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Is there anything that would make volunteering easier for you?

(84 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 10-Apr-12 12:03:01


Our Campaign of the Week this week is for the rather splendid Do-It, a site which aims to help people in the UK find volunteering opportunities via a postcode search.

Obviously volunteering is something that can take a hit when households are already struggling to make ends meet, so we wanted to ask: what kinds of things (other than an overflowing bank account) would make it easier for you to volunteer? And - for those of you who have volunteered in the past - what did you gain from the experience, and would you recommend it to others?


nenevomito Tue 10-Apr-12 12:10:57

Its easier to volunteer when its for something that is close to your heart.

I've managed to find time to volunteer recently. Its only a few hours as I ususally work FT but it helps me feel like I am giving something back to the people who've helped me out with my DS so much over the last few months.

My advice is that if there is something you care a lot about then its worth putting the effort in.

sairygamp Tue 10-Apr-12 12:17:23

I am the manager of the volunteer centre in Cambridge and we are incredibly busy at the moment with volunteer enquiries, through Do-It. Can I add a couple of things which will make life easier for us :grin. ? If you apply for a volunteering opportunity through Do-It, it will go to your local Volunteer centre, who will then forward it to the organisation; please don't shout at us if they don't get back to you sad; we are all part timers (probably tru os most centres, so dont; fret if your response isn't immediate - it's probably not the Admin person/volunteer that deals with do-its/managers day off! Finally, , if you feel that the organisation you go to is not acting appropriately, doesn't have a volunteer policy, code of conduct etc, then is the time to tell us. We want volunteers to be treated poperly and with respect.

That's all. Thanks!!

sairygamp Tue 10-Apr-12 12:18:38

apologies for grammar/spelling: 'true of' not 'tru os' and it probably IS the off grin

CMOTDibbler Tue 10-Apr-12 12:23:00

I work ft as does dh, and I travel for work. So I can't commit to anything on a regular basis. But I could help out with PC based things that could be done from anywhere, or occasional weekend things if the dates were given out well in advance.
But for now, I just help out with RDA as and when - which fortunatly the group at our yard is very happy with

lilbreeze Tue 10-Apr-12 12:26:03

Great website - and exactly the kind of thing that would make me more likely to volunteer. It would be really useful though to be able to search for 'work from home' opportunities.

BornSicky Tue 10-Apr-12 12:27:06

volunteering gave me my career. If i hadn't signed up to volunteer, I wouldn't have been later employed by the company, nor gained the huge amount of experience I accrued through volunteering.

I now train and work with volunteers as well, and it's incredible the amount of time and effort people give. Most of our volunteers are older/retired and have sufficient time to work with us, and I do worry that it's hard to give so much time if you work or have a family who need alot of support/time.

Working with volunteers there is a very tricky balance to maintain to ensure you don't ask too much of the volunteer and there are industries who abuse volunteers' good will, by turning them into unpaid staff. I do worry about the government's position on all of this at present, but also can't fail to find immense pleasure from volunteering and working with volunteers (without whom I couldn't do my job).

sairygamp Tue 10-Apr-12 12:29:31

bornsicky - I agree some organisations have been known to abuse vols sad. We try to get feedback from all those we send and offer training for volunteer co-ordinators too. Some places are practically run by volunteers and they work so hard, it makes me furious when orgs don't respect and value that.

KatieMiddleton Tue 10-Apr-12 12:37:07

Ooh what a brilliant idea! I wanted to volunteer for CAB in London a couple of years ago - so fairly wide area and probably busiest place in UK for volunteering opportunities. I had loads of experience in financial services and HR and wanted to offer debt management and basic employment advice. They only had training on a Wednesday. There was no flexibility - it was Wednesday or nothing. So they got nothing because I couldn't get childcare on that specific day.

I have found it virtually impossible to volunteer for CAB locally because they seem to have a finite number of opportunities - none of which are based on skill gaps apparently. ie they might not have anyone to help with employment issues - but they still won't let you apply and I know someone who did a study for his PHD who found they were not recruiting the best person and so got wildly varying standards sad

So, for me the things that have helped me volunteer have been:

1. Being appreciated. Not by everyone of course (I do get moaned at a lot - usually about things that are beyond my control) but by the people I come into contact with day to day - volunteer colleagues and employees of the charity. There are basic levels of politeness and courtesy that should be maintained at all times.

2. Flexibility. I'm giving my time for free so I need to be able to fit it around my life.

3. Clear expectations and deadlines - I need to know what you want. Even if it is that you don't know what you want and would like me me to create it/research options.

4. Really good volunteer support. Just because I am a volunteer does not mean that I should be bottom of the pecking order NCT. I deserve to have someone manning the volunteer helpline and inbox who will get back to me quickly - not in a week and from someone who is doing it in addition to their other job and resents having to do it.

5. Feeling valued - proper listening and feedback processes so volunteers have a voice. We are often at the coalface so we have lots of information and experience to share - so let us!

