Q1 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 during 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.
Q2 Can I leave if I don’t like it?
Yes, of course. You are under no real obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation that you unhappy in. Having said that however it is always worth talking to somebody about this first. This could be your volunteer co-ordinator (if there is one), your supervisor or someone in the organisation who is responsible for you or someone who you have got on with well. You can then discuss with them why you feel unhappy and what you feel would improve your time as a volunteer in the organisation.
Q3 Can I get paid something towards my expenses?
Yes, you can. It’s a good idea for organisations to cover all your extra expenses that arise from volunteering. That includes the cost of traveling to volunteering and meals while volunteering. Unfortunately, not all organisations pay expenses. This could be because they don’t have enough funds or simply because they don’t realise that volunteers should be paid expenses. Before starting your volunteering, ask about expenses.
Q4 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.
Q5 Do I need qualifications?
Not usually, no.
Some volunteering opportunities require certain skills such as counselling which may require qualifications but organisations often provide training. If particular qualifications are needed to take up the volunteering role, the information should be available on the organisations’ 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 – rather than academic qualifications.
Q6 Can I get a qualification or an award?
Some organisations may offer volunteers qualifications but it’s unusual.
However, by volunteering you will gain valuable experience, develop your skills and be able to ask the organisation for a reference. You can ask organisations about qualifications as they may know local organisations that offer qualifications.
There are some awards for volunteering, particularly young people. Some organisations may provide certificates or local awards to recognise the contribution volunteers make.
Q7 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 while others require quite a bit, such as volunteering for Victim Support or Citizens Advice Bureau.
Other roles such as conservation volunteering, may provide you with training in handling specific tools and health and safety.
Q8 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. Giving time over the web is convenient and flexible and allows people to get involved who might otherwise be unable to.
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.
The kinds of things you can do include:
Helping with social media
Researching on the web
Tracking relevant legislation
Giving specialist advice
Designing a website or newsletter
Translating between different languages
Providing telephone, email mentoring or helpline support.
Q9 Can I volunteer from home?
Yes. It’s an increasingly popular way of volunteering and you can search for home-based opportunities on our website.
Example opportunities are telephone befriending or some people combine their hobby with volunteering such as knitters making blankets and baby clothes to be sold for charity.
For specific information on online volunteering, see Q8 – What about online volunteering?
Q10 How old do I have to be to Volunteer?
You can be any age to volunteer – but many opportunities do have age restrictions. That’s typically because of the type of opportunity, or because the organisation only has insurance in place for those aged 18 or over.
Q11 Can I volunteer together with my family or friends?
Yes, you can.
There are fewer opportunities for group volunteering but some examples of where it can work are practical conservation, fundraising, and events.
You can ask organisations whether there are opportunities to volunteer together with family and friends.
Q12 I’ve got a criminal record – can I still volunteer?
Yes, you can, with some limitations.
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, some organisations work specifically with ex-offenders and they will all be able to advise you about volunteering with a criminal record.
Q13 I feel I need some extra support to volunteer – is that possible?
Many local support organisations give help to people who need extra support for finding a suitable volunteering opportunity.
Q14 What is a CIC company?
A community interest company (or CIC) is a special form of non-charitable limited company, which exists primarily to benefit a community or with a view to pursuing a social purpose, rather than to make a profit for shareholders.