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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

MonsterBookOfTysons Tue 10-Apr-12 12:46:28

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).

saintlyjimjams Tue 10-Apr-12 14:02:36

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.

RueDeWakening Tue 10-Apr-12 18:27:33

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.

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