6. Mainly doing stuff I like. I'm not necessarily bothered about whether I feel strongly about the charity but I have to feel that the work I am doing is valuable and mostly things I enjoy doing. When it becomes a drudge then it's not worth doing.

One other thing that I'm not really sure how to articulate is that there is work that I will happily do as a volunteer that I would not be prepared to do in paid employment because it would be extremely low paid.

Oh, and one of the reasons I freelance is so I can continue to do voluntary stuff - so I would like a few perks as a self-employed person like childcare vouchers and other things and I would like to have my contribution recognised on things like the census and application forms. Ticking "unemployed" when you give 30 hours a week as a volunteer feels wrong because you're not "unemployed" - you're very much employed... just unpaid.

KatieMiddleton Tue 10-Apr-12 12:37:24

Sorry that was a bit epic. Off to read the x-posts

Thank you for this, I have just signed up to be a girl guide leader which I have been planning for a long time but didn't know how to start, had never heard of do it.

lilbreeze Tue 10-Apr-12 13:00:19

Oh sorry blush I have just spotted the "from my home or computer" tab - I take back my comment!!

marshmallowpies Tue 10-Apr-12 13:11:33

Agree with Katie - as a volunteer worker I'd like to be able to tick a box saying 'voluntary worker' rather than unemployed!

I am hoping volunteering can be the path to a new career for me but taking a break first to have a has been SO much more fulfilling than my old job and I'm very glad I took the chance to do it when I could.

pinkappleby Tue 10-Apr-12 13:43:38

With one volunteer position I did the council put on a yearly 'do', just a tent in a park with a bbq and some voluntary groups doing entertainment and we could nominate some helpers to get a certificate from the mayor in recognition of their efforts. It felt good, as though we were valued and it can't have cost that much per head, especially considering how much we saved the council by doing our work.

I then moved so gave up volunteering and felt disinclined to do any more as a kick back against government policies, but that's just me. The opposition is wearing off and I have now got involved in a couple of organisations in a limited way (so far).

More time.

As someone who has been invited to have volunteers work with us (severely disabled son) I have found a few things. (1) some volunteers are volunteering to improve their CV- which is fine, but I found they were unreliable compared to ones volunteering because they had a real interest. Unreliability being things like not turning up - which tbh could be fairly disastrous, if unavoidable fair enough, it happens, if because something better came off, not good. (2) some voluntary organisations are pretty poor at matching. So for example the volunteer coordinator (not from the organisations mentioned above - I won't name them but it's a big national charity) rang me and said 'great news I have a brilliant person for you - she says in her application she'd love to work with a high functioning autistic child and take him or her to coffee shops'. I said 'er my son is many things but he is certainly not high functioning and is impossible to manage in coffee shops'. The volunteer coordinator then tried to tell me I must be mistaken and my son must be high functioning (he's nearly 13 and non-verbal ffs hmm ) Anyway she went ahead and sent the volunteer anyway, who it then turned out didn't want to do anything that remotely resembled swimming. My son's favourite activities? Swimming and surfing. So it ended up being a pain as the days we had the volunteer we couldn't do anything my son liked and I ended feeling like I was babysitting her. Actually I refused to have volunteers after that experience and insisted on SS upping our support package.

nailak Tue 10-Apr-12 14:30:04

Training for volunteers during school hours, with time allowance for traveling to and from the school, even if that means the training is over more days (ie 10-2 rather then 9-3)

Childcare at training for younger kids.
Some sort of scheme where volunteers can get together in a group and take turns in babysitting each others kids while the others go to the volunteer job, and then they swap.

more local volunteering opportunities and training, trekking all the way to central London for training and having to pick up and drop kids from school/nursery is a pita.

Make use of childrens centres. Run courses in the childrens centres about volunteering, while younger kids use creche, run training in childrens centres while younger kids in creche. an example of this is esol volunteers course which is run in some childrens centres.

sairygamp Tue 10-Apr-12 14:35:39

nailak if you contact your local CVS (council for Voluntary Services) they should be able to point you in the direction of training. Expenses are a tricky one - we recommend that all out of pocket expenses are reimbursed, so travel is 45p a mile or public transport paid, and lunches can be provided, but unfortunately, it is really hard to get orgs to provide childcare sad

AllShiney Tue 10-Apr-12 14:59:32

I have to say the biggest issue in the way for me is childcare. I volunteer one morning a week at a breastfeeding drop in because I am allowed to take my son with me.

I'd love to do something more but it's very hard as a single parent with very little support.

I think there should be more opportunities for parents to volunteer with children in tow - for example, befriending single or young parents who need some extra support.

nailak Tue 10-Apr-12 15:02:11

^^those services normally have strict professional boundaries ime

Bert2e Tue 10-Apr-12 15:39:32

My main barrier is childcare too - I volunteer at a breastfeeding drop in and have only been able to do more of this now both children are at school.

