Monday, 22 June 2015

The Essential Guide to Volunteering

Do you want to volunteer this coming summer holiday?

If your answer is “Yes” or you would like to know more, this comprehensive guide is for you! It includes everything you need to know in order to successfully volunteer including where to start searching for Volunteering schemes, what will be expected of you and how you can ensure you are fully protected and safe when helping others (just to put your mum’s mind at ease!)

If you are reading this guide then there’s every chance you already know how rewarding volunteering can be. Not only are you helping others and doing a good turn, but you are also adding valuable experience to your CV and improving your own skills. In a survey by TimeBank, 80% of employers said that they valued volunteer work on an application and over 70% of employers believed that people that volunteered had a higher chance of gaining a promotion and being paid a higher salary.

So now you know that you want to volunteer, you need to know how to get started. It doesn’t have to be daunting, follow our steps and you will be ready to volunteer for any organisation in no time.

Which industry do you want to volunteer in?

Before you start applying, you need to be confident in your decision of what kind of industry you would like to help with. Note down which kind of organisations you would like to volunteer with; schools, care homes and charities are just a few, but there really are endless possibilities.

Additionally, make a list of the roles you would be happy to do within the organisation, as most offer a range of roles, from hands-on positions, to more administrative office work. Consider which skills you can bring to the table and which ones you would like to develop further.

Have you visited reputable volunteering sites?

Going online is the easiest way to browse and apply for hundreds of volunteering roles.

Do-It is a great place to start if you are looking to browse hundreds of volunteering roles across the UK, simply enter your interests and location and it will match you up with all the available roles. Volunteer Match is another simple website to match you with a role that is right for you, as is Volunteering England.

If you are looking to volunteer abroad, then Original Volunteers is a brilliant site to check out, providing short-term roles which would be ideal during the summer break. Projects Abroad is also a good site to find projects and Real Gap Experience has a useful volunteering section.


What is expected of a volunteer?

While specific industries will require different codes of conduct, there are universal rules to adhere to when volunteering. By volunteering you are agreeing to an organisation’s rules and it is your duty to respect them just as if you were a paid employee. Be polite, well organised, and most importantly show up with a positive attitude and you will get the most out of your placement.


Do you require a DBS check?

Don’t be deterred if you are asked to provide a DBS check, it’s nothing personal as many industries simply use it as a security procedure to ensure that they are taking on the right people. It shows that the company values the safety of its members of staff and the people that they work with. There are different levels of check, but in a nutshell, they are designed to highlight any past criminal activity, giving employers an opportunity to weed out any unsuitable job or volunteering role applicants.

In most cases, a standard DBS check will suffice, but if you are volunteering in an industry that works closely with vulnerable people then an enhanced DBS check will be required. For any further queries, advisory bodies like Personnel Checks are open to any questions you may have.

Do you need extra support if you are volunteering abroad?

If you are planning on volunteering abroad, ensure that you have done your homework.

You may require injections, or anti-viral medication to ensure that you are fully protected against disease. Your passport will need to be up-to-date and in addition to this, you may need a visa to stay in certain countries. Most voluntary placements require you to pay an upfront deposit, and while there are some organisations that will cover your flights and accommodation, you may have to cover the cost of these yourself, so it is essential that you do your research.


What if something goes wrong?

While volunteering is usually a very positive experience, if things do go wrong than your line manager should be your first port of call. As an unpaid volunteer, you haven’t signed an employee contract, but you still have certain rights. That’s why it is crucial to arrange your position through a reputable organisation, rather than just securing the placement on your own, so that you always have some external support. However, don’t let this put you off as it is extremely rare for the placement to be a negative experience, let alone result in any legal action.


So there you have it, all you need to know to start your Volunteering adventure! However, there is just one last thing to remember, which is more important than all of the above… remember to Have Fun!

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