What is Volunteering?
Volunteering can be rewarding and can give you a real sense of purpose. It can allow you to use existing skills and gain new ones.
Volunteering should be:
- Your choice
- The right fit for you and your lifestyle
- Mutually beneficial
Is volunteering right for me?
Volunteering is an investment of time and energy that benefits another person, a cause, an organisation and the community as a whole.
Volunteering is about taking responsibility and furthering an organisation’s mission. If you are looking to access volunteering for the very personal benefits of self-confidence or meeting people but without the responsibility of volunteering you could look into participation instead. This means you can take part in activities or hobbies and get those benefits without the pressure. Sometimes people think they want to volunteer when they need to participate. The two are very similar, one just comes with responsibility. There is nothing wrong with participation at all, it’s whatever is right for you at the time.
Still wanting to volunteer? Great! Keep reading.
As you start thinking about volunteering, here are some questions to ask yourself before you decide to volunteer:
- What's my main reason for thinking about volunteering?
- What would I enjoy/be really interested in?
- What would I really NOT want to do?
- What do I aim to gain out of this experience?
- How much time do I have for volunteering?
- What time of day do I want to volunteer?
- How long can I volunteer for? Short-term? Long-term?
There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, just be honest with your answers when you talk to the organisation you are thinking of helping. Most can and will work around you or help you see if they can accommodate you.
What do I need to think about?
Volunteering should be mutually beneficial, this means that both sides (volunteer and organisation) should get what they need from the volunteer’s involvement.
Mention anyone you care for (children, relatives, friends) and the appointments, school runs, and personal care duties you have to work around and ask if you can leave earlier or start later to work around that.
Some organisations provide / require some sort of training. When you start make sure you know what training is expected of you and what times it is on and if you can attend. Training can be on a wide range of subjects. This is a brilliant gift they give you but please think about if you are going to be there long enough to use it. It is very frustrating for an organisation to spend the time and money on training a volunteer and they leave as soon as they have it. Please think about and respect the training given and pay the organisation back with some time and service afterwards.
Due to financial challenges, an increasing number of organisations cannot pay expenses to volunteers. If this is something that might affect your ability to participate, check when you start.
Driving whilst volunteering
If you are being asked to use your car as part of your volunteering role YOU will need to ensure that you insurance covers you doing this role. Your insurance company will be able to guide you through this but you may need to be insured for ‘business use’.
Will volunteering affect my benefits?
If you are in receipt of any sort of benefits or payments, it is worth checking with who you get them from to see if your volunteering will affect them in any way.
The organisation should provide you will everything you will need to perform the tasks they are asking of you if it is a regular opportunity. For one-offs or specialist tasks (e.g. gardening or fixing things) it may be that you are expected to use your own tools or equipment. You should clarify who is responsible if anything were you happen to your equipment and then make a decision if you are willing to use it.