With many folks facing unemployment and uncertainty around their futures, the job hunt will be a priority at the moment. But volunteering is a great opportunity to fill some of that free time when jobs are hard to come by, and gain some valuable experience at the same time.
And even if you're employed full-time, the occasional half day giving your time and energy to a worth cause can provide a heap of benefits. For those who've been out of work for a while, re-entering the workforce can be a bit daunting, so a bit of volunteer work can help rebuild their confidence before making the leap.
Volunteering is a net positive for society - if you can spare the time, you’ll be both helping your fellow citizens and gaining something for yourself. Whether that’s new friends, new skills or simply a sense of accomplishment, it’s rare to end a volunteering stint feeling like you’ve wasted your time.
Here’s a guide to the types of volunteering that you can do, along with a bunch of resources to help you find volunteer opportunities.
What types of volunteering can you do?
There are lots of different ways to commit time to volunteering. You could dedicate one day per month on a weekend to help a local organisation, or a certain evening each week.
Or you could commit a few days at a time to help with a particular operation - Christmas is a great time to do this, for example. (Even if you’re not religious, your local places of worship will have links to charity drives that’ll happily receive your help no matter what your life philosophy is.)
You can even volunteer from home - making phone calls to isolated or senior neighbours can be done from anywhere and can make a massive positive difference to their mental health (and yours).
Another option is to mix your daily exercise with volunteer work - GoodGym is a community of runners that combines their runs with community missions, like planting trees in local parks, sorting cans for food banks, or other projects that need a bit of manual labour.
People also use their sabbaticals to volunteer. Sabbaticals are long-term breaks from work, usually unpaid and done by those in a more senior position in their career. They might take the time to relax, travel, learn new skills, or volunteer.
The first thing to comes to mind when thinking of volunteering your time is helping out a charity.
Charities that address loneliness in the community are especially important at the moment (the Cares Family are a good example ), as are homeless charities, hospices and food banks.
Check out Gov.uk's volunteering page for a list of resources to help you find charities in need.
Emergency services volunteering
While the idea of volunteering brings to mind soup kitchens, picking up litter and visiting senior citizens, there are more adventurous options out there that make a real difference in society. Try these services if you'd like to get out and about helping the busy forces that keep our country safe.
St John Ambulance - the charity for community health and first aid. You’ll recognise their presence at sport events like football and horse racing, with medics on standby for injuries, but they have a wide range of volunteer positions as well as ambulance services, like fundraising, managerial support, and other healthcare and operational roles.
Unfortunately they’ve been hit hard by economic conditions brought on by the pandemic, but on the road to recovery they’ll be in need of your help.
RNLI - The Royal National Lifeboat Institution provides 24-hour water rescue services around the UK and Ireland. Their lifeboat stations protect hundreds of communities around the country and they also provide beach lifeguards and safety education to those in seaside areas. If you’re anywhere near the coast you’ve probably got a chapter near you - it’s a life-saving organisation that anyone would be proud of getting involved with.
Community fire brigades - many local fire brigades rely on volunteers to be on call for times where the regular services are overwhelmed with demand. Here’s a good explanation of how it works and how you can get involved.
Police - there are plenty of opportunities to become a Police Support Volunteer (PSV), which are made up of roles including office-based admin as well as frontline public-facing work. You’ll have to look up your local police force to see what’s available.
During 2020 this isn’t so relevant, but it will be as we return to in-person gatherings over the next year or so.
Many events that bring people together for a certain interest will have a mixture of full-time paid staff and volunteers that are brought in to help on the day of the event.
Outside of business and marketing, it can be pretty difficult to make events profitable without charging really high ticket prices. One way to keep costs down is to hire volunteers for positions like stewarding, backstage management, ticket operations or social media marketing. In return, volunteers get valuable experience, networking opportunities, and a chance to meet the speakers and performers.
TED and TEDx talks are run by volunteers - it’s how this writer got his foot in the door into a writing and marketing career with no other experience. It’s something that looks great on the CV of course, but as an experience in itself, it's unbeatable. Ask around your local network to see if any upcoming events near you need volunteer help.