Community Action Suffolk is welcoming the arrival of Spring by celebrating volunteering.
Over this first week of Spring we will be publishing stories, tips and information on how YOU can get involved with volunteering, why it’s such an amazing thing to do and how we can help you find the perfect volunteering opportunity.
Community Action Suffolk’s Volunteer Field Officers offer information, advice and guidance about finding a volunteering experience which is perfect for you.
While everyone is looking for something slightly different, here are a few tips which will help you on the way to finding a volunteering role which really puts the fire in your belly and is something you look forward to!
10 ways to get you the perfect volunteering opportunity
1. Ask yourself WHY you want to volunteer. There are lots of roles to pick from out there, whether looking at www.do-it.org or a particular organisation’s website, it can feel hard to know where to start. So start with knowing why you want to volunteer. Is it to have fun, learn new skills, put it on your CV or make friends? Let these motivations lead you as you begin your search.
2. Think hard about what YOU can offer as well. Do you have skills that you would like to use in your volunteering such as IT knowledge or work skills? Or is it more about you, you’re an enthusiastic, friendly, open happy person? These will help as you are selecting what you would like to do, as well as find the kind of organisation you would like to share your skills with!
3. Time! How much of it do you have to give to volunteering? There is no right or wrong amount, and don’t worry if you only have couple of hours a month or even a year, there is a role out there waiting for you. But make sure you think about how much time you can give to volunteering as you don’t want to end up volunteering more than you had time for as this can sour the experience. Also remember to think that some roles will need you to have specialist training, so think about whether you have time for this.
4. Take your time. There are a lot of decisions to make when you are thinking about volunteering, it can sometimes feel as complicated as looking for a job as there is so much to pick from in Suffolk. Once you have started to think about what you might like to do, think about how far you are happy to travel, think about the cost (although groups should reimburse your travel expenses) and then get searching, www.do-it.org is a great first place to start searching by simply putting in your postcode and how far you would like to travel and see what comes up. You can also look at a charity’s own website on their ‘Get Involved’ sections, as well as other recruitment sites such as www.reed.co.uk.
5. Book an appointment with us. If you are finding searching on the computer tricky and narrowing down what you are looking for hard, why not book to talk to a Field Officer in a location close to home? We will give you impartial information based on what you tell us. You don’t have to sign up to anything because you have met with us, but it is another way to find out more information.
6. Go for it! Apply. Sometimes the hardest thing is that first step into the unknown! But once you have found the role you like, apply. You have not fully committed as you will get the chance to meet with the organisation and talk the role through.
7. Do your research! Now that you have found the role that you and applied, check out the group on their website it they have one and see if you would like to help them grow and like what they stand for. Ask questions when you meet the Volunteer Coordinator, whether it’s about expenses, training or support for volunteers. This is your chance to interview them and see if you want to give your skills, time and enthusiasm to this role and organisation.
8. Get the paperwork filled in! Try not to walk past the application form sitting on the table for too long! It might seem daunting, and most volunteering will ask for references now (and for some roles a DBS check). Don’t let this put you off, get that cuppa and sit down and start filling it in. The sooner you complete the paperwork the closer you are to getting started in the volunteering that got you excited when you saw the role and thought “this is the one for me!”
9. Be patient! Once you have found the group, the role and you feel like you want to get started tomorrow, be patient! Lots of groups are run by volunteers or part time staff. They will contact you as quickly as they can as they really want you to be involved with them. Just remember if it has been a couple of weeks and you have not heard, don’t give up, they will be in touch as you are very precious to them. Depending on the role you have selected, and if you are still waiting to get started, why not ask if you can shadow some other volunteers so that you can feel like you are getting started while the paperwork processes get completed. Some groups will be able to do this, some might not, it will depend on their work.
10. Have fun! Why you have decided to volunteer will be different for you than perhaps a friend (as we talked about in the first point) but do remember to have fun! You are giving your time, skills and personality to something that you believe in, but it is also meant to be fun and enjoyable. Hold onto that thought as this is not your day job, but something to look forward to in your free time.
Community Action Suffolk can help you find the perfect volunteering opportunity, whether you’ve just a couple of hours to give, or you would like to commit to something longer. Visit our volunteering pages to find out more, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org