Becoming a Volunteer

Volunteers are central to the Third Sector. Every community group, club, charity and social enterprise will include volunteers, from board members to fundraisers.

Volunteering welcomes all kinds of people, celebrating their skills, experiences, and diversity along with their unique and individual contributions.

Why Volunteer

People volunteer for many reasons. For some, it can be a route to employment, others a way of giving something back to an organisation that has helped them.

Becoming a volunteer not only benefits the individual volunteering, it helps the groups involved, the local community and society as a whole.

Some reasons people give for volunteering:

  • to give something back to an organisation that has helped them and  to make a difference to the lives of others
  • for the social benefits such as meeting new people, making new friends and getting to know the local community
  • to share skills and experience with others and feel part of a team
  • for the opportunity to try something new.
  • to improve employment prospects  and  develop transferable skills such as team working, problem solving and communication skills
  • to have fun and quality time away from work

How to Volunteer

Before volunteering you will need to consider a number of things such as:

  • What cause or issue you would like to volunteer for – the type of group or organisation
  • How much time you have to give. Some volunteer roles are for one-off events, some are short term, others might need a longer commitment
  • Where you would like to volunteer – in your local area, from home, in a different country?
  • What skills and experiences you can offer to the community group or organisation
  • Are there any practical considerations such as access requirements

Once you have decided on how you would like to volunteer there are number of organisations you can approach to help identify volunteering opportunities:

  • Local Third Sector Interface organisation or Volunteer centre
  • Volunteering websites
  • Direct to the organisation
  • Volunteer fairs

Each organisation will have their own methods of recruitment. There is likely to be a volunteer application form and you may have an informal interview. This is your opportunity to ask any questions you have about volunteering such as the reimbursement of expenses and what supervision and training is available.

Depending on the volunteering role you may be required to register with the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme and have a Disclosure check. The organisation you are volunteering for should arrange this for you.

What to Expect as a Volunteer

When you become a volunteer you should receive information about the organisations Volunteer policy, this may typically include:

  • volunteering agreements
  • volunteer task/role descriptions
  • risk assessments for each task description
  • code of conduct
  • a process for dealing with complaints
  • a process for dealing with a disciplinary issue
  • an induction to the organisation
  • details of your supervisor or leader

As you continue to volunteer you should receive ongoing support and training to carry out your role, as well as regular reviews.

Volunteering Awards and Accreditation

As a volunteer you will gain a wealth of experience and skills. Volunteering awards and accreditation are recognised methods of recording your achievements and learning.

Most award schemes are aimed at young people – including the Saltire Awards for 12-25 year olds or the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme for 14-24 year olds. There are a few organisations offering formal awards for older age groups such as The John Muir award, or you may also be lucky enough to volunteer for an organisation that has its own accreditation scheme recognizing your contribution as a volunteer.

There are also several courses available nationally which enable you to gain a qualification while you are volunteering. For more information about courses contact your local Third Sector Interface organisation or volunteer centre.

Other Community Toolkit Topics to look at:

Further sources of information