Transform lives – your own and others’ – by volunteering with the aid of these helpful websites to help get you started.

Volunteering your time to help a charity is one of those symbiotic acts that really does benefit everyone. For many charities, funding is a perennial issue and as such, they often rely on the kindness of strangers – soon to be friends – to enable them to fully serve their cause. But far from being a unilateral act, the benefits can be just as far-reaching for the volunteers themselves.

Study after study has shown that giving your time to something you believe in improves wellbeing, decreases the chances of depression, as well as even improving longevity. It also provides an excellent forum in which to forge new friendships and connections, build a community around you, all the while looking great on your CV. Volunteering can also be a great way to learn a new skill and to raise awareness of an issue that means a lot to you,



Think that donating money is the only way to truly help? Think again. Whilst donations are, of course, vital for any charity, they are by no means the only way to help. A huge number of non-profit organisations actively rely on their volunteers to ensure smooth running.

As the Chinese proverb goes, ‘If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.’

The tricky part can be finding out how best to offer your time. Here are a few online resources to help get you started.

Do-it.org


This is a brilliantly simple website. All you have to do is to type in your postcode and it comes back with every volunteering opportunity within a ten-mile radius (our own search returned opportunities as diverse as being a sighted guide to the visually impaired, organising young persons’ social groups and becoming a cycle crime coordinator). If you’d rather volunteer from home, you can also specify that: opportunities span the likes of being a volunteer tea party host for isolated lonely people (and their volunteer drivers), working as a feature writer and being a marketing assistant, or fundraising from behind your laptop. A truly excellent resource for the philanthropically minded, with a myriad level of commitment catered for.


Join in


A legacy of the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games, Join-in has a variety of sports-based volunteering projects at grassroots level on the go. Via the website, you can create a profile, and browse the sporting volunteering opportunities that suit you best. You might wish to help out at a major sporting events (a one-time commitment that allows you to see world-class athletes at the top of their game up close), or you may wish to offer your time on a more ongoing basis to local sport and recreation clubs across the country. Anyone can pitch in, and everyone is welcome, although if you do have a particular skill (coaching or admin, for example) you’re encouraged to let the club know. Sign up the monthly newsletter to stay up to date.


Volunteering Matters


‘Our vision is of a society where everyone can participate in their local community through volunteering and social action,’ says the Volunteering Matters’ website. Through its work, matching people to causes, it currently has some 20,000 volunteers supporting over 85,000 people in communities across the UK. You simply enter your postcode to return opportunities to help in the immediate vicinity. A win-win for everyone.


Prospects


Prospects is the UK’s biggest graduate careers website. Not, then, one might imagine, your first stop if you’re hoping to start volunteering. Think again. It has a comprehensive section on volunteering, both at home and overseas, detailing the benefits of such pursuits and the sectors within which you might want to devote your time and learn a few skills into the bargain (from medical and mental health to social care, animal charities and arts and culture groups). Best of all? It has a constantly updated list of current voluntary opportunities. A very clear and extremely helpful site.


Reach Volunteering


Much as with some of the other websites, Reach Volunteering has a facility by which you type in your postcode to yield local volunteering opportunities. It is worth doing this on every site: in our searches, our unchanging postcode nonetheless came up with several different opportunities (with Reach, we might offer social media support for Magic for Smiles, website expertise to the Tembisa Trust or Fundraising for a local Breastfeeding Support charity). Where it differs is that it wants to know more about you to find skills-based volunteers with three or more years of professional experience to support charities across short- and long-term projects. You search based on your skill set, your postcode and whether you want to help on a short project or in a more ongoing capacity. If you’re an organisation seeking volunteers, you can also make connections via Reach.


Vinspired


Vinspired has been operating since 2009 and specialises in connecting young people, from the ages of 14 to 25, with causes that they really care about. Since then, it has helped some 1.4 million people to offer their time to 8,000 charities. Sadly, Vinspire had to partially close in 2018 on account of funding cuts. However, its founder Bob Barbour continues to work part time and actively encourages young folk to contact him, so that he may help hook them up with the right philanthropic organisation while he tirelessly works to raise the funds to build Vinspired up to full capacity once more.


National Citizen Service


‘For almost a decade, we’ve been working with local businesses, youth centres, football clubs and grassroots initiatives. Together, we’re aiming to make the world a fairer, kinder, more compassionate place.’ That’s according to National Citizen Service’s website. The organisation, which operates in England and Northern Ireland, specialises in assisting young people between the ages of 16 and 17 to volunteer across its partner organisations for a few weeks. Not only will they have achieved and learned something but they will gain experience, and friends, they’ll remember forever.


Neighbourly


Want to get involved in your community, while creating a positive impact? Neighbourly is a great place to start. First create a profile on the website, and then hook up with initiative that interests you, from picking up litter to arranging street parties. What’s not to love?

By Nancy Alsop
March 2020

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