Indith Tue 10-Apr-12 15:41:05

Expenses are the worst for me. Paying hospital parking sucks! I brought it up at a meeting and staff said "well we have to pay for staff parking" well yes but you have a salary too, I do this for free!

nailak Tue 10-Apr-12 15:41:22

I dont know if this couns as volunteering, but i am a nursery and childrens centre guv'nor and the reason i am able to do this is as they let my younger kids stay at creche during meetings, or if it is evening meeting they arrange a childminder.

vezzie Tue 10-Apr-12 17:21:04

people getting back to you
people respecting that you have to do other things (paid work)
paid work respecting that there is a value to it (ha ha ha as if)
training leading to recognised qualifications ie transferrable across the country (I trained as a bf peer supporter before I knew we were moving and now I can't use that training and have no time to train again as mat leave is over)

Janni Tue 10-Apr-12 18:16:57

I volunteered for Homestart with a toddler in tow - they matched me to families where it would be a bonus to bring him along to play with one of the children in the family I was supporting.

Now all my children are older I volunteer for Childline where the volunteer support is fantastic and I hope to work there in a paid capacity in the future.

I echo the comments about CAB - I looked at volunteering for them but the training and time commitment required was too onerous. Also, I applied to Volunteer Reading Help but they said they had too many volunteer applications to process at the moment because of the London Evening Standard campaign.

I run a Rainbows unit and the reason I can do it is that (1) DD comes with me, she's coming up Rainbows age (2) DH is at home to look after DS, although he then needs to work in the evening to catch up, and is also available to look after the kids when I need to do a training day or am taking the Rainbows out on a trip.

I found it really difficult to find local volunteering opportunities so I think the website is a great idea. I only found out about Rainbows as I saw a poster up at DD's old preschool when I was waiting to collect her one day.

One overall problem that I/a lot of people have is that sometimes volunteering actually costs you money. And it shouldn't. I already give up my time (about 6 hrs a week for Rainbows). As an adult leader, I have to be in uniform, which also costs me ££. I'm fortunate in that my unit is flush enough to pay for adult uniform, and adult trip costs etc, but many aren't.

BabsJansen Tue 10-Apr-12 18:37:48

Support with childcare would make a massive difference to me.nnot sure how this would work though.

CamperFan Tue 10-Apr-12 19:20:57

Definitely childcare whilst you are training - just a couple of carers in a room next to where your course is being held, and flexibility to do parts of the course at home. I am talking specifically about training to be a bf peer supporter. I was so passionate about doing this, but the logistics, unnecessarily lengthy course (topics could have been covered in about 3 sessions, not 12) and the sheer bureaucracy involved have meant I've been unable to continue with the training, which is such a shame.

BornSicky Tue 10-Apr-12 19:22:47

my local surestart provide support with childcare for people volunteering with them - they're run by Action for Children.

I think that's a MUST for organisations who want to recruit parents as volunteers.

ragged Tue 10-Apr-12 19:30:56

I am glad for the link in OP & will try to resolve to come back to it.
But what would really help is... less personality politics.
Preschool committee, PTA, school governors -- all dominated locally by a Cabal of unpleasant people. Even though 90% of the other volunteers are quite reasonable, there are those with no manners or who like to run roughshod over anyone they don't respect (and it's not just me they treat like dirt). Avoiding Cabals would be my top priority.
Don't think this thread can stop that kind of thing, though sad.

Oh, and childcare. Number of times I couldn't go to X because of lack of childcare. I even offered to run a creche as my contribution (I was CRBd to the gills) & they just blanked me, wasn't something they needed, after all, sigh.

Fraktal Tue 10-Apr-12 20:06:28

More that can be done by phone/distance. There are lots of positions which involve research or writing or stuff that can be done via the Internet. Some areas are stuffed with volunteers, others have a dearth and it's usually the latter that needs help and could do with outsourcing what they can. If someone in Oxford would be a match for a charity in Hull and the work can be done by distance why not? The postcode search is quite restrictive and organ often aren't thinking flexibly ablut what has to be hands on and what doesn't.

Sunflowergirl2011 Tue 10-Apr-12 20:18:26

Like some others have said on here- letting you take children with you. I would love to volunteer more but with 2 toddlers who I look after full time, there aren't the opportunities round here. (apart from nct who I volunteer for and have found very flexible and geared up to having children tag along.) Also, people wanting volunteers! I tried to set up a local food bank type thing but couldn't find anyone who wanted to take the food from us.

Wigeon Tue 10-Apr-12 21:01:12

I have done lots of volunteering pre-children and I mostly gained loads of satisfaction and a warm glowy feeling. I would absolutely recommend it.

What would make it easier for me now is training which fits around children. I thought about volunteering for Home Start but the training was only on a weekday morning, which basically rules out every single person who works full-time (unless they are prepared to take leave etc), and anyone who has any other daytime commitments. Training in the evenings or weekends would be better for me (and some others).

