Below are answers to some of the questions you might have about volunteering. We hope they help you on your volunteering journey
How much time do I need to volunteer?
This is really up to you. You can find volunteering opportunities that only take one hour per month, to five days a week - or more.
Some roles are for one-off events, some are short term and others might need a six month commitment.
You can volunteer at any time of the week, day or night. While much volunteering takes place in office hours, you can volunteer at evenings and weekends too, again, depending on what you want to do.
Some organisations ask for a particular commitment from their volunteers while others are able to take a more flexible approach.
Certain roles like befriending require building up trust with someone, which is why a certain amount of commitment is required. Think carefully about the amount of commitment you are able to give before choosing your role.
Our North Yorkshire Volunteering Directory can help to narrow down the opportunities that suit your lifestyle.
Can I leave if I decide that I don't like it?
Yes, of course. You are under no obligation to keep volunteering for an organisation if you don’t like it, but it is always worth talking to somebody before leaving the organisation, in case whatever it is that is problematic for you, can be solved easily.
The person to speak to could be your volunteer co-ordinator (if there is one), supervisor or someone in the organisation who is responsible for you. You can discuss with them why you feel unhappy and what you feel would improve your time as a volunteer.
You may want to talk your problem through with other volunteers in the organisation. You could either do that informally, or if your organisation has a regular meeting for volunteers, you could bring up any issues there.
If you feel that something is seriously wrong, or someone is treating you badly, it is also worth checking whether your organisation has a complaints procedure.
Some organisations have ‘volunteer agreements’ that explain expectations on both sides.
Do I get my expenses paid?
Yes, you can, but not all organisations will cover your expenses.
It is usual practice for organisations to cover expenses that arise from volunteering, which might include:
- travel to and from your place of volunteering
- travel during your volunteering
- meals taken whilst volunteering
- phone calls/postage
- clothing ( i.e. protective/uniforms)
Some organisations do not pay expenses. This could be because they are not aware that you have incurred any costs (always keep receipts to prove your expenditure), or it could be because they do not have enough funds.
Information given on the organisation's website often give details about expenses but if it is not there, ask your chosen organisation before you start volunteering.
Can I claim benefits while volunteering?
Yes. Claimants of welfare benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance, are allowed to volunteer without losing their benefits. However, you must make sure that you are available to meet the conditions of receiving those benefits. We recommend that you tell your volunteer coordinator that you are claiming benefits, especially if there is a chance your situation could change at short notice, for example if you are seeking paid work.
Do I need qualifications?
Not usually, no.
Some volunteering opportunities require certain skills such as counselling which may require qualifications but organisations often provide training. If particular qualifications are needed, in order to take up the volunteering role, the information should be available on the organisations' website.
Often organisations are looking for personal skills, such as being able to get on with a wide variety of people, being reliable and being enthusiastic about a particular interest or cause - rather than academic qualifications.
Can I get a qualification or an award?
Some organisations may offer volunteers qualifications but it is unusual.
However, by volunteering you will gain valuable experience, develop your skills and be able to ask the organisation for a reference. You can ask organisations about qualifications.
There are some awards for volunteering, particularly young people. Some organisations may provide certificates or local awards to recognise the contribution volunteers make.
Will I get training for my role?
This varies quite a bit depending on the organisation you are volunteering for and the type of role you have chosen. Some of this information will be available on the website of the organisation you are volunteering for, but you should be able to get full details from the organisation.
Some volunteering roles require no training while others require quite a bit, such as volunteering for Children’s Panels or Citizens Advice Bureau.
Other roles such as conservation volunteering, may provide you with training in handling specific tools and health and safety.
What about online volunteering?
If you would like to give time but are unable to turn up in person or have little free time then online volunteering could be the answer. Giving time over the web is convenient and flexible and allows people to get involved who might otherwise be unable to.
Online volunteering allows you to complete tasks from home, at work or anywhere! The tasks could be for organisations around the corner, overseas or they may exist only on the internet.
The kinds of things you can do include:
- helping with social media
- researching on the web
- tracking relevant legislation
- giving specialist advice
- creating databases
- designing a website or newsletter
- translating between different languages
- providing telephone, email mentoring or helpline support
- taking part in a chat room, newsgroup or email discussion group
You can specifically search for online volunteering opportunities on the web.
Can I volunteer from home?
Yes. It is an increasingly popular way of volunteering and you can search for home based opportunities on our website.
Example opportunities are telephone befriending or some people combine their hobby with volunteering such as knitters making blankets and baby clothes which will then be sold for charity.
How old do I have to be to Volunteer?
You can be any age to volunteer - but many opportunities do have age restrictions. That is typically because of the type of opportunity, or because the organisation only has insurance in place for those aged 18 or over.
Sometimes organisations do not provide this information so it may be worth contacting them directly if you are unsure. You could also contact your local support organisation who may have local knowledge about organisations who accept younger volunteers.
Can I volunteer together with my family or friends?
Yes, you can.
There are less opportunities for group volunteering but some examples of where it can work are practical conservation, fundraising and events.
You can ask organisations whether there are opportunities to volunteer together with family and friends. To find out more about Event Volunteering look at our website.
I have a criminal record – can I still volunteer?
Yes, you can, with some limitations.
Depending on the nature of your criminal record, you may not be able to take up some volunteering roles but a variety of others would still be open to you. It is best to discuss this with the organisation you wish to volunteer with.
Alternatively, local support organisations work specifically with ex-offenders and they will all be able to advise you about volunteering with a criminal record.
I feel I need some extra support to volunteer – is that possible?
Yes. Many local support organisations give help to people who need extra support finding a suitable volunteering opportunity.
Can I volunteer full-time and get living expenses?
You can, but only under certain circumstances. Most residential voluntary work offers board, lodging and some form of pocket money. It can be for a week or two or a whole year.
Other organisations take on 'paid volunteers', giving them regular living allowances over and above their out of pocket expenses. You can see more information on this by researching residential volunteering.