Meanwhile, the barriers to volunteering are persistent. The most common reasons for abstaining are not having enough spare time, work and childcare commitments, and a lack of suitable opportunities.
These will likely be things holding you back too. Nearly half of those who didn’t volunteer said work commitments prevented them from doing so.
So how do you overcome these problems? They’re not insurmountable barriers. We’ve asked volunteering experts for their tips to make volunteering work for you.
Find flexible volunteering roles
Some volunteering roles offer the flexibility needed to fit around hectic schedules.
The Royal Voluntary Service offers a number of flexible roles. For example, its Calls with Care volunteering programme gives social contact to those at risk of isolation, and can be done with as little as one 30-minute phone call a week.
“Calls with Care volunteers make regular telephone calls to support people who feel lonely or isolated, to reduce feelings of social isolation and loneliness, and help improve mood, confidence and feelings of wellbeing. The frequency and duration of the calls will be agreed by the volunteer and the person being supported, to ensure it’s practical for both,” explains Dave Stott, head of volunteering at Royal Voluntary Service.
Trustee roles might also suit you as they can be low in time commitment but high in impact.
“Consider trustee roles: most people don’t think that they could be a trustee, but actually, charities need a good mix of people on their boards and they often welcome younger people. Trustee roles are usually only a few hours per month, and it’s a really impactful role,” says Janet Thorne, CEO of Reach Volunteering.
See how volunteering fits into the ways you want to spend your time
Let’s say you want to fill your free time with getting fit, or socialising. You might think volunteering is at odds with this – but it can often tick these boxes.
“For those raising a family, flexible volunteering can fit around the time they have, giving them a chance to build new connections in their community while helping others,” says Stott.
Broadening the way you think of volunteering can also help with this.
“There are more informal ways of volunteering within the community that people with busy work or family lives might find easier to fit into their schedule, some of which they may even be able to do with their children,” Stott adds.
“For example, supporting an older neighbour with grocery shopping or tidying up their garden for them, litter picking in local green spaces or offering dog walking.”
Get in touch with a charity to discover where volunteers are needed most
You might look at opportunities and think there are none that suit your availability or skills. But it’s easy enough to create your own.
Smaller local charities are usually crying out for volunteers. And it’s not just in public-facing roles. There may be opportunities if you’ve got behind-the-scenes admin skills. And difficulties in recruitment hit small charities hardest
“We’ve seen that smaller charities have experienced the drop off the most. They’re also, of course, the ones that rely most on volunteers. And definitely where we have the most concern because if, for example, a small charity can’t find someone with finance skills to manage their accounts, that does put a limitation on a lot of their activities,” says Nicole Sykes, director of policy and communications at Pro Bono Economics.
Alex Taylor, vice chair of Barnsley YMCA, says the proactive approach is usually appreciated. Someone might get in touch offering admin or social media skills and, even though this isn’t advertised, it’s a huge help for the charity.
“We’re always open and really like it when people drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to say ‘I’ve got a bit of time, can I be useful?’ It’s very rare we say no,” says Taylor.
“I’d just encourage people to reach out to charities or organisations that they think are important, that are close to the heart, and offer help. Even if it’s just a couple of hours a month, I’m sure it will be greatly received.”
These roles tend to be helpful when an organisation has a need for the skill, but no budget to pay a member of staff.
Thorne says the direct method can be a good way to adapt existing roles.
“If you are interested in a volunteering role but it doesn’t exactly match you – for example, you can commit only to the first phase of a project or you feel like you are qualified to undertake one element of the role but not the whole thing – contact the organisation (you can do this easily through our platform) and ask them if they are willing to consider this,” says Thorne.
“Sometimes this can work out really well for the charity too. There are usually lots of different ways to organise a project or a role,” she said.
With a recruitment crisis and record demand comes, understandably, a strain on volunteer-run organisations. Don’t be put off – you might need to follow up on emails, and find other ways to get in touch.
Don’t be discouraged if a charity or group doesn’t respond to you. Some of them are “tiny with very limited capacity; some of them might be a bit disorganised or facing some stiff challenges,” says Thorne.
“Don’t let this put you off – there will definitely be another interesting role out there for you, and an organisation that will be really grateful for your help.”
Volunteering platforms can be the key to the perfect match
It’s simple, but widening the places you look for volunteering opportunities might be the key to success. There are a host of platforms, any of which might hold your perfect match.
Created for King Charles’s coronation as part of a bid to create a lasting legacy of volunteering, The Big Help Out app lists thousands of opportunities.. You can find out more here.
The Royal Voluntary Service also lists a host of roles, from flexible opportunities to more regular commitments. Find out more here.
If you’re looking to support the NHS, the Volunteer Responders app allows you to volunteer in ways that fit around your busy life. Find out more here.
Volunteer Now has hundreds of opportunities, and is searchable by postcode, cause or skill.
Reach Volunteering has over 2,300 roles on offer, and the platform allows you to create a profile – meaning charities can approach you if they have something fitting your skills and availability.
And of course, you can volunteer with The Big Issue. Find out how here. If you’re still curious about how to find opportunities, check out our guide to finding volunteer work in your local area.
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