The best organisations I have volunteered for have been fantastic at valuing and thanking volunteers (I'm especially thinking of a couple of helplines: and - things like birthday cards for all volunteers, paid staff actually saying "thank you", regular one-to-ones where you were asked for your opinion in a genuine and thoughful way, representation of volunteers on the board etc etc.

The worst was a local youth offending team where the paid staff gave the impression that volunteers were a bit of a hassle, volunteers were not valued or thanked, and where the fantastic and in-depth training didn't bear much resemblance to the actual volunteer role.

RowanMumsnet - I'm not sure why you suggest in your OP that "obviously volunteering can take a hit when households are already struggling to make ends make" - only if volunteering takes place in time which might otherwise be used to do paid work, but my volunteering has always taken place outside my paid work time. I might be missing something though? smile

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Tue 10-Apr-12 21:12:21

Wigeon, I think it depends on the type of volunteering you do. It costs me and dh a small fortune to volunteer with one of our charities, but we get a huge amount out of it and have a lot of friends through it so it's more than worth the expense. However if things got really tight, we would have to stop going to as many events.

I think the things that would make volunteering more appealing would be for those higher up in the organisation to realise they have to go out of their way to make people feel appreciated and valued. Dh and I spend a lot of time doing this, even though we are volunteers and give more than the majority of people we are thanking, but when people are giving up their time to do something we love they deserve to feel appreciated no matter how much or how little they do.

I left one well known organisation because they insisted you do a set number of hours, which I just couldn't give anymore after two years there. I was giving up three hours a week, but it wasn't enough to meet their requirement so I left altogether. I know I'm not the only one to have done this with that charity, they have lost a lot of good people by asking too much and making them feel that what they do give isn't enough.

Wigeon Tue 10-Apr-12 21:17:47

Thanks, Outraged (how much is a Freddo these days?!). Just wondering why it cost you so much to volunteer?

Something that would make it easier for me is being able to do it as a family. When I was a child (that made me feel old) it was quite common for families to volunteer as befrienders with nursing homes, live-at-home programmes for elderly or people with disabilities, and hospitals. Now, the only family volunteering I've found is one-off park/wildlife centre opportunities with as little human interaction between people as possible which I find quite sad. If we could all do it together, it would not only help many people's issues with childcare but also make it great family time.

workshy Tue 10-Apr-12 22:09:01

I volunteer at a children's group one evening a week -I work FT, am a single parent and I can take the DCs with me

I am considering stopping because....

there is an awful lot of admin/planning/training etc that I am expected to do -I was told I would get support with this before I started -I don't, and this all eats into my personal time
the parents are completely disrespectful of the fact that I am a volunteer, do not get paid and have other responsibilities so if I forget things they are less than understanding
sometimes because of my work schedule, my group don't get to take part in some of the regional activites, and the parents complain (don't offer to help out though)
I am routinely out of pocket as people don't pay up subscriptions etc on time, and I'm too much of a softy to say the DCs have to miss out because the parents are either lax or simply can't afford (I can apply for funding in those cases but if they don't talk to me I can't help)


I love spending the 2 hours a week I spend with the young people and if I didn't have all the hassle I would really value the time I spend volunteering

Expenses are the worst for me. Paying hospital parking sucks! I brought it up at a meeting and staff said "well we have to pay for staff parking" well yes but you have a salary too, I do this for free!

Gosh yes, there's a huge difference between volunteering for free and paying to volunteer!

Years ago I volunteered with the NCT bra fitting service (I honestly have no idea why) but a lot of people thought we were paid and treated us as such. At the time it was just becoming clear my son was autistic and I really couldn't bring him along with me to people's homes so I had to wait until my husband was home and the grief I got for not being immediately available (I'm talking an in-home visit within 48ish hours - people weren't left waiting for weeks). I gave up in the end.

Now I do some voluntary stuff (fundraising mainly) with my son's respite centre - I would like to do more but just don't have the time.

I don't have the time because I have to earn money btw around 2 young children and a severely disabled older child - which might be the sort of thing Rowanmumsnet was talking about. If I didn't have to earn money I would be happy to do more voluntary stuff.

hippoCritt Tue 10-Apr-12 22:22:32

A guideline in when you are likely to hear, I have applied for several positions and heard nothing. Also term time only voluntary opportunities maybe? So many people help out In schools because that's all that fits in child care needs.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Tue 10-Apr-12 22:31:54

Freddos are 20p! Gone up by 100%! shock grin

It costs dh and I a lot to volunteer for our charity because it's one that does an adventure sport thing with disabled people, so we have to travel to get to the right place to do it. We also do a couple of exhibitor shows that we pay to stay at for the weekend because it raises money, and we do the sport abroad a couple of times a year because the conditions are better for disabled people, and we pay for ourselves to go on those. Like I said though, it's well worth it and we have a great time. We are a fairly new charity so can't afford to pay expenses to the volunteers yet, but maybe one day!

victorialucas Tue 10-Apr-12 22:34:35

childcare childcare childcare

I did voluntary work with my former parish church in London. I was editing the newsletter which involved researching, writing and commissioning articles, in addition to the proofreading, copy editing, sorting the layoyt, and bringing to print and brought to the distributor, and I was also on the "Meet and Greet Committee", and also organizing events. All this I could usually fit around work, but I found that although they did show appreciation for my hard work, there were no offers of helping me look after my children for a bit when close to deadline and really hectic. From all the elderly ladies, not one offered to come and sit with my children, even if they knew I had childcare problems. My husband was often away for months at the time, and especially in the run up to Christmas, which was the most important deadline for the newsletter, and also my most hectic time in work.
I had to give it up. I could not afford to pay babysitters to come and spend an hour now and then with my children.

