How to get into volunteering and volunteer work

How to get into volunteering and volunteer work

Vampire-hunting volunteers – save outgoing costs. Bring your own stake.

by Danni

Why volunteer? How to get started? And where to do it? Volunteering is a way to give something back. Danni’s birds-eye view may encourage you to take your interest in volunteering a step further…

Why volunteer?

Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and learn new skills; volunteer work will enhance your CV and perhaps give you that little boast into employment. You can even pick up a few awards for your work, which would make even the darkest, most evillest heart feel rosy.

Unemployed people (like, currently, myself) may find little reason to leave the house that often. Volunteering offers an opportunity to get out, meet new people and get involved with all kind of projects. Last – but not least – you could be making a real difference to an organisation or individual.

Where should I volunteer?

What would you like to be involved with? Almost every charity, school, community centre, care home or animal shelter is willing and very happy to take on volunteers. It’s your choice really.

Thinking about why you want to volunteer will help you decide where to do it. Are any particular skills you would like to learn? Is there is a charity or cause that you feel strongly about? Or is there just a local group who could use an extra pair of hands and would give you a chance to meet people?

You could try asking companies or local businesses if you can volunteer to gain some work experience, though you are more likely to be turned away from them.

If you are feeling very brave and adventurous, and have the financial backup for the initial costs of the travel package that’s usually involved, there are many opportunities to volunteer abroad.

I want to do volunteer work – but don’t have much spare time

Volunteering is as flexible as you need it to be. You can decide what days and hours you can put in. You can help out with a one-off project or get involved on a longer-term scale.

Remember, you are volunteering for free – so there is no pressure to give a certain amount of time.

If you aren’t happy with where you are or what you are doing then you can just quit anytime.

How can I get started?

If you have a specific place in mind, such as a local school or community centre, you can simply phone them or drop by to see if there is anything you can help out with.

Lots of charities have websites that will tell you how to start volunteering with them. If you are unsure of what you would like to do or what opportunities there are in your area, there are many websites that can help you find something. You want a cleaner environment? Most cities have volunteer days to clean up their rivers. You like Victorian cemetaries? London’s famous Highgate cemetery has volunteer clean-up days. You like tigers? You think there should be more tigers in the world, preferably free-range tigers running through cities causing havoc? There will probably be a charity that agrees with you. Google ‘tiger volunteer work’ or ‘rampaging tiger charity’. You’ll be bound to find a website dedicated to the preserverance of rampaging urban tigers, and a volunteer page telling you how you can get involved.

Also, your local council or library should have leaflets detailing how to get involved, which is particularly good because they should be a good source of local charities or organisations looking for volunteers.

Another good place to look, surprisingly, is on job websites. Don’t forget – if you’re unemployed and look to be that way for a while, volunteering is a good way of filling that gap on the CV with something useful.

Volunteering links to get you started

Danni’s Way: How I got into volunteer work

I began volunteering in late march after many months of unemployment and rejection letters. In the future I thought that I might want to get involved with TEFL (Teaching English as a foreign language). In China.

I thought that a good place to start would be to see what it’s like to work in a classroom. Not being brave enough to cut my teeth volunteering in a secondary school (I had too many visions of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies), I thought a primary school (kindergarten, American mooks!) might be a better option.

I applied to volunteer with the English Speaking Union (ESU) as a schools volunteer and also for a position as a reading volunteer at a local school.

I have since expanded on my school volunteering, and now volunteer two full days a week as a teaching assistant (over 3 different classrooms) and one hour a week with ESU in another school.

I have learned so much in just a short amount of time, thanks to volunteering. I am now in a much better position for job hunting. I have made new friends and enjoy getting to know and supporting the children I work with.

Plus… It’s so much fun sitting in a playhouse having a pretend picnic.