A group of people volunteering at a food bank

Three ways to find volunteering opportunities

Volunteering is a great thing to do – whether you are unemployed, working or studying – whatever your situation.

It is a great way to meet other people outside of work or your social group and is a way in which you can make a real difference to the causes you care most about. Most of all volunteering is good for you!

There are many different forms of volunteering. We may think that it is doing things like asking for donations in the high street, serving refreshments at a lunch club or working in a charity shop – all of which are valuable roles. But the range of opportunities available for volunteers is vast – to some extent it is almost as vast as the range of jobs that people get paid for.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteering is a practical way to show the range of things that interest you and this can be very valuable for your CV. It also provides the opportunity to gain a current work-related reference for people who may have been out of the workforce for a while, or who have never worked before.

In interviews, referring to volunteering experience can add real value and show an employer not just what experience you have but also gives you the opportunity to give them an understanding on your personality and strengths.

If you’re thinking of trying out a different job to the one you are currently doing, volunteering is a great way to do this. You’ll be able to ‘test drive’ the role while also gaining some practical experience!

It’s also a great way to test out if working is the right thing for you. For example, if you’ve been through a period of illness and are uncertain about returning to work, you can try volunteering to see how it goes.

Are there any downsides to volunteering?

Some people are not keen to volunteer and consider it ‘working for nothing’, questioning why it is worth spending time doing such a thing. Given the benefits mentioned, it’s clear that volunteering does have great value – it’s just not rewarded in the form of money!

Can I volunteer if I’m on benefits?

If you’re on benefits, volunteering will not usually impact on your claim, provided you inform the DWP or your local jobcentre.

How do I find volunteering opportunities?

There are several ways to get involved with volunteering.

  1. Approach charities or organisations directly
    If you have an idea about who you might like to volunteer for or what kind of voluntary role you would like to do, you can approach organisations directly and ask about opportunities. Many large charities have websites with a volunteering section where you can see what they are able to offer and links to apply.
  2. Contact your local volunteer bureau
    Smaller organisations may use a local volunteer bureau. These usually serve a specific locality, such as a borough, city or county. A simple internet search should give you the relevant contact details of your local bureau. They will have detailed knowledge of what is available in your area and can match you to a suitable role.
  3. Find out what roles are available online
    Looking beyond your immediate neighbourhood may bring in other and more suitable opportunities. There are websites dedicated to volunteering that can help with this.doit.life is one such website. Once you are on the website, select the ‘discover’ option at the top of the webpage and this will bring up a series of options you can choose from. There are also filters you can apply, such as distance from your home or type of activity you are looking for to get a more focussed search underway.

There are so many great reasons to volunteer – give it a go!

Still have questions and need further support? Check if you’re eligible for employment support from Work Well.

Chris Finch - Vocational Specialist

Picture of Chris

My name is Chris and I have been involved with the Work Well network since the start of 2007. I currently work for the CORE team in Croydon as a Vocational Specialist. I have worked before in Southwark and Croydon in both community mental health teams and with IAPT services. Before this I enjoyed a long work history in mental health support, having started in 1988 in a hospital setting in South West London. In my career I have worked for the NHS, Local Authority Adult Social Care and Mental Health Charities which has given me a lot of insights and experience. I have been employed in other jobs including retail, labouring, motorcycle courier and working as a refuse collector. I have also volunteered in my spare time using my many other skills, most recently with a local environmental charity. I enjoy bicycles and repair them for neighbours, people my local community and as a volunteer. I have two old classic motorcycles which I maintain and take for a spin whenever the weather is decent. I also enjoy growing healthy food on my lovely allotment.