Volunteering: things to consider

Volunteering is a good route back into work, a way of keeping your hand in and allows you to give back to the community. But before you take the plunge, there are a few things you need to consider…

Volunteering is a good route back into work, a way of keeping your hand in and allows you to give back to the community. It can help build up your confidence as well as enabling you to develop skills and to follow a particular interest. But before you take the plunge, it is worth considering carefully the kind of volunteer work available, your own interests and motivations and the amount of time you have to commit.

1. Think carefully about where your skills and experience lie and how you can best use them in voluntary work.

2. Consider why you want to volunteer and what you hope to gain from the experience.

3. Investigate all the different types of voluntary organisations on offer. Your local library is a good source as are local volunteering centres. You can find out where your nearest Volunteer Centre is by ringing Volunteering England on 0845 305 6979 or using the Volunteer Centre finder.

4. Figure out what kind of time commitment you can make, whether it is short term, for instance, while you are on maternity leave, an hour a week or a one-off. There are all sorts of different volunteering opportunities, ranging from occasional time commitments to once a week to every evening.

5. Some volunteering opportunities will involve training, for instance, to man a Samaritans helpline. However, some organisations do not provide training and rely on the skills you already have. Make sure to mention if you think you may require training.

6. Usually you will not need to be formally interviewed unless the work is sensitive, for example, requiring you to handle petty cash. However, the organisation will want to have a chat with you and let you know how it operates.

7. If you want to leave, you are free to do so at any time, but it is worth talking to someone if there is a problem rather than just dropping out and giving as much notice as possible.

8. Although voluntary work is, by its nature unpaid, many organisations count on their volunteers to act in just the same professional manner as an employee.

9. If you want to work overseas, look into travel costs and whether you can claim for them or need to get sponsorship. There will be even more things to consider if you are volunteering abroad so you will have to research this carefully.

10. If you want to work with children or vulnerable adults, you may very well be required to have a CRB check.

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