you would like to give time but are unable to turn up in person or have little free time then online volunteering could be the answer.
Online volunteering allows you to complete tasks from home, at work or anywhere! The tasks could be for organisations around the corner, overseas or they may exist only on the internet. Giving time over the web is convenient and flexible and allows people to get involved who might otherwise be unable to.
The kinds of things you can do include:
- Helping with social media
- Researching on the web
- Tracking relevant legislation
- Giving specialist advice
- Creating databases.
- Designing a web site or newsletter
- Provide translation facilities
- Providing telephone, e-mail mentoring or helpline support
- Supervise or moderate a chat room, news group or e-mail discussion group
Can I volunteer with my family or friends?
Yes, you can. There are less opportunities for group volunteering but some examples of where this can work is practical conservation, fundraising and events. You can ask the organisation whether there are opportunities to volunteer with family and friends
I’ve got a criminal record – can I still volunteer?
Yes, you can. Depending on the nature of your criminal record, you may not be able to take up some volunteering roles but a variety of others would still be open to you. It’s best to discuss this with the organisation you wish to volunteer with. Alternatively, local support organisations work specifically with ex-offenders and they will all be able to advise you about volunteering with a criminal record.
Can I volunteer full-time and get living expenses?
You can, but only under certain circumstances. Most residential voluntary work offers board, lodging and some form of pocket money. This work can be for a week or two or a whole year. Other organisations take on ‘paid volunteers’, giving them regular ‘living allowances’ over and above their out of pocket expenses.