Here are answers to some of the questions we often hear from volunteers.
Q: Why should I volunteer?
A: There are many benefits to volunteering and people volunteer for many reasons. These include:
- Helping your community
- Meeting people and making friends
- Gaining experience to becoming more employable
- Trying a new type of work e.g. working with children/elderly
- Strengthening your CV
Q: What can I do as a volunteer?
A: There are many types of volunteering opportunities for you to choose from. You could decide to use skills you already have or use volunteering to try something new. Many organisations will even offer you training as a volunteer, so volunteer work is an opportunity to learn new things.
Here are a few examples of volunteering opportunities that you might want to pursue:
- Administration - help an organisation with various office duties
- Media - design leaflets and posters for a charity
- Events - help plan and organise fundraising events
- IT - show other volunteers and staff how to use computers
- Environment - go out on a boat to clean up Leicester's waterways
- Sports - coach sports at after school clubs
- Mentoring - work with a young person to help them overcome life's challenges
Q: How do I start volunteering?
A: To get started you can either search online or visit one of our volunteering drop in sessions for a chat with one of our friendly volunteering advisors.
Q: How much time do I have to give as a volunteer?
A: A huge range of varied and flexible volunteering opportunities are available so you’ll be able to find something that fits into your schedule. You can give as much or as little time as you like.
Some organisations will ask for a large time commitment, such as a couple of days training and then set hours each week. Other organisations are more flexible and are happy to work around the time you can give.
There are also one-off opportunities that require a day or so of your time. If you can't get out to volunteer regularly, you can always become an online micro volunteer.
Q: Will my expenses be paid?
A: Although organisations are encouraged to pay reasonable volunteer expenses, such as travel and refreshments, there is no obligation for groups to do so.
You should discuss any expenses that you feel you need to help you volunteer (such as bus fare to travel to your place of volunteering) with the organisation before committing to a volunteering role.
Q: Will I be paid for my time?
A: A volunteer is defined as someone who willingly gives up their time without pay to help people or the environment.
As a volunteer, you will not get paid for your time but usually reasonable expenses you incur will be reimbursed, such as bus fare, so that volunteering does not leave you out of pocket.
Q: Will volunteering affect my benefits?
A: Genuine unpaid volunteering should not affect any state benefits you receive.
It is important that if you're on benefits you don't accept any payments other than having your expenses re-paid at the exact cost. For example, if your bus fare is £2.80 you can accept £2.80. It can lead to problems for you and the organisation if your reimbursement is rounded up to £3.00.
You will need to be available for interview with the Job CentrePlus if asked. If you are on Job Seekers Allowance you will still need to provide evidence that you are seeking paid work, available for job interviews and willing to take up paid work at a week's notice.
It is best to keep in touch with the Job Centre about your volunteering so that they know you are keeping to the rules and are aware of your situation. For instance, if you are on Incapacity Benefit you need to keep the hours of activity recommended by your doctor.
Some people may still refer to an out of date guidance that you should not volunteer for more than 16 hours a week. This is not the case. If you receive this advice, please feel free to contact us.
Q: Can I volunteer if I have a disability?
A: Yes, many organisations are fully equipped to deal with a variety of access and support needs.
Q: Can I volunteer with a criminal conviction?
A: Criminal convictions don’t necessarily mean that you can’t volunteer, but they may limit the type of volunteering you can do.
You will need to declare any criminal convictions when you apply to volunteer.
If you are working with young people or vulnerable adults you will be asked to complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (previously Criminal Records Bureau check) which will inform the organisation of your criminal record.
Q: How old do you have to be to volunteer?
A: There is no legal age limit although organisations involving volunteers do tend to have a minimum and maximum age limit because their insurance policy does not cover certain age groups (such as under 16s and over 80s).
Often, when a group meets a volunteer who they feel offer something worthwhile, a phone call to their insurers can extend the age limit but this is entirely a decision for the organisation.
We are always happy to have a chat to a volunteer involving organisation about this subject if it is helpful.
Q: I've applied for a volunteer role but not heard anything. What should I do?
A: Often in small charities, the volunteer manager works part time or is a volunteer themselves. This can mean it may take a little longer than you expect to hear back following your application. Please be patient. If you have any queries, please contact us.
Q: Do I need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks (previously Criminal Records Bureau check)?
A: This will depend on the volunteer role that you are doing.
If you are working with children or vulnerable adults, you can expect to be asked to complete a DBS check. This will involve you filling in a form giving your name, current and previous addresses and giving proof of who you are and where you live. It shouldn’t cost you anything.