I have held both parent governor roles, and pta roles, in school and preschool in Norway, and found both really unrewarding. Lots of hours spent, not a thanks. The headmistress of my sons old school kept offloading tasks to me, which really was the duty of the admin assistant, and not a PTA member.

The worst experience though, was when I was on the Church council, different parish, different people, and also took on writing articles for the Parish Newsletter, which was a really big publication. Often I had to attend events, such as concerts, and write reviews, take pictures, or sometimes interview people in new positions in the Church, to introduce them to the parish. I would send all this work off to the editor, he did not even acknowledge my emails! Not even ONE "thank you, this is great".
I baked for the Christmas party, other events and celebrations, I helped organize the Christmas Fayre, cleaned up when the guests had gone, several hours in the middle of Christmas, I had church warden duties several times per year. And nobody ever said "thanks, great that you could come and help". Or, "here take some left over cake home for your family". Nothing. When the annual "Volunteers thank you party" was held, I did not get an invite.

So, in general:
If you are working with volunteers, please keep in mind that they give up valuable time, time that could be used earning money, or having quality time with their families. The least you can do is say "thank you", respond to emails, or even smile and acknowledge them. This is the very least.

KatieMiddleton Tue 10-Apr-12 22:56:34

I've been thinking about this (have just got in from a voluntary thing that I just adore doing and I hope is useful plus I get to keep my professional development up to date) and I think there is a real problem with diversity in some parts of the voluntary sector because of the inflexibility and lack of childcare.

Do we really only want middle class housewives to be able to volunteer because they have the time and can attend training during the day? I cannot even begin the imagine the skills gaps that must exist in terms of experience because selection, training and induction is so rigid for some organisations. They are not just losing out on those with caring responsibilities but also the skills of people whose work commitments prevent them from volunteering.

I also work with some amazing volunteers who come from a range of backgrounds so it can be done. We're always looking for volunteers and although we have flexible, computer based stuff that only takes an hour once a month or so we can't find someone to do it. We also have really interesting, exciting stuff some local and some remote and still no takers... so I'm watching this thread with interest and putting some of them on that site!

CherylCoalbunker Wed 11-Apr-12 07:14:04

The Do-It website looks great...for adults. But I can't see an advanced option for searching for volunteer opportunities for teenagers (happy to be corrected).

I'm currrently searching for a placement for dd for her DofE award and many organisations have age restrictions, for valid reasons.

Perhaps there just aren't many options for teenage volunteering? Any ideas? It would be great to extend the Do-It database to teen volunteering.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Wed 11-Apr-12 08:34:13

Guides and Brownies can provide placements for D of E volunteers - get in touch with your local group or look at

Wigeon Wed 11-Apr-12 10:09:23

CherylCoalbunker - there is quite a bit about encouraging young people to volunteer.

v - the national volunteering charity is a good place to start.

sairygamp Wed 11-Apr-12 10:16:34

Yuor volunteer centre shouod have a specific list of opportunites for under 16s as well.

Cheryl there were a few "youth placements" that came up when I searched on my postcode, so it sounds like it depends on the local area. And none of them were Guiding.

Second the idea of contacting local Rainbow/brownie packs though, I have 1 DofE volunteer and 2 senior section (16-25 year old) helpers at my Rainbows.

queenrollo Wed 11-Apr-12 11:03:12

I recently gave up volunteering for CAB, though because of the nature of how CAB is set up it does vary a lot from area to area as to how well volunteers are treated and how the offices are managed. Specifically with CAB they request that you do 8 hours a week. I agreed to this but in practice it's too big a minimum commitment to ask. I was happy to give up one whole day (the role I was doing was suited to this) but due to other factors it suited them better for me to do it over two days.

I've found so many volunteer ops just impossible for me to commit to because I have one free day to give, but they all want more. So I think charities need to have more flexibility about the time people are willing to give.

I had quite a few problems and felt unable to approach the staff responsible for mentoring me. CAB do have a volunteer forum but it's not very active. I think if Do-It could find the time and resources to set up a general volunteer forum it would be useful. It would have been great to have some anonymous support from other volunteers, and possibly a place where the volunteer organisations themselves could feed back to their own volunteers. If you care about the organisation you are volunteering for, but cannot resolve issues with your area management team it's not always easy to negotiate how you go beyond that with genuine concerns.

