Voluntary work should be fun.
Which means you, the volunteer, should get as much out of as the people you are helping. So before you commit yourself to a voluntary role, think about what you hope to get out of it. You may wish to build your CV, try something new and exciting, meet new people and make friends, gain confidence, combat boredom, get involved in a cause or issue that concerns you or learn new skills.
It is also a serious commitment.
Just as a paid job is a serious commitment, because the people you have offered to help will be counting on you and will be disappointed if you let them down. So, be sure how much time you have to offer. It is better to start modestly than to over-commit yourself from the start.
Guidelines for Volunteering
Choice of Work
Think about the questions below before you make any commitments:
- Are there any particular skills or hobbies that I’d like to transfer to volunteering?
- Do I enjoy helping people directly, such as hands-on caring, being a friend, listening to and solving problems? Or do I prefer practical activities like driving, cooking, or fundraising?
- Do I like working with groups of people, or would I prefer working one-to-one with someone?
- What skills am I hoping to gain, if any?
- Is there a particular group of people I would like to work with, or a particular cause I am interested in or concerned about?
- How much time do I have to give? Is my situation likely to change in the near future, allowing me more or less time to volunteer?
- Where would I like to volunteer? Close to home, in the next town, further a field?
Length of Service
Another factor to think about is how much time you will be able to give. How often and for how long? Continuity of service is particularly important in work, which involves building up a relationship with clients and patients. Remember that other people will rely on you as a volunteer.
Make sure that the person in charge knows when you are able to come, how often, and approximately how long you are likely to be able to give a commitment – especially if you only plan to work as a volunteer for a short time.
It is much better to start modestly and perhaps increase your involvement later, than to begin with great enthusiasm, find you can’t keep it up, and drop out after a short time.
Always arrive on time for your voluntary work, as other volunteers and staff may have organised their work to include you, or a person in need may be expecting you. If you think you are going to arrive late or are unable to attend for some reason, always let your supervisor know. If you are unable to reach your supervisor, call us at the Centre and we will do our best to pass your message on.
An organisation also has a commitment to YOU. To provide all the information and support you need to make your voluntary work a success and to ensure that the time and effort you are offering isn’t wasted.
Buxton Volunteer Centre is committed to Equal Opportunities in volunteering. This means that you will not be discriminated against on the grounds of race, gender, religion, sexuality, age, disability, nationality or responsibility for dependents. You, in turn, must not discriminate against others. The Centre also encourages other organisations which work with volunteers to actively implement Equal Opportunities Policies.
Volunteers with a disability or health problem.
If you have a disability or health problem, you may need to consider practical issues when volunteering with organisations. Do they have accessible premises (including toilet facilities)? Does the voluntary work involve heavy lifting? Can you work flexible hours/days should your health problem be intermittent? Once you have resolved such issues, you should be able to volunteer with confidence.
Volunteers who need extra support.
For whatever the reason, sometimes volunteers may feel they need extra support to become involved in volunteering. You may, for example, need extra time to learn a particular task, or take your introduction to voluntary work at a slower pace than is usually the case. Where you feel you may need extra support, it is a good idea to discuss this in confidence with the organisation you want to volunteer with. It should be possible for you take along a support worker, advocate or friend to such a meeting, to help you express your needs.
Preparation and Training
You should know as much as possible about the project you are joining, including its aims and how it operates in practise. You should be told to whom you are accountable on a day-to-day basis - . Who your supervisor will be.
If you are joining a team of volunteers, the other volunteers will often give you advice or information.
Do not worry if you do not feel useful as a volunteer straight away. Sometimes it takes a while for you to become effective in the role, and you may be involved more fully when your commitment and capabilities have been assessed by your supervisor. Some voluntary roles do have an element of training and the appropriate person will ensure that you have enough time to become familiar with all aspects of your voluntary work.
Should you feel that you would benefit from additional training to help you be more effective in your role, please let the Volunteer Co-ordinator know. The best should be done to ensure that you feel totally prepared for your work as a volunteer.
Always remember that you are a volunteer and can decide at any stage that you wish to alter your placement or hours. The Volunteer Co-ordinator will be happy to help you find a more suitable placement.
