These are some of the questions often asked about volunteering. We hope they help you and you find a volunteering role which you find enjoyable and rewarding.
What is volunteering?
Volunteering is something that you do freely, without pay or reward, for the benefit of others or for the benefit of the wider community. You can volunteer for resgistered charities, community groups and for public sector organistions such as the local councils or the NHS. Volunteering is not work experience and you cannot volunteer in private organisations or business who exist to make a profit for themselves or their share holders.
How often will I need to volunteer?
Volunteering is flexible to suit you and your existing commitments and you are free to leave whenever you wish. You don't have to volunteer every day or on the same day each week...in fact you can volunteer on an evening, a weekend, from once a year to several times a week. How often you volunteer and how many hours you choose to give is something that you will arrange with an organisation when you first start your role.
Will I need to fill in any forms?
Once you find an organisation you are interested in you will be asked to complete an application form. Application forms normally ask for your contact details and for a bit of information about any skills or experiences you may have which might be useful. The information you provide on this form will often be used to tailor the volunteer role to meet your interests. For example if you have applied to volunteer in a befriending role you might want to mention if you have a second language or a particular hobby. That way the Volunteer Manager can pair you up with somone who shares your interests. Organisations can help if you need support to complete an application form.
Do I need skills or qualifications?
Most groups do not expect that you will have formal qualifications or a detailed work history. What is more important is that you are interested in the organisation, willing to learn, and feel that you have something to offer to them. Some roles do require particular skills, for example Volunteer Counsellors, however if a particular skill or qualification is need this will be made clear in the role description. Most organisations will provide you with training or an induction session to get you started and support is always on hand if required.
Will I need to have an interview?
Most organisations will invite you to come in and meet for a chat so you can find out more about each other. This is not usually formal, like a job interview, and you are under no obligation to volunteer once you've met with an organisation if you decide it's not for you. Occasionally, interviews are more formal - for example if a role requires particular skills. If you are required to have a more formal interview the organisation will let you know in advance what this will involve.
Do I need to give references?
Most organisations will ask you to provide a couple of references, however these don't need to be employment references. Most organisations are happy to accept character references from people who know you well. If you are in any doubt just talk to the organisation and they will be able to advise you on who to add as references.
Will I need a criminal record check?
Some organisations, especially if you will be working with children or vulnerable adults as a volunteer, may need to carry out a Disclosure and Barring Service check (previously known as a Criminal Record Bureau check) on you. The organisation will guide you through this process which involves providing two forms of identification and filling in a form. DBS checks are free of charge to you as a volunteer and the organisation will normally organise this for you. If you do have an offending history, and are worried about what will show up on a DBS check, we encourage you to be honest and open with the organisation you are interested in about your past.
What happens if I have a criminal record?
A previous conviction is not a barrier to volunteering in most cases and we are confident that we can find a role to suit you if you are honest with us about your situation. Convictions which are considered spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act do not need to be declared, except in certain circumstances.
Will volunteering cost me anything?
You may be put off volunteering due to concerns about the cost of travelling to volunteer. Many organisations will pay volunteer expenses to cover things like reasonable travel costs.
Will Volunteering affect my benefits?
Volunteering does not have any effect on your benefits and you can volunteer as much as you like. If you are curretly seeking work we advise that you inform the Job Centre about your volunteering as this is seen as a positive step in your search for work.
What will I need to wear?
Most roles don't require particular clothes and your normal clothes are fine. In general you don't need to wear a suit unless this is discussed with you first. If you need specialist or protective clothing for a role this will be provided by the organisation and you will receive full details before you start.
Are there any minimum or maximum age limits for volunteers?
Insurance can restrict organisations when taking on volunteers. All organisations involve people aged 18+ and generally there is no maximum age limit. If an organisation does have a maximum age limit this will be made clear in the role description. There are only a limited number of roles available to under 18s and the youngest that someone can volunteer by themself is 14. Young people under the age of 14 who wish to volunteer may be able to do so with parental supervision. Volunteering opportunities for under 18s can be searched on our online Volunteering Directory.
Will I receive any training?
If you need any specific training to enable you to volunteer this will be arranged for you by the organisation where you are volunteering. You may also be offered training such as health and safety or lone worker training. Organisations will discuss any training needs with you as your volunteering progresses.