Expert chat with vInspired: Starting volunteering

Our volunteer expert, Sam SparrowNever volunteered before? We invited Sam Sparrow from vInspired to answer your questions about starting volunteering. Read on to find out what she had to say about finding the perfect opportunity, dealing with nerves, and more.

p>[Jack: I've never volunteered before. I'm interested in meeting new people, but need to build up the confidence to do it - any tips? It can be quite daunting volunteering for the first time.

Chrissy: I think volunteering with friends is a good start, and thinking about what you enjoy. If it's something you love, you tend to enjoy it and feel happy and stuff

Tanika: Just being yourself I guess. I was really scared of meeting new people but once you are there and you get chatting some of that fear goes away.

Ethan: I'd probably go to a small volunteering event first and then build up.

Sam Sparrow: Jack - this is a great question. Even as an adult I was really nervous when I went back to volunteering in a group for the first time. I volunteered as a School Governor and was really scared as everyone was older! But my main tip was to go and meet a couple of the other volunteers first if you can so you can see friendly faces and it isn't so scary when you go in a bigger group. That's what I did!

Sam Sparrow: Also, I think if you are a bit nervous, it never hurts to ask lots of questions first! There are no silly questions - I asked about things like start and end times, parking, who else was involved and dress code! I wanted to feel really prepared.

Chrissy: yeah Sam, I remember helping with my first one and being so scared! I asked questions like what to do if they don't listen etc. But I found it was fine, the worries I had were silly and it was just fun.

Sam Sparrow: Chrissy - that's a good point. All my worries melted away the moment I met other volunteers! At one of my last jobs I set up a buddy system so old volunteers could mentor/look after new ones. You guys are clearly super volunteers so perhaps you could suggest that next time you volunteer! :-)

Chrissy: Where can I find out how to become a volunteer?

Sam Sparrow: You have lots of options here Chrissy. You can first of all search online - both on Do-it and vInspired. You can search by location and interests. The vInspired website is catering especially for 14-25 year olds so loads of opportunities for you there! If you don't know what you want to do exactly you might find it easier to chat to someone. Your local volunteer centre is a great place to visit because they'll have lots of info about what is available. Finally, if you know exactly what you want to do, you might want to visit a charity directly - so if you knew you wanted to fundraise for Cancer Research or volunteer with the Dogs Trust - they'll advertise their opportunities on their websites. Many people think that volunteering has to be an ongoing, long term commitment - it doesn't have to be at all and lots of charities would love volunteers for a day or an event.

Julie: Or Chrissy - you could try a number of different things and then you can decide what you prefer to do most?

Sam Sparrow: Julie - great idea! Are you still at school/college/uni Chrissy?

Chrissy: yeah I'm still at school

Sam Sparrow: Okay. In that case, you may want to see what opportunities your school advertises too, as many schools, colleges and unis will have volunteering schemes.

Julie: Volunteers don't get paid, but it's nice for their work to be recognised. How can you do this?

Sam Sparrow: Julie what a great question! There are lots of ways to get recognised for volunteering. Here are a few:

Sam Sparrow: 1. I work for the charity vInspired and we have awards for volunteering - v10, v50 and v100. They helped you get recognised and colleges/unis and some employers recognise them - we are working on that! (you get certificates too)

Sam Sparrow: 2. We also have our national awards every year where young people get nominated and we put on a big glitzy event each March - make sure where you volunteer knows about these so they can nominate you!

Sam Sparrow: 3. A lot of charities and organisations who work with volunteers have their own recognition and reward schemes too like certificates etc so you should ask your volunteer manager.

Sam Sparrow: 4. Finally, I think a lot of recognition can come from your family, your friends and those around you. So you need to SHOUT about what you are doing! For example all those volunteering stories...blog them, let people know what you are doing, and if you volunteer in a group, recognise each other! One of our vInspired programmes is very active on Twitter and the leaders are always tweeting about each others' success. There is nothing better than getting recognised by another volunteer!

Tanika: I usually get to get together with my vol co-ordinator so we can discuss feedback etc, last one was done after a year of volunteering, but we always email

Sam Sparrow: Tanika you raise an excellent point about feedback - recognition isn't just about rewards, it's about understanding the difference you've made. Your vol coordinator or charity will always be happy to chat to you and give you feedback. It was the best part of my job.

Dan: Sam, what would you say are the best volunteer opportunities for joining a group?

Sam Sparrow: Well, organised groups such as Guides/Scouts and Boys/Girls brigade are groups which also have volunteers in teams/groups. Also a lot of conservation groups will volunteer in groups to clear up a local area/recycle/plant flowers etc.

Sam Sparrow: Finally - fundraising is another good opportunity. That said, if you wanted to search on do-it or vInspired for volunteering opportunities, the description would be clear about whether you'd be on your own or in a group!

Next Steps

  • Go to vInspired to search for volunteering opportunities for 14-25 year olds.
  • Search Do-it for information about volunteering and opportunities in your local area.
  • Looking for a mentor to help boost your knowledge and skills? Find a youth zone close to you.
  • Reveal your skills with Define Me and find the right words to tell employers.
  • Download Motimator - an app that helps you get the career you want - by giving you a gentle kick up the ass each day when motivation is running low.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

Updated on 29-Sep-2015