As a volunteer you may be privy to the personal affairs of those you are helping. It is vital that you are discreet and that people feel they can trust you. So, please respect confidences. Any information given to you whilst volunteering should not be passed to others or discussed outside the work setting If, however, you are told information that makes you believe that someone you work with may be at risk, you should talk to your supervisor. If you feel unable to do so, please contact the volunteer co-ordinator at the centre, who will offer the support you feel you need.
Criminal convictions and police checks.
The majority of voluntary organisations are aware that checking criminal histories is not enough to protect children and young people, so they will insist on you providing the names and addresses of people who can provide you with references. These referees should not be friends or relatives, but employers, college tutors etc. Organisations often follow up written references with a phone call for extra security.
All of our registered volunteers are covered by personal accident and public liability insurance. This means that should you injure yourself or someone else during the course of your voluntary work, and compensation becomes an issue, we have an insurance policy to claim against.
If you are volunteering with a different voluntary organisation, you may well be also covered by their insurance policies. Some organisations provide additional cover, such as Professional Indemnity Insurance, which is particularly useful when volunteers are in Advisory roles.
If you are involved in any kind of accident during your voluntary work, you must report it to the Volunteer Co-ordinator straight away.
Travelling to and from your voluntary work can be expensive and you should never be out of pocket because of a voluntary job. The Volunteer Centre always pays travelling expenses to volunteers working on its own projects and also should reimburse expenditure on lunch if you are working through a full day away from home.
Other agencies may have different policies as regards expenses payments. Good practise, however, is to ensure that at the very least, travel expenses can be claimed by the volunteer. You should always keep the receipts for bus/train fares, or make a careful note of the mileage covered, to enable organisations to reimburse you.
Some organisations will provide lunch, or the cost of buying it yourself. Others may even be able to reimburse you the cost of child (or other dependent) care, if you have to pay this to allow you to do voluntary work. Please note, however, that whilst this is allowed by the Inland Revenue, many voluntary organisations simply do not have the funds to assist in this way. The Volunteer Co-ordinator will be able to find out whether the organisation you wish to volunteer with is able to cover these costs.
Gifts and Money
Sometimes, those people who have received the support of a volunteer wish to reward them for that help. Gifts of money or other items of value may be offered, but should not be accepted.
Always suggest that gifts are donated to the organisation, and make sure that you inform your supervisor. Accepting gifts or money puts an unfair expectation on the person you are helping and may make you liable for paying tax.
If you are claiming Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance, you should inform your Benefits Office of the voluntary work you do and how you can be reached if they need you.
If you are claiming Jobseekers Allowance, there are no limitations on the number of hours you may volunteer, provided you remain available for paid employment and are actively seeking it.
Before you start volunteering, you should contact the Benefits Agency and inform them of:
- The name/address of the organisation you will be volunteering for;
- The nature of the voluntary work (brief description of the tasks involved);
- When you will be starting and a rough idea of how many hours you will be giving.
Once you have contacted them, they will look at the type of voluntary work you will be doing and whether this type of volunteering is compatible with your illness or disability. There is a possibility that doing voluntary work may result in you being sent for an all work test, but be assured that this is not automatic and each case will be dealt with individually and on it’s own merit. If you are unsure about volunteering whilst on Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance, please contact the Volunteer Co-ordinator.
For volunteer drivers (including volunteers their own car to get to and from their place of voluntary work and claim expenses for this), the Inland Revenue sets mileage rates each year. Any mileage rate paid which is in excess of their rate will not be tax-free. The rates set are two tiered, one for the first 10,000 miles in a year and one for mileage over 10,000. The reason for this is that the Inland revenue assumes that the fixed cost of motoring (road Tax , insurance and depreciation) are covered in the tax free allowances for up to 10,000 miles. The Transport Manager will also have details of these rates and will be able to provide you with details.
If you wish to make a complaint about the Volunteer Centre, please do so in writing and address it to the Manager. We aim to deal with all complaints confidentially and fairly. For a copy of our full Complaints Policy, please ask at the Centre.