Lastly -my personal experience has been that organisations can be too pushy with volunteers. Some people will volunteer within their comfort zone, please don't then keep trying to push or guilt-trip them into taking on other roles which they are not comfortable with. I have raised this with CAB, but they have now changed a basic role to actually combine two. I applied for one role, I did not feel comfortable with the new additonal aspect of it - but the expectation was there for me to do both. So I left.

twofingerstoGideon Wed 11-Apr-12 11:34:09

I think it might be a good idea if volunteers 'signed up' for a fixed period. I volunteered for a charity for quite a few years, but found that it became onerous and expensive (travel costs) after a while. I felt I had made an open-ended commitment and although, in principle, I was free to stop at any time, I felt really guilty about letting people down. Also work commitments meant I had less free time than I'd had when I started volunteering, so I struggled to find time to fit everything in.

I wouldn't consider volunteering again unless it was for a specific project with a fixed end. I realise that I could have stopped at any time, but from a personal point of view felt 'guilty' about doing so. Other people would probably deal with this better than I did, but I do wonder whether asking people to commit for, say, 3-6 month periods, might attract more volunteers.

StarlightMcEggsie Wed 11-Apr-12 13:07:57

Please vet your volunteers. I have volunteered a few times and the main reasons for giving up have been having to put up with arrogant volunteer colleagues who feel that the organisation should be grateful to them for being there even if they turn up late regularly, and that they have an entitlement to more than basic expenses.

Trickle Wed 11-Apr-12 14:39:07

So I have a specific problem - I use a wheelchair and have difficulty transfering - that means even a disabled toilet is too difficult to use alone. There is no funding anywhere to allow for someone to help me with this while volunteering so unless I can work out how to never need the loo I can't volunteer.

Last time I tried to volunteer I could do the transfers - but I couldn't use the filing cabinet, or open the doors, or move the furniture, or wash up my own cup after a drink (the sink was too high). You can't just rely on the generosity of other busy volunteers or paid staff to do these stupid little things that just add up to a massive barrier without someone who can help. So even if it's not personal care you need - even if it's just assistance there doesn't seem to be anything available.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Wed 11-Apr-12 14:54:32

Trickle, what sort of work are you wanting to do? It is crap that there isn't more support for disabled people who wish to help, but I know quite a few disabled people who volunteer. Although more often than not its related to the reason that they are disabled in the first place, which is great, but misses the point completely if you want to volunteer for something else as you should be able to do.

Really good points from queenrollo, and the one after whose name I can't remember because I'm on the next page and will lose my post of I go back to check. blush

StarlightMcEggsie Wed 11-Apr-12 15:01:16

Oh and if someone volunteers their time, don't start mailing them regularly fir donations.

I left one charity for that reason.

Ragwort Wed 11-Apr-12 15:24:54

I would like the requirement for numerous CRB checks to be stopped (I understand that the previous Government was going to look into this but it is not a 'priority' for the Coalition). Although I am very happy to have CRB checks why do we need an individual one for each organisation - at one point DH & I had to have eight different CRBs each (church, scouting, two schools, old people's home and three separate clubs our DS is involved with at which we were prepared to help grin) - I personally don't have to pay for the CRB, nor does a registered charity but tax payers money is obviously being used for these endless checks ....... what a waste of time/money and bureaucracy (sp?).

I second Quintessential's comments about church events and lack of childcare - there were many older ladies (not meaning to sound ageist grin)at our Church who could have offered to babysit whilst I attended numerous meetings and events but no one ever did, even when I dropped heavy hints sad.

Cheryl - Scouting and Guides would be happy to offer a DoE placement. Try your local groups.

I agree that having a 'set time' to volunteer would be great but so often we are our own worst enemies, I have been volunteering with one organisation for nearly 40 years and just haven't the heart to give it up as so few people come forward to help, it would mean young people missing out.

sairygamp Wed 11-Apr-12 15:28:23

There are usually specific 'volunteering at events' type of opportunities, things that run for example every year for the same amount of time. I think if you're up frontwith the organisation and say you can only commit for a certain while, most of them will be happy to accept this. It is harder with places like CAB, Relate, Cruse etc, because you would be expected to do quite a bit of training which obviously tales their time so they would like a commitment. I am quite horrified that some of you have been expected to pay travel and parking expenses though. Volunteering England advise that no volunteer should be out of pocket for travel.

