Volunteer Centre – Individuals
Volunteering is simple. It’s about giving your time to do something useful that can benefit both you and your community. Many voluntary organisations would not survive without the time freely given by volunteers.
Benefits of volunteering
Volunteering can be a great way to:
- Meet new people
- Get some direction and a positive frame of mind
- Develop an interest in new things
- Learn new skills and increase your knowledge
- Have some fun!
- Gain useful experience, training and qualifications
- Give something back to the community
- Develop your CV
What can I do?
There are lots of different things you can do. Everyone can volunteer, no matter what your age, background and life experiences. There is an opportunity to suit everyone!
Many people use volunteering as an aid to their recovery and as a stepping stone to finding the right paid job, particularly if they have been unable to work for a while. It can give you career ideas you would never have thought of, if you are unsure of what you want to do work wise.
You might not be looking to work but enjoying your volunteering role is important and it should be an enjoyable and worthwhile way to spend some of your time. Volunteering can also be a way for you to build your confidence and fight the stigma that can still be attached to having some sort of mental health problem.
It is as important to think about what you don’t want to do as what you do want to do. You will enjoy it much more and get more out of it if you have found the right role in the right organisation. You may also find that, having gained experience in one sector, you might be able to find work in it, if that is what your end goal is.
If you would like to ‘dip your toe’ in volunteering then why not have a go at helping at an event? Click here to find out more
The next step
Or, why not download our handy Volunteering Guide
Frequently Asked Questions or 'FAQs':
How long will I have to commit for?
As a volunteer you are free to leave whenever you like.
If things don't work out or your circumstances change it's good to talk it through with the person in charge and give them some notice if possible.
What skills will I need?
That will depend on the opportunity. Many do not require any particular skills, while others might make use of specific training, for example in accountancy or word processing.
Will I gain a qualification?
When you start any sort of voluntary work, find out whether there are any training courses on offer, whether given by the organisation itself or those which you can pick up at your local college.
Some charities may offer you the chance to do an NVQ if you want to do one.
Can you volunteer if you have a Criminal Record?
Yes! Although it may limit the type of volunteering you are able to do.
t is likely you will have to have a Disclosure & Barring Service check (DBS) if you are working with children, young people or vulnerable people.
In such instances it is likely that the role will be exempt from the provisions of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 which means that all previous convictions, however minor or long ago must be disclosed.
If you are concerned about this, then discuss it with your Volunteer Centre or Support Worker.
Will I need references?
Yes, you probably will.
This is especially relevant if you are working with vulnerable client groups, such as children or older people.
Certain roles in volunteering require that a disclosure is sought from the National Criminal Records Bureau, whether you have a criminal record or not.
If this is necessary, the Volunteer Co-ordinator will explain the procedure to you.
If you do not have a previous job or it was too long ago for you to contact them about it, you can ask a Support Worker, your Vocational Advisor, an ex-teacher or another type of professional person for a reference.
Often, organisations will be happy to accept a reference from a friend, landlord or colleague.
If you are not sure about what they will accept then speak to them about it and go from there.
Can I volunteer whilst I'm claiming benefits?
The Government recognises that volunteering can increase people's confidence and skills as well as reducing loneliness and can be an aid to making a transition to work.
For more information and the latest guidance see:
I have some mental health difficulties. Can I do voluntary work?
Yes, it is perfectly okay for you to volunteer.
In fact, many people use volunteering as an aid to their recovery and as a stepping stone to finding the right paid job, particularly if they have been unable to work for a while.
If you are feeling nervous you can arrange for someone to come with you when attending interviews etc.
Do I have to disclose my mental health issues?
It’s up to you whether you want to disclose any mental health problems you may have.
However, by telling the organisation it gives them the opportunity to look at ways for them to support you to carry out your role more confidently and safely.
Disclosing is also a great way to help raise the organisation’s awareness and understanding of how to involve people with a mental health problem as volunteers.
Meet Volunteer Sheila Nash
To celebrate National Volunteers’ Week, 1-7 June, the New Forest Volunteer Centre showcased the work of local volunteer Sheila Nash, to offer inspiration for those who are thinking about volunteering but don’t know where to start.
To describe Sheila as an ‘enthusiastic’ volunteer may just be an understatement. She currently spends a large proportion of her week helping out in more than 5 different charities with everything from mentoring to music to walking groups.
Sheila had never ever really considered volunteering until two years ago when, living and working in Belgium, her job was suddenly made redundant. She then found herself both looking to fill her time but also wanting to change her focus and give something back to her community.
She says: ‘I didn’t know what to try initially but I knew had various skills through my work and certain interests which I thought might be useful to others, so I looked around locally and found 2 charities where I thought those skills may be useful. When I approached them they jumped at the offer of help.’
Since then she hasn’t looked back. After returning to settle in the New Forest last year Sheila and her husband really wanted to be a part of their community, not just by living in it, but by helping to shape it. After contacting their local volunteer centre for advice, both Sheila and her husband became involved in everything from trusteeship for a local school to starting a walking group for young mothers.
Why does she like it so much? ‘There’s a real satisfaction in doing something because I want to, not because it’s my job. I love the freedom that this gives me and I often enjoy my time more than when I was working to meet targets and contracts. I’ve met some amazing new people, learned new skills and even rediscovered old ones including picking up my flute again after many years.
Right now I have found a great balance through all my varied roles and I’m really enjoying life.’
Sheila’s top tips:
- What’s your passion? Rather than battling to pick a specific role why not think about what skills you have and the kind hobbies or activities you enjoy? After all, you’re far more likely to feel motivated if your volunteering involves something you’re interested in.
- Try things out. With so much choice it can be hard to know which volunteering role to pick. Many organisations will suggest ‘taster’ sessions to see if the role is the right fit for you. If it’s not, don’t be afraid to say so. The right role is out there for you but it may not be the first one you find.
- Recognise when you’re busy enough. With so much choice and so many organisations who need extra help it can be easy to keep saying ‘yes’ and then find you’ve taken on too much. Decide early on how much time you would like to commit so that volunteering remains a stress relief rather than a stress inducer.
Sheila currently volunteers for CODA, the Healthy Walks scheme at Community First New Forest, Barnardos and Hampshire County Council mentoring service.