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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?


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.

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