Ragwort Wed 11-Apr-12 15:45:43

sairygamp - I appreciate that volunteers ideally shouldn't have to be out of pocket but particularly in smaller organisations there is no 'funding' at all, to raise funds you have to have a jumble sale or whatever so in some cases you might be organising a jumble sale just in order to recover your own expenses grin - obviously this doesn't happen in all organisations but I am sure that many of us who volunteer will recognise this situation !

sairygamp Wed 11-Apr-12 15:53:33

Oh I agree, some bigger organsiations really do try it on though grin

madwomanintheattic Wed 11-Apr-12 18:11:12

agree with ragwort - i've done a lot of volunteering in different capacities, and to pay volunteer travel expenses would increase the fundraising burden. most of the smaller orgs are completely run by volunteer boards who pay their own way as well, and are trying to desperately meet a need in the absence of govt funding so that the client base doesn't suffer as a result. most orgs will cover expenses if budgets allow, but most are pretty hand to mouth.

as an aside, we moved to canada three years ago, and the volunteering culture here is an ex-pat's dream. volunteering isn't just something you do if you don't work. it's a completely different culture and perfectly normal that people will seek out volunteering opportunities throughout their lives, from teens right through full time work and into retirement. it's part of belonging to a community. even major companies support not for profits or run volunteering days so that their staff put something back. and a lot of companies offer a set number of (paid) days off a year for people to volunteer in a more personal capacity.

i know everyone poohpoohs the whole big society thing (and i have a huge chip on my shoulder about governments removing funding from vulnerable members of society and letting the charitable sector pick up the pieces) but a society where volunteering really is a part of everyone's ordinary life, is a much nicer place to be. as a volunteer manager in the uk, i sweated blood to find volunteers. here they turn up smiling in their droves. grin

lots of lovely anecdotes for you, and not a lot of advice. grin

Trickle Wed 11-Apr-12 18:56:11

I tried to volunteer for the CAB and a local youth organisation, tbh the CAB was OK just too busy to help - the youth organisation may as well have told me 'cripples weren't welcome' at the first meeting for the attitude I encountered. I'm currently pregnant which means no one wants me anyway because I will disappear in September - even SureStart has been a bit iffy - maybe I can become a peer breastfeeding supporter in another year - if I establish breastfeeding and want to.

Basically I have a history of both community work and as a young people and families drama worker. I'd love to get back into the youth/community work, but there seem to be too many barriers.

Tw1nkle Wed 11-Apr-12 19:06:12


My employer gives every employee one day a year off - for voluteering.

We're trying to find something to do, as a team, but are finding it impossible to find a 'one-off' opportunity for a group.

We have found some, but they want 'payment'!!!

Very frustrating!

KatieMiddleton Wed 11-Apr-12 19:07:13

Trickle there are loads of opportunities that don't require you to be in an office but obviously they might not appeal (I know some of them are really not my thing!). For example, sending event and newsletter emails, providing phone support (can be done from home), writing grant applications, writing articles, design work, sourcing venues and suppliers and getting quotes, accounting, writing reviews, testing products and services, campaigning and lobbying. I'm sure there's more stuff but that's just off the top of my head.

sairygamp Wed 11-Apr-12 19:08:27

The one offs for empoyee supported volunteers are really hard. It's 'Give and Gain' day in May where employers are encouraged to give their empoyees the day to do such projects but it's really hard to match them!

Trickle Wed 11-Apr-12 19:16:17

I guess I havn't given up on the idea of being abel to work with people face to face, I enjoy it, I think I'm good at it - and I spend too much time on my own as it is. Maybe one day I'll give up and seriously research a position from home

KatieMiddleton Wed 11-Apr-12 19:23:48

Could you do face to face stuff from home? Mentoring other volunteers for example? I can't pretend to have the first clue but I do think if you're giving your time it should be enjoyable and you shouldn't have to settle because you happen to have a disability.

piprabbit Wed 11-Apr-12 20:53:12

1. Childcare - from two points of view. First, not only am I donating my time, but I am paying for childcare too. Secondly, that there is very little truly flexible childcare available (so my volunteering role needs to fit in to when I have childcare arranged - I can't arrange ad-hoc childcare which changes week by week).
2. One of my current volunteering roles took 6 months to apply/do forms/do more forms/get CRB check/do more forms. I was starting to lose interest and enthusiasm. It seems like a huge waste of resources, especially if I decided I didn't really enjoy the role after all and quit.

I have been volunteering in various roles since I was at school. I've met some great people, learnt new skills, enhanced my CV and had a chance to share my experience with other people. Plus it gets me out of the house and thinking about stuff that doesn't revolve around my (rather wonderful but all consuming) family.

Trickle Wed 11-Apr-12 20:55:38

I will keep an eye out for anything like that, it's a good idea thank you Katie

ShowMethePony Wed 11-Apr-12 21:33:17

I agree about childcare or something that I could take my son with me. I've volunteered before and learnt a lot, really enjoyed myself, doing something worthwhile and meeting new people. I think it would be a good example for my son to see me volunteer and also good for us to get out and meet people as we are in a new area.

I have plenty of time now to do something while I'm a SAHM but we are skint as I am a SAHM so I can't afford childcare on top of travel.

CherylCoalbunker Wed 11-Apr-12 22:02:22

Thanks so much for the heads up about Brownies and the VInspired website - brilliant!

