Volunteering is when you provide a service to an individual or to an organisation, but when you are not paid a wage (although you might receive some expenses). You can volunteer just some of your time (perhaps a few hours every now and then), regularly (perhaps a few hours every week) or long term (some projects might last for a year or more and enable you to spend a year out, perhaps before going on to university).

Who benefits from volunteering?

Everyone benefits - the organisation where you are doing your volunteering benefits by getting extra help at little or no cost. Without volunteers, many organisations, clubs and groups would not exist, and many people would be without support, help or a group to attend.

What benefits do I get from volunteering?

Some careers such as medicine, youth work, physiotherapy and the police service would expect applicants to have done some volunteering in their community before applying. For other careers, volunteering would be very useful and any experience gained will enhance your CV. You might also gain useful contacts for the future, including names of people who are willing to be used as references for your CV. You might also learn whether or not this type of job or career suits you. You will learn useful new skills, improve your Key Skills, including communication skills and teamwork, and perhaps get the chance to gain First Aid or Health and Safety certificates. You may be able to gain recognised qualifications, which you can add to your CV.

What type of volunteering can I do?

Your volunteering could involve any of a wide range of tasks, carried out with a wide range of organisations, including helping to look after children or the elderly, befriending the lonely, helping people with special needs or helping the homeless. You might want to use your spare time to help with causes you're particularly interested in, such as conservation work or sports coaching with younger people. Whatever your skills or interests, there is likely to be something you can do.

Can anyone volunteer?

Yes. No particular qualifications are required, just the willingness to do something useful in your own time. If you have any particular skills you may be able to use them in your volunteering. If you want to volunteer to help with children or other vulnerable people you will be required to undergo a full Enhanced CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check, which will involve supplying information about any police convictions (both spent and unspent), cautions, reprimands or warnings. This CRB check will be organised by your volunteer organisation, and may take up to six or nine weeks to complete.

What if I am older and claiming benefits?

If you are registered unemployed and claiming benefits, you will need to prove that you are still actively seeking work, available to attend interviews and able to start work or training, otherwise any benefits you receive could be affected. It is always a good idea to tell your Connexions Personal Adviser or Jobcentre Plus Under-18 Adviser if you are doing any volunteering.

For more information

You can find books, leaflets and magazines at your local Connexions Centre to learn about volunteering opportunities in the UK and other parts of the world. Talk to your Connexions Personal Adviser about the opportunities that will be available to you.

Volunteering Matters (formerly known as CSV), is a national charity leading UK volunteering in policy and practice. Their website has an opportunity search page to help you find volunteering opportunities. 

The Do-it database contains over a million opportunities throughout the UK and aboard, with suggestions of relevant opportunities to match your interests and availability.

The Service Civil International website has a search facility for short-term workcamps and long-term placements.

Match your skills, interests and availability with suitable opportunities by visiting the Timebank website which has details of over 1.5 million placements throughout the UK and abroad.

V is the national young volunteers service which helps young people volunteer in ways that matter to them. Visit the vinspired website to find out more about the volunteering opportunities available.