At Freedom, nearly 70% of our charity is made up from volunteers. We have volunteers in almost every area of our work, helping us with our clients, bringing their unique skills to our teams and learning new skills themselves. All of this enables us to do all that we do. Without our volunteers we couldn’t stay open as often, our meal service would need to be cut back and the helpful and friendly support offered to people who drop in for assistance with a range of issues would also need to be reduced.

Our volunteers help with the receptionist duties, in the kitchen, running food collections, working in our social enterprises and of course in our day centre providing a welcoming space for people seeking help and support with a range of issues. Their open-minded and friendly attitudes help make Freedom Community Alliance the valuable resource for North Devon people that it is today.

However, volunteering isn’t only great for us; it’s also great for the people who donate their time and skills to our work. There are loads of benefits for individuals who volunteer, from increased life expectancy to career advancement. Below we take a look at some of the reasons you should seriously consider volunteering and how to get started today.

 

How to choose the right volunteer role

Volunteering is a great way to learn new skills in an area that you might be thinking of re-directing your career toward, or just meet new people. Once you have decided that you want to volunteer, you should begin thinking about the things you want to get out of it as well as what you can put into it. Although volunteering won’t give you a wage, it will give you a lot of other ‘returns on your investment of time’ – if you choose an organisation that matches your outlook and a position that fits your goals. A few questions to ask yourself are:

  1. What local causes matter to me the most?
  2. Which skills do I most want to gain from a volunteering position?
  3. What don’t I want to do?
  4. How much time do I have available to volunteer and when?
  5. Which skills do I have that would be most useful as a volunteer?
  6. Do I want to work alone, or with a team?
  7. Is this going to be a short or long-term commitment?

Once you have worked out what you would like to put into volunteering as well as what you want to get out of it, it will be much easier to find a role that fits your needs and skills.

 

Where should I look for volunteer positions?

Volunteer roles are advertised in a number of different places. Most charitable organisations like ours will have a list of volunteer vacancies on their websites. If you aren’t sure who you want to volunteer for but do know that type of cause you’d like to be involved in, try searching for charitable organisations in that area.

Along with charity websites, some job search sites also post volunteer roles. Do-it.org is another volunteer resource maintained as part of the .GOV.UK website. Here you can search for literally millions of volunteer vacancies right across the UK, so you’re bound to find something that suits you.

 

What if I don’t have any experience?

One of the great things about volunteering is that it is often your attitude and willingness to learn and try new things that is most important. This is really helpful for people leaving school or planning to change careers as they can use a volunteer position to gain skills, see if they really do like that type of work and gain an understanding of it along with an advantage when it comes to applications and interviews for paid work.

While you may never have worked in a particular area before, most of us have skills that are transferable. Being good at communicating, working in a team, knowing how to use a computer or simply having a positive attitude are all skills that are valuable for volunteering and 9 – 5 employers too.

 

Why should I give up my time when I already work?

Holding down a paid job, looking after children and keeping our lives on track is all necessary and takes time, but it can also be stressful and at times leave us feeling like we are on a treadmill. Volunteering can help us to break this cycle by allowing us to give something back, learn something new and build community around us through the people we meet from volunteering.

Here are five reasons you should try giving up a little of your time to volunteer:

  1. Make a difference in an area you care about. Volunteering helps you to be a positive part of changing the world to be more like the kind of place you want it to be. It’s an opportunity to be a part of something that is bigger than you and work for the greater good.
  2. Give back to a cause you care about. Most of us, at one time or another, have needed a hand through a difficult time or with a particular issue. Volunteering allows you to give something back, or pay it forward, and increase the goodwill and kindness in our world.
  3. Volunteering is good for your mind and body. Numerous studies from the London School of Economics, Harvard University and others have shown that volunteering helps you to focus on helping others instead of ruminating on your own problems. In turn, this reduces stress, strengthens your immune system and increases your satisfaction with life.
  4. Meet like-minded people. The variety of people you meet when volunteering is enormous! People from all walks and stages of life volunteer and choosing a role that is of personal interest to you means you’ll meet people with similar interests and have the chance to form lasting relationships that can have a positive impact on your own life – maybe you’ll meet a new friend or business associate who can create lasting change in your life.
  5. Gain a new perspective. Volunteering changes the way you see yourself and other people in your community. It can help you develop a better understanding of people in different circumstances to your own, open your mind to what is really important to you and help you feel like an integral part of your community.

Volunteering is a unique experience that can help us connect with others and learn more about ourselves while giving something back to the communities we live in. Take a look at our volunteer opportunities to get started today.