Another issue: dd has asked if we could go on a family volunteering holiday - home or abroad - anyone got any ideas please? Would be interested in Christian organisations, too.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Wed 11-Apr-12 22:28:11

The British Trust for Nature Conservation (or similar title) used to do volunteering holidays, laying hedges and so on. That might be worth googling.

ComeIntoTheGardenMaud Wed 11-Apr-12 22:29:35

Would Crisis at Christmas welcome all-age volunteers?

Does your church have a Foodbank? Families volunteer together at ours.

joanofarchitrave Thu 12-Apr-12 00:33:00

Cheryl, consider WWOOF (google it)? BTCV holidays still exist but to me they look expensive now - I used to go away for a week for £30 and loved it, but the prices have risen an awful lot and I couldn't afford it now.

PineCones Thu 12-Apr-12 03:06:34

The flexibility to work over the weekend. Don't mind coming in but difficult to commit to a roster of days in advance (even weekends) as work can be very demanding.

Fraktal Thu 12-Apr-12 10:56:56

Also, I can't see it on there but maybe I'm blind, is there a way for organisations to search for volunteers using the same method that volunteers search for organisations?

I suspect many people would be happy to be contacted but not to trawl through, especially for one off events.

MooncupGoddess Thu 12-Apr-12 14:02:27

The minimum age for Crisis at Christmas is 16 (with a responsible adult) or 18 independently.

Re volunteering, more flexibility so that people with full-time jobs could volunteer would be great. So much of it is Mon-Fri 9-5 when it doesn't need to be.

ProfYaffle Thu 12-Apr-12 16:41:39

I'm currently a volunteer at the CAB and absolutely loving it. As others have said the way CAB is set up means the offices are run very differently in different locations. Personally I feel very valued, the training is amazing and they're as flexible as they can be with me.

Childcare is my biggest issue but if my school would run an afterschool club that would solve things easily.

I've also volunteered on the school Governors (gave up), local Allotment Association (gave up) and a community project (am wavering) The biggest problem I've come across in these projects is a lack of true hierarchy/authority which means the ridiculous politicking that goes on about shed sizes and other such crap is both petty and vicious. It's quite breathtaking how awful people can be to each other when we're all just trying to do the right thing.

CroissantNeuf Thu 12-Apr-12 18:13:50

I've been a volunteer for the last 2 years.

What makes this do-able for me is mainly the flexibility of the role. Although I commit to 2 sessions a week I can swap days at short notice and its not a major hassle if I can't make it . Its also possible for me to do as much as I like from home too (so the charity benefit if I can't be bothered to do housework as I use the extra voluntary work as a distraction! grin)

Also, most importantly is that I only volunteer term-time so don't have to worry about school holidays.

I've also been there for that long as my skills and experience have been recognised and used, I've received training in new areas and I've been given lots of opportunities to develop the service I work in so I've never got bored!

gramercy Thu 12-Apr-12 18:37:12

I've been volunteering for years (SAHM).

I think some organisations definitely need to be reminded that volunteers give their time for nothing. Therefore be nice to them! I hate being guilt-tripped or overburdened or hassled.

Also some organisations dump every crap job on the newbie - again, v bad and no wonder they have a big turnover of volunteers (PTAs particularly guilty of this!). Likewise sometimes you volunteer for something and suddenly find you are the Secretary, Social Secretary, Vice Chairman, Chairman... and immediately absolutely everything is your fault .

Other organisations are supremely sniffy about new people. Usually a certain number of people are required to be quorate/operational, but actually they don't really want you present as it's a nice little social club for the old guard.

Perhaps I've just encountered all the wrong 'uns!

CherylCoalbunker Thu 12-Apr-12 19:50:33

Thanks for your further suggestions re family volunteer holidays!

Wigeon Thu 12-Apr-12 20:09:33

*Tw1nkle" - try your local regional office of Business in the Community - I'm pretty sure they would be able to point you in the direction of someone who could broker a volunteer opportunity for your team. Or they may well be able to do this themselves.

Wigeon Thu 12-Apr-12 20:09:49


ragged Fri 13-Apr-12 10:40:18

I had a look at the website, all the opportunities within 5 miles are customer facing, which I don't want to do (MN has completely undermined my confidence there!). Or involve hours that don't fit with school.

I'd be happy to do a quiet back office role.
Will keep checking; tbh, I'm thinking to directly approach one of the local charities & offer to do a back-office type role, but obviously on my terms.

Those of you looking for family volunteering have a look at your nearest city farm or similar. Ours runs a club for kids to help out with animal care. Kids love it and its a worthwhile way to spend family time and get fresh air and exercise.

innerstrength Mon 16-Apr-12 18:20:51

I have been a Samaritan for about 14 years.

It is without doubt, the most amazing and worthwhile thing I have ever done with my life, and the thing that I have learnt the most from. And I keep on learning from it.

What would make it easier would be more/cheaper babysitters/childcare, as I am a single parent of several kids, and struggle to fit my duties in at a time when I have someone to babysit.

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