7 What voluntary work might suit me?
Remember that voluntary work requires commitment, just like a paid job. Therefore, you need to be realistic about how much of a contribution you can offer alongside your existing work and personal commitments. It might be that the occasional ‘one off’ event or a short-term project best suits the time you have available. Alternatively, you might find a regular, more long-term but contained commitment, like an hour each week, easier to sustain.
Some voluntary work is less easily accessible. For instance, voluntary opportunities which involve working with potentially vulnerable people, such as counselling, advice work or advocacy, often have rigorous requirements. The selection process may involve providing references and applying for a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or a Disclosure check in Scotland. You may also need to commit time to do appropriate training before you begin.
It is important, therefore, that you consider:
- what voluntary work offers you
- what you can bring to it
- your motivations
- what you can do
- what constraints you might have.
The next activity will help do just that.
Activity 5 Identifying what you could offer as a volunteer
This exercise will help you to explore what type of voluntary work you might be suited to do. Do not start by asking yourself whether or not you want to do voluntary work, instead begin by thinking about what you could offer.
Use the questions below to prompt your thinking. Do not think about it too much. Just write down your first thoughts in your notebook. You will have the chance to revisit this in more depth, if you wish to do so later in the course.
- Why might you be interested in volunteering?
- What causes would you see as worthwhile?
- Do you have any specialist skills or expertise, you are willing to share with others? (To help you to answer this, look again at the skills audit you did in Week 2 in your notebook or the Resource pack.)
- Are there any particular personal qualities which you feel suit you to working as a volunteer, such as the ability to make others feel comfortable, or to empathise with them and their situation? Or are you good at practical problem-solving?
- Would you want to work with a particular client group such as elderly people, children, or adults with learning difficulties? Or in a particular field such as the environment, homelessness or adult literacy?
- How much time could you realistically offer, and are you looking for a short or a longer term commitment?
- Would you need to cover your basic expenses in order for you to get involved as a volunteer?
- How far are you prepared to travel to undertake the work?
- What kind of fulfilment do you want to gain from voluntary work?
- What do you think you might find most challenging about voluntary work?
Doing this activity helps you to see what you could offer if you do pursue voluntary work and gives you some clues on the kind of volunteer work which might be attractive.
In the next section you’ll consider whether or not volunteering would be a good choice for you in your life right now.