Where can I volunteer?

Want to volunteer but not sure if you have the time or how it’ll affect your benefits? Then you’ve come to the right place. Mark Restall, a Senior Information Officer at Volunteering England, answers your most common questions about volunteering, including where you can do it and what to expect from the process.

Three young people are waiting for a bus. They are considering volunteering. This is a full-body image.

What do volunteers do?

Almost anything. You can volunteer to rescue people from mountains, farm organically, build houses, write a magazine, or fix computers (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg). Nowadays, especially with the growth of the online sector, there are volunteer organisations for every interest and minority group imaginable. Some of these just offer their info online, but others actually let you volunteer remotely. This means that you can even volunteer from your sofa if you want to! 

Why do you want to volunteer?

We could go on and on about why volunteering matters but it won’t make a difference unless you believe it. It’s kinda cheesy, we know, but you need to think about your why. Maybe you or someone you know has benefited from volunteering work, or there’s a specific cause you care about like mental health or homelessness in your local community. Whatever the case, thinking about the answer to why do you want to volunteer? should help you figure out the next step – where you should do it. 

I’m ready – where can I volunteer?

Don’t open a new tab and start looking up “where can I volunteer” cause we have everything you need right here. 

There are loads of places that have a volunteering role available, including right here at The Mix. If that piqued your interest, you can find out more about volunteering with The Mix here, and read about one of our volunteer’s experiences here.

To find other volunteering opportunities:

It’s important to consider which organisation you would like to work for, the topics you’re passionate about, how much time you have to give, what skills you have to offer and what skills you want to learn and/or develop before choosing an opportunity. Basically, you’ve got a lot of research to do.

Can I ask about expenses?

Totally. It’s actually a good idea to check whether the organisations you’re interested in cover all your extra expenses. That includes the cost of travelling and any meals while on site. 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. If that’s the case then you’ll just have to decide whether you can afford to spend some extra cash and, if you can, whether this opportunity is the one for you.

How much time do I need to spend volunteering?

How long is a piece of string?

But seriously, there’s no designated amount of time that you have to spend volunteering. You can do it at any time of the week, day or night. A helping hand is always needed somewhere. You can also find volunteering that only takes an hour a month. In fact, recently this has been on the rise since there’s a trend towards short-term, low commitment volunteering.

I’m working full-time. Will I still be able to volunteer?

Yes, there are loads of opportunities to volunteer that don’t need you to be available 9-5 on Monday to Friday. Lots of organisations would actually love to find volunteers that are able to volunteer evenings and/or weekends.

Before saying yes to anything, you should always check out what time commitment the organisation has in mind. This is where your GCSE maths will come in handy. You’ll need to work out how much free-time you have outside of work and how much of that time you want to commit to volunteering. 

Will I be interviewed for volunteer work?

Most organisations probably won’t formally interview you. Instead, they’ll usually just ask for an informal chat. That being said, if the role has some level of responsibility, for instance, working with money, the interview might have to be more formal.

When you’re in this scenario, don’t be afraid to ask them anything that you feel unsure about. It’s as much for you as it is for them so make a note of any interview questions you have. You may want to borrow some or all of the following (free of charge):

  • Whether your expenses will be reimbursed
  • What opportunities there are for training or gaining qualifications
  • What jobs you’ll be expected to do
  • If you’ll have support or supervision
  • How volunteering may affect your benefits, if you are claiming

You could also be asked to complete an application form and in some cases provide references.

Can I volunteer with my family or friends?

Yes you can but your pool of options will significantly reduce. If you still wanna go for it then the volunteering you’ll need to look out for will be group activities e.g. practical conservation and fundraising.

Remember, volunteering is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people from all walks of life. It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about doing it by yourself but there’s really nothing to worry about. We’re sure that after the first couple of times, you’ll start to find your groove and settle in.

Can I claim benefits like JSA while volunteering?

You can volunteer for as many hours as you like while you’re claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) or universal credit. The condition is that you have to be actively seeking work and can’t be legally obliged to volunteer. 

Plus, if any potential jobs that you’re suitable for come up, you’ll need to prioritise them over your voluntary work. This means you can’t turn down suitable paid work because of your volunteering commitments. In practical terms, you’ll basically have to be free to go to an interview even if they only give you 48 hours’ notice.

Can I stop volunteering if I don’t like it?

Yes, of course. However, it is always worth talking to somebody in that organisation about your decision first. This could be your volunteer coordinator (if there is one), your supervisor or someone who you get on well with.That way you can let them know why you feel unhappy and what they could do to improve their volunteer programme so that others don’t end up feeling the same way.

If you notice that something is seriously wrong or someone is treating you badly it’s also worth checking whether your organisation has a complaints procedure.

For more info on anything we’ve discussed in this article, check out the rest of The Mix’s volunteering resources here. Share your volunteering stories on our discussion boards.

Next Steps

  • 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.

Tags:

volunteering

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 22-Mar-2022