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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

How to volunteer

Whether you’re looking to fill a few hours at the weekend or make a major contribution to a local community group, there are many ways to volunteer. Find out what opportunities are available in your area and how to apply for them.

Ways to volunteer

There are many ways to volunteer, depending on how much time you can spare. Full-time, part-time, evening and night volunteering are offered by various organisations.

Examples of just some of the ways you can volunteer are:

  • caring for animals and wildlife
  • working in the criminal justice system as a magistrate or a Special Constable
  • mentoring and befriending someone in detention or custody
  • working to improve the environment
  • becoming a school or college governor
  • helping out at large events like the 2012 Olympic games
  • helping in hospitals or the health service

See 'In this section...' at the bottom of this page for a list of articles about volunteering in these ways.

To read the stories of people who have volunteered, see 'Case studies - volunteering experiences'.

Find a volunteering opportunity online

You can search thousands of opportunities and apply online using the database. You select the type of volunteering you are interested in and enter your postcode for a list of opportunities in your area.

Visit your nearest volunteer centre

Volunteer centres co-ordinate and advertise volunteering opportunities in your area. You can find your nearest volunteering centre on the website.

Find out about community projects being run by your local council

Contacting your local council may be a useful way to find out about community projects in your area. You can also visit your local library, which will have information about local groups, charities and any seasonal opportunities.

The Community Service Volunteers website provides information on what's available and examples of structured local projects. You can also contact your local council for information about projects supported in your area.

Volunteering while on benefits

You can volunteer and it won't affect your benefit payments, as long as you meet the conditions of your particular benefit. However, you should let your benefits office know if you start volunteering. For more information and contact information, read 'Volunteering while on benefits'.

Volunteering age limits

You are never too old or young to volunteer and your age may even make you more suitable for some kinds of volunteering. However, some organisations may not take on volunteers under 16, as they can’t insure them. To find out more about volunteering as a young person, follow the 'Work experience and volunteering' link.

If you are older, Community Service Volunteers runs the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme for people aged over fifty. To find out more, follow the 'Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme' link.

Before you start your new volunteering role

Once you've found an organisation, it's useful to go and meet them. You can have an informal chat and find out more about what you would like to do. This is a chance for you to ask questions about the volunteer opportunity. You can also see the place where you would work and meet some of the people you might work with.

Some of the points you might want to ask about are:

  • what the position involves
  • whether you will receive any expenses to help pay for your travel and food costs
  • what training is offered to help you do the job
  • if there are any qualifications you can gain while volunteering
  • whether you will have a supervisor or mentor you can talk to if you have questions or concerns

Criminal records checks for volunteers

Some volunteer positions may require criminal record checks. See 'Criminal record checks - an introduction' for more information.

Volunteering overseas

Volunteering England provides a guide to volunteering overseas, including practical points to consider before you go, and a list of organisations that offer opportunities abroad.

